A new research facility will study the changing landscape of Jamaica Bay.
There are two things you need to know about Jamaica Bay right now: First, it was hit pretty hard by Superstorm Sandy. There were breaches to fresh water ponds that threatened wildlife, there is still dangerous debris in the bay itself, and the surrounding residences were completely flooded. Second, the bay and surrounding landscape make up a unique urban ecosystem - one that researchers want to use as a "living laboratory."
Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, and HUD Secretary Shawn Donovan stood on the edge of the bay to announce the establishment of the Science and Resilience Institute. Mayor Bloomberg spoke about Jamaica Bay as a resource for studying ecosystems near urban areas.
"Jamaica Bay, as we all know, is one of the greatest national treasures any city has within it's borders and our administration is working hard to make it an even stronger and more resilient natural resource for decades to come."
The institute will partner scientists from the City University of New York and other organizations to research the impact of climate change and urban development on natural preserves and surrounding communities.
Secretary Jewell says Jamaica Bay will be restored with the utmost consideration for ecological friendliness and sustainability. Since it is a barrier to inland communities, the officials stressed the importance of rebuilding the area once devastated by Superstorm Sandy using both "green and gray infrastructure."
One group present for the news conference has already been hard at work all summer, not only cleaning and restoring the area, but rebuilding the bay's shore. The Student Conservation Association is a collection of high school students from all over the country involved in conservation projects, and those based in the New York City area have been dedicating their efforts to Sandy recovery in Jamaica Bay and other natural preserves.
Elizabeth Ludner is a crew leader for Sandy Recovery with the Student Conservation Association, and she's been working in Jamaica Bay since June.
"Machinery has already done most of the work and they need just manual labor like us."
Ludner says the efforts of herself and the other students go beyond picking up debris. They are working to rebuild a more sustainable ecosystem by planting dune grasses, among other things.
"New York City wasn't prepared for a hurricane [like Sandy] so now that it happened, we're trying to make these areas more ready if another disaster occurs, in addition to taking care of what has already happened."
Officials say the institute should be up and running by the end of the year. Until then, New Yorkers can count on groups like the Student Conservation Association to continue to do their part for Jamaica Bay and other natural preserves.