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