Public Lab Wiki documentation

Staten Island's north shore

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Staten Island's north shore is part of New York City and the Northeast region.

MVI 0713 from Liz Barry on Vimeo.

In progress map below, click here to see the many annotations:

Research Questions

Concern about floodwater carrying pollution from former industrial and radioactive sites into adjacent neighborhoods has resulted in the North Shore Waterfront Conservancy (in collaboration with the City University of New York) being awarded a 2014 Environmental Justice grant from NY State Department of Environmental Conservation. Additionally, Public Lab is supporting the mapmaking component of this project. The project is to identify:

  • which sites are actually contaminated,
  • which sites are vulnerable to flooding,
  • where contaminated floodwaters will flow after leaving those sites,
  • what flood-resistant infrastructure has already been built

Advocacy Directions

This information is going to be shown to the residents of the North Shore, the Staten Island Borough president, together with the residents' recommendations for what flood-resistant infrastructure is needed, and where flood waters should be directed. Additionally, the following agencies will receive the information:

  • New York City Department of Environmental Protection
  • New York City Council,
  • New York City Planning Commission,
  • The Staten Island Borough Planning Department
  • Office of Emergency Management
  • Department of Mental Health and Hygiene
  • NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC), and Staten Island EDC

In question is what kind of accountability each agency has to the public, and what avenues each agency has in place for receiving community-created data and entering it into the decision making process.

Other sites to watch on the North Shore

Bayonne Bridge construction project

  • Raising the historic Bayonne Bridge so that container ships can reach the Port of New York.
  • US Coast Guard and Port Authority issued a 7,000 page Environmental Impact Statement.

Ferry Street Enterprises / Flag Container

  • This site is being watched as its going through the NYState DEC permitting process to be built on the North Shore with the purpose of storing cleaned, dredged materials from all over NYC, which they are then going to combine with cement and store. The would involve 90 cement trucks per day coming in, and 90 trucks per day going out. The dredge spoils will be coming in by barge.
  • NSWC has submitted comments in opposition to this. DEC has not yet responded. The question is why would this be located on the North Shore where a residential community is, versus on the west shore where the Freshkills landfill provides a 2,000 acre buffer?

EJ orgs on Staten Island

Reporting on Staten Island

The following articles are written by Melissa Checker:

“A Year After Superstorm Sandy, Turmoil Continues On Staten Island,” Gotham Gazette, October 23. 2014.

“Chicken Little, A Ferris Wheel and Disorderly Development on Staten Island’s North Shore,” Gotham Gazette, November, 2012

“Another Natural Gas Controversy” Gotham Gazette, August 17

“Staten Island's Toxic Stew”, Gotham Gazette, May 29

“The Manhattan Project's Legacy on Staten Island” Gotham Gazette, June 4

About the map at the top of this page:

Notes from the cartographer Eymund Diegel

  • rough landfill areas
  • rough buried stream beds
  • old rail lines
  • approximate wetlands
  • FEMA flood lines
  • surface runoff corridors
  • partial water quality outflow points (sewers, storm drains)
  • rough estimation of lots with environmental issues

Environmental "problem areas" includes ongoing remediation activities. "Problem Lots" were compiled by merging NYSDEC ( Dept of Environmental Conservation, NYCMOER (Mayors Office of Environmental Remediation) and USEPA (Environmental Protection Agency) listed environmental contamination or remediation site points with MapPluto NYCDCP (City Planning) lot lines. "Problem" data points include things like heating oil tanks and bridge repairs over sensitive wetland areas). The fact that a lot is colored orange does not mean that it is actually polluted (some of course definitely will be) or that pollution mapping is comprehensive. More detailed mapping would review source data and research each area to make appropriate data corrections. Map is purely meant to give rough idea of potential priority study areas.

Other data sources:

  • Toxic Release Inventory, EPA, although it's self-reported, the pattern can also reveal where gaps are
  • NY State Department of Environmental Conservation: Historical Brownfield Sites
  • Mayor's Office for Environmental Remediation has another database of "problem" lots, tagged as "E" designation which requires action before being redeveloped.
  • Library of Congress Museum of American Memory has historical photographs of major infrastructure and architecture projects, like the Bayonne Bridge. This may also show the original uses of the surrounding land.

Bayonne Bridge, Staten Island North Shore, 1985 Bayonne_Bridge_Staten_Island_side_photo_by_Jeff_Lowe_Spring_1985_LOC_112886pu_cropped.jpg

  • Historical aerials: 1924, 1951, 1974, 1991, 2010

Bing 2010 Aerial


Bing 2010 Aerial zoomed in near foot of Bayonne Bridge:


Bing 2010 Aerial zoomed in near foot of Bayonne Bridge, color enhanced with free GIMP photo software to look at unusual color patterns in water:


Citizen Grassroots Mappers could use digital cameras tied to kites or balloons to gain a better understanding of potential unmapped outflow pipes or buried streams. Comparing them with the historical data will inform a better understanding of the site.

Below: 1894 Natural Science Association Map of Staten Island which shows now buried natural features. 1894_Staten_Island_Historic_Streams_Map_cropped.jpg


June 28, 2014 With Scape, Rebuild by Design, NYC Parks Department.

Quotes by Gena Wirth and Eymund Diegel from Saturday's 5th Annual Raritan Bay Festival:

"We specially designed these breakwaters to integrate ecosystems underwater, and above water. We've created small reef streets for underwater fish and sites for oyster restoration as well," Scape/Landscape Associate Gena Wirth said. "So this can really become an ecological hotspot in the Raritan Bay."

Eymund Diegel, chair of Public Laboratory, was in attendance to teach children (and parents) about how he uses a giant helium balloon and some makeshift, recycled tools to take aerial photographs of Raritan Bay and document shore erosion for Scape/Landscape's project.

"Through these photos we can identify new water outflows, where people are walking and other relevant planning data that will help us design the best project for Staten Island," Diegel said. "And this balloon fascinates the kids here. It's a fun event. A girl came up to us crying because she needed touch the balloon. And this is why we do this: so we can engage people. They can give us their specialty knowledge about the area."

Design Proposals for the Northshore






The Staten Island Ferris Wheel