Category Archives: President’s Message

To Whom Do You Trust To Speak For Parks on Staten Island: President’s Message

THOUGH PROTECTORS OF PINE OAK Woods remains fully committed to the preservation of open space on Staten Island,  we are often compelled to negotiate a greater stewardship of those properties we fought long to preserve.

Protectors continues to call for the de-mapping and transfer of Department of Transportation properties in the Greenbelt. We continue to monitor both the Goodhue Woods purchase and the conservation easement over Pouch Camp. Both deals are incomplete. Recognizing the imminent purchase of the St. Francis Friary, our organization is waiting to congratulate the new owners and educate them about the ecological value of the woodland property.

Meanwhile, Protectors continues our less-celebrated, underappreciated task of safeguarding the quality of preserved properties from irresponsible, ill-informed proposals that undermine the initial intent for those properties.

This year began with our successful effort to add an environmentally responsible voice to the West Shore Business Improvement District (WS-BID). Originally, the district management association responsible for the maintenance and security for the WS-BID (nearly 50% of the district is Parks property) was designed to exclude Parks representation. Despite Parks’ insistence, the creator of the WS-BID, the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation (SIEDC), was adamant that Parks not be involved.

Buffeted by Protectors energies—our comments at Community Board 2, our letter writing to City Council and our communication with the NYC Department of City Planning—SIEDC had to capitulate, and the WS-BID district management association is now to maintain regular communications related to the WS-BID properties with the Borough Commissioner of Staten Island Parks.

Soon after the resolution of the WS-BID impasse, Protectors was invited by the Staten Island office of the Department of City Planning to take part in a working group tasked with clarifying discrepancies in the zoning rules and regulations that govern the Special Natural Areas District, the Special South Richmond District, Lower Density Growth Management Area and the Hillside Preservation District. Our seat at the table was filled at each meeting of the working group and our concerns were shared. The productive discussions were driven in part by a commitment to the environmental integrity of our Borough of Parks.

Protectors works regularly with many of our elected representatives and government administrators to improve the quality as well as the quantity of parkland and open space on Staten Island. Nevertheless, we understand the need for constant vigilance.

Currently, Protectors is working to neutralize the impact of misinformed proposals that would introduce active recreation into the environmentally sensitive areas of Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve. The proposals—kayaking and fishing in small, shallow ponds, mountain biking and dog walking along horse trails—are unrealistic and inappropriate for a State Preserve guaranteed protection by Article 20 of State Park law.

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods has been celebrating the establishment of Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve for 40 years and we appreciate State Park’s financial dilemma. Maintenance and operation budgets are too often tied to park attendance numbers and our representatives in State government unfortunately leverage this mechanism of finance to impose their personal preference on the properties entrusted to State Parks.

Protectors has been working with State Parks, the horse riding community and local environmentalists to increase attendance at Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve without impacting the environmentally sensitive nature of the area. Capturing true statistics reflective of actual park usage will alleviate the financial constraints imposed by our representatives in State government.

You, as a member of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, play a large role in our success as a volunteer, environmental preservation organization. Our strong, vocal membership allows Protectors’ voice to be shared, sought out and heard on issues relating to the stewardship of those properties which make Staten Island great. Protectors of Pine Oak Woods remains the champion of our Borough of Parks.
—Cliff Hagen

President’s Message – Summer 2015

President’s Summer 2015 Message

by Cliff Hagen

My involvement with the preservation of open space on Staten Island begins with my small home on my small lot in Eltingville. I tend to my lawn and gardens, trim my shrubs and compost diligently. I protect my gardens from pests and my lawn from weeds by removing that which is harmful. I defend the birds I feed from free roaming feral cats being fed by a neighbor. I love my home and enjoy my yard and so cherish the native fauna which share the flowers and seed that I offer.

My small lot is but a stepping stone along a natural corridor connecting Wood Duck Pond with Blue Heron Park. Each day grackles and blackbirds which nest in the foliage abutting Wood Duck Pond traverse the neighborhood, alighting in my trees and shrubs on their way to finding food for their young among the wetlands and woodlands of Blue Heron Park. Throughout the year a collection of songbirds and woodpeckers move from pond to park stopping in my yard for seed and suet.

