10-25-2017 Karen Argenti at the Water Conference

October 29th, 2017 Posted in Bronx River, East Bronx Coastal Working Group, Environmental Reviews, Front Page News, Harlem River BOA, Harlem River Working Group, Harlem River Yards Park Greenway, Lower Concourse North, Pier 5, Pier 5 Pop Up Wetland - first of its kind, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Water Committee

The time has come for the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality (BCEQ) to move in a different direction.

Over the last 47 years, we have had many highlights. We fought to save parks: the Pelham Bay Park Landfill pollution, the building of the Water Treatment Plant in Van Cortlandt Park, the new Yankee Stadium in Macomb’s Dam Park, and not using parkland for non-park purposes at Mill Pond / Pier 5 Parks. We organized the voices of parkland stewards with the Bronx Parks Speak Up (aka Bronx Coalition of Parks and Green Spaces); the Bronx River Working Group (aka Bronx River Alliance) to clean the river and create a greenway; and the East Bronx Coastal Working Group along that waterfront along the east Bronx.

In our effort to clean the Harlem River, we went further. We sought to use the unimproved ribbon of parkland along the Bronx side of the river as a greenway through the creation of the Harlem River Working Group. Toward that end, BCEQ as a not for profit all volunteer organization, successfully obtained $800,000 in grants to for planning the Harlem River Brownfield Opportunity Area and building a demonstration Pop Up Wetland cleaning highway runoff with thousands of native plants.

We dreamed that just as with the Bronx River Working Group and the Speak Up, that after sixteen years of working with the Harlem River Working Group and the Brownfield Opportunity Area Steering Committee, we would find committed stakeholders and a powerful community agreement would emerge that would set the stage for the elected and appointed officials to accept that communal vision. But that did not happen. Make no mistake — it was not the vote against the Public Trust Doctrine, but the callous disrespect and actions of many elected and appointed officials to our position. This includes: the Mayor, Mayoral Agencies, city and state elected (Borough President and Council Members) and appointed officials such as the Economic Development Corporation and the local Community Board.

We still have our goals, purposes, combined experiences and our environmental and sustainable approach to land use and governance. We are a patient group of people, so we can work toward becoming more significant, effective and focused.

Last Wednesday, October 25, we celebrated the last of our sixteen years of Water Conferences. We will discuss next steps within the coming months to create an acceptable strategic plan as we look toward our 50th year anniversary. We urge all that are interested to let us know what kind of role you wish to play. The BCEQ Board of Directors has a lot of work to do – we would like to hear from our members. If you are not a member, there will be a role for you in the end of the process – at our Annual Meeting in the spring.

To Board Members, we have a holiday part to finish off 2017, and we ask you to bring your ideas. Maybe we will make it a working holiday party – for the first 10 minutes or fill in index cards with ideas and put them in the box.

Our mission, in not so many words: to establish an environmental policy that promotes natural, equitable and sustainable growth in and for The Bronx. The most important aspect of our work remains the protection of parkland for park purposes. We promise to defend that sacred right – the Public Trust Doctrine!

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