Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Bayonne Selling a Bird Preserve

Shooter's Island on Google Earth

The city of Bayonne is trying to sell its 15.4-acre share of Shooter's Island, a bird sanctuary west of the Bayonne Bridge. The island is jointly-owned by Bayonne, Elizabeth, and Staten Island, and the sanctuary is managed by New York City's Department of Environmental Protection. Bayonne's government wants the sale to help close its deficit and is pushing forward against the advice of its environmental advisers.
But James Monkowski, the city's environmental adviser, isn't sure the property can be sold.

"I don't know if they can (sell the island)," Monkowski said. "The last I heard, the island was declared a nature preserve. It's listed as a harbor heron sanctuary."

Area nature experts tended to agree yesterday.

Hugh Carola, program director for the Hackensack Riverkeeper, characterized the island - which sits where the Arthur Kill, Kill Van Kull and Newark Bay meet - as a "protected nesting area" for certain types of migratory birds.

After some squatters moved onto the island several years ago, the birds that were breeding there scattered, Carola said. Recently, though, two pairs of ospreys were spotted nesting on the island and several cormorants were also seen in and around the island, he said.

"I can't imagine who'd want to buy it and, if they did, what they'd do with it," Carola said.

Glenn Phillips, executive director of the New York City Audubon Society, said bird colonies found among the small islands in the Arthur Kill region shift nesting areas, so they could return to Shooter's Island.

"The island has a clear public use as a sanctuary for such birds as gulls, cormorants and ospreys," Phillips said.
The auction was scheduled for today but had to be postponed at the last minute because of legal problems with other city properties also up for the sale.

I have trouble imagining that someone would want to buy the Shooter's Island property since it would be difficult to use it as anything other than a bird sanctuary. Access is only by boat, and reaching the Bayonne portion would involve crossing a busy shipping lane. Plus, as one can see from the satellite photo, the island and its nearby waters are filled with detritus left over from its past as a ship-building center. The island's conservation status would likely complicate any attempt to develop it. Still, the attempted auction is disturbing, both for the future of this particular island and for other preserves around the area.