My yard, and both Wood Duck Pond and Blue Heron Park, are situated along an ancient geological feature known as the Terminal Moraine. This Terminal Moraine is a remnant of the second glacial epoch which buried the north east thousands of years ago. This glacial deposit, beginning in Tottenville, runs the length of Long Island to Cape Cod and forms a natural topographic flyway for migrant birds, butterflies and dragonflies. Each year, untold numbers of these winged creatures find respite on Staten Island, at Blue Heron Park, Wood Duck Pond and in my yard.

The regal monarch butterflies lay eggs on the milkweed I grow in my garden and their south bound young enjoy the September blooms of goldenrod which set up after the milkweed expires. Ruby-throated hummingbirds flit about in September’s sun. During days of change each October thousands of raptors fly south toward their winter homes. Autumnal winds carry countless hawks, falcons, osprey and eagles across the skies over Staten Island. The monarch, hummingbirds and every bird of prey utilizes the Terminal Moraine, the green spaces of Staten Island, even my small yard, as they fly thousands of miles between their nesting grounds and the areas they winter.

My small yard plays a role in the miracle of migration. Blue Heron Park and Wood Duck Pond play a role as does each property Protectors of Pine Oak Woods has fought to have preserved. From Heritage Park, to the Goodhue Woods, to Pouch Camp and Long Pond Park Protectors has worked to preserve critical open space along the migratory flyway here on Staten Island.

Each of us is responsible for our small part. Each of us can play a role in protecting our environment by providing safe haven, a stepping stone along the migratory flyway.   Try planting wild flowers rather than cultivated flowers in your yard for the butterflies to enjoy. Offer seed or fruiting shrubs for tired and hungry birds. And if you already tend your garden with wildlife in mind then add your voice to Protectors’ growing call for preservation of open space on Staten Island. Become a member of Protectors and help us create new stepping stones for migration. And for those of you who already stand with us and advocate the preservation of open space then convince a friend to join you in calling for a better, greener, healthier future for our Borough of Parks.

###Cliff Hagen



 (photo by Lawrence Pugliares.)

President’s Message – Fall 2014

President’s Fall 2014 Letterby Cliff Hagen

Our Members Are Active Participants in Our Work.  There’s muscle to your membership in Protectors.

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods proudly speaks for our membership before Community Boards,  City Council and in the court of public opinion. Protectors understands that not everyone has the time or energy to advocate for the preservation of open space. Not everyone has the wherewithal to argue for the enforcement of environmental protections afforded by law. Not everyone can parse the language of zoning laws and regulations to make sense of proposed developments. But everyone can recommit to their membership in Protectors of Pine Oak Woods. Each of us,  whether encumbered by work,  childcare or issues of health and wellness, can share our pride in Protectors and encourage others to join our organization.
Protectors’ members can take ownership of our participation in Borough President Oddo’s Island in Motion campaign. This summer, members of Protectors’ Board of Directors met with the Borough President and his staff. We acknowledged our common goals and agreed to encourage our members and neighbors to venture outdoors. For a listing of outdoor activities, you can find Protectors’ free walk schedule listed on the Borough President’s web site ( ) as well as in our newsletter and on our web site ( ).

You, as a member of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, have worked to influence the West Shore Business Improvement District (WS-BID), the cornerstone of the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation’s (SIEDC) plan to redevelop the open, vacant lands along our west shore. With plans to widen roads, dig sewers and “restore” healthy tidal marshes, SIEDC has collaborated with the NYC Department of City Planning, Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and City Council to design a West Shore Business Improvement District with little consideration for environmental impacts. SIEDC refused to involve NYC Department of Parks and Recreation in the planning. But you, as a member of Protectors, have pushed SIEDC into a working relationship with NYC Parks regarding the WS-BID.
As a member of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, you will be with us as we struggle against government efforts to use mapped wetlands and State Park Preserve property to construct service roads for the West Shore Expressway. Protectors questions the paving of West Shore service roads through wetlands and State Park Preserve property on the heels of a $15 million ramp improvement project designed to alleviate pressures on local traffic in the area.

Lastly, as a member of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, you have been sponsoring Island teenagers attending the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Camps for more than twenty years. You have continued working to relieve local trees of strangling vines for nearly seventeen years. You help to offer free walks nearly every weekend of the year. You, as a member of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, put thought into action. You take part in making Staten Island a better, safer, healthier place to live. You are a member of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods.

—Cliff Hagen