Office of Borough President James P. Molinaro
Staten Island, New York
B.P. Molinaro and Federal, State and City Agencies Announce Phase One of Staten Island's Community Wildfire Protection Plan
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – Borough President James P. Molinaro and City Councilmen James Oddo and Vincent Ignizio today were joined by agencies from all three levels of government to announce the development of Staten Island’s first-ever wildfire protection plan.
“The public brushfire meeting held in this hall last December, and the frustrations expressed by many residents, elected officials, and the Fire Department, made it very clear that we in government must once and for all attack the yearly brushfires plaguing our Borough’s East Shore proactively and not reactively,” Molinaro said at a press conference in the Knights of Columbus Hall in New Dorp Beach.
“Between 1996 and 2010 there were a total of nearly 7,390 brushfires -- of those, almost 300 were ‘all hands or greater,’” Molinaro added. “And in 2010 alone, our Borough suffered through 42 ‘all hands or greater’ brushfires -- the greatest number in those 15 years. To all of us here today, including our homeowners, the specter of tragedies and disasters are literally just around the corner.”
Today’s announcement focuses on the development, or Phase One, of a Staten Island Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), a federal program under the development, guidance, and direction of the National Park Service.
With discussions and meetings already in progress amongst the elected officials and the agencies attending today’s announcement, the next several months will finalize and formalize strategies to help reduce the risks and impacts from brushfires. The Staten Island CWPP will:
- Identify and prioritize areas for phragmites reduction that impact the at-risk communities and infrastructure
- Recommend what measures homeowners/the community can take to reduce the ignitability of structures
- Provide strategies for homeowner phragmites-reduction actions
- Allow for community and government agencies to influence where and how federal agencies could implement a phragmites reduction plan on federal lands
- Determine how additional federal funds may be distributed for projects on non-federal lands. This is extremely critical for any successful CWPP on Staten Island, as most of the recent brushfires have been on City property
Councilman Oddo said, “Finally, a governmental agency – the National Park Service – has stepped forward to offer the expertise and leadership to create a comprehensive plan to deal with the brushfire issue that offers Staten Islanders a long- term solution to this problem. It’s like having an adult step into the room and we are all anxious to work with them to offer real help to these impacted communities.”
Gateway National Recreation Area Superintendent Linda Canzanelli said, “The National Park Service is looking forward to the CWPP process. Working with the Borough, our neighbors, and partner agencies is critical to developing a plan that will better protect people and property from wildfires. We’re glad that all parties are embracing the opportunities for planning and funding provided by the Healthy Forests Restoration Act.”
Congressman Michael Grimm said, “Phragmites have long been a source of concern in the East Shore. This is the prime fuel for potential fires, with 405 brush fires here in 2010 alone. The message today is that elected officials and agencies at all three levels of government – federal, state, and local – are working together to tackle this ongoing problem. This cooperation before the hot summer ahead is the kind of leadership that Staten Islanders not only deserve but should expect from their government.”
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis said, "It is great news for the people of Staten Island that all our levels of government are working together towards a first-ever wildfire protection plan and strategy to help mitigate the brushfires that yearly threaten our community. People's lives and homes are at stake here and it must be government's first priority to ensure the protection and safety of our community. I will work closely with our new Albany administration to ensure that the necessary State approval for this plan is smoothly and effectively processed."
Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano said, “This Community Wildfire Protection Plan will not only reduce the fire threat to exposed homes and increase the safety of the public, it will help reduce the frequency and intensity of the fires and therefore reduce the strain on FDNY resources.”
Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said, “The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation looks forward to partnering with our colleagues in government to develop and implement a plan for Staten Island that protects homeowners and parkgoers from avoidable wildfires.”
Borough Parks Commissioner Adena Long said, “I can think of nothing more important, as Staten Island’s Parks Commissioner, than pulling together to keep people and property safe and our wild places beautiful and thriving.”
Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Cas Holloway said, “The first-ever Community Wildfire Protection Plan for Staten Island will serve as an effective long-term plan to help minimize the impact of the yearly brushfires that have plagued the borough’s East Shore and threatened homeowners in the area for far too long. DEP has been on the forefront of this issue, creating maintenance accessways around the perimeter of our properties to provide buffers near existing homes, and properly maintaining our Bluebelt systems so that they don’t contribute to dangerous conditions. We will continue to work closely with our government and community partners to implement a program that will create a safe and healthy environment for all Staten Islanders to enjoy.”
Molinaro concluded, “I want to thank the National Park Service and the FDNY for spearheading the movement for this plan. I look at amazing photos of a Marsh Master in action, cutting back the phragmites in New Jersey wetlands, and I ask myself: why is such an invaluable tool good enough for a state right next door to me but not for my communities? And if the answer to that basic, proactive question is the Community Wildfire Protection Plan, then let’s get this plan done as quickly as possible.”
May 24, 2011