Glen Cove resident Dave Nieri is an avid kayaker, having paddled up and down the creek by Garvies Point for years, enjoying the wetlands and the wildlife that inhabit them. But Nieri now believes those wetlands are threatened by RXR’s development in the area, and he has seen the evidence firsthand.
What was once a lush ecosystem thriving with life, Nieri said, has been reduced to piles of dirt and rock nearly devoid of greenery. “There’s nothing there that would let you know it was even a wetlands,” he said. “For them to completely destroy the wetlands and obliterate [them] . . . it’s shocking.”
At a Glen Cove City Council meeting on April 16, Nieri presented photos he took from his kayak early last month, showing just how much the landscape has changed. As a result, Councilman Joe Capobianco contacted the state Department of Environmental Conservation to see if RXR’s actions followed the DEC’s legal guidelines.
Chris Engelhardt, a representative of the DEC who is overseeing the project, visited the site soon afterward. According to Capobianco, Engelhardt told the councilman