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Post date: January 31 2001

State Resolves Jamaica Bay Wetlands Violation

Attorney General Spitzer and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner John Cahill today announced that a Baykeeper environmental protection program will be established for Jamaica Bay as part of the largest settlement of a tidal wetlands violation in New York history.

Besides earmarking $310,000 for a Baykeeper program, the settlement also includes $774,000 in penalties for environmental violations created when a Brooklyn homeowner illegally expanded the property’s yard by building a large concrete deck on pilings sunk into the Mill Basin section of Jamaica Bay. The deck, at 2458 National Drive, includes a paved area, landscaping and a swimming pool.

Jamaica Bay, located almost entirely within the City of New York, contains tidal wetlands that offer irreplaceable habitat for a diverse plant and wildlife community that coexists with all the human activities of the New York metropolitan area. The bay is one of the last remaining areas in greater New York Harbor with such a rich variety of habitat.

"Jamaica Bay is a priceless resource that we must protect," said Spitzer. "I am pleased that my office worked constructively with DEC Commissioner Cahill and his staff to create a settlement in this case that will help ensure future protection of this important habitat."

DEC Commissioner Cahill said: "Jamaica Bay is one of the most important coastal ecosystems in the greater New York Harbor, providing valuable habitat for a wide variety of plant and wildlife. This case represents the largest settlement of a wetlands violation since implementation of the Tidal Wetlands Act in 1974 and is a tremendous victory for residents and the environment in New York City and the surrounding area."

Construction of the deck violated numerous state laws, including the state Tidal Wetlands Act. The state Protection of Waters Act, and the state Navigation Law, all of which are designed to protect the fragile ecosystems of tidal waters and coastal wetlands.

The wetlands violation was committed by the former owner of the property, John Rosatti, who owned the land from 1989 to 1996. Galina Anissimova bought the property and the offending structure from Rosatti and has owned it since 1996.

Under terms of the settlement, the deck at the Anissimova property will be allowed to remain in place for the remainder of its useful life, but it cannot be expanded or replaced and only routine maintenance will be permitted.

The settlement sets aside $310,000 for the creation of a Jamaica Baykeeper program, modeled on successful keeper organizations such as the Hudson Riverkeeper and the New York Baykeeper programs. Keeper organizations, which are licensed and sanctioned by the national Waterkeeper Alliance, act as guardians dedicated to protecting the integrity and health of particular bodies of water. The Jamaica Baykeeper pilot program is subject to approval by DEC.

Under the terms of a previous settlement, Rosatti paid a penalty of $225,000, placed $250,000 in escrow and agreed to pay an additional penalty of $60,000 if the deck was not removed. The additional penalty and the escrow payment have become due as a result of the new settlement.

The settlement was signed today by Justice Gloria Cohen Aronin in Kings County Supreme Court.

The matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Philip Bein of the Environmental Protection Bureau and DEC Assistant Regional Attorney Udo Drescher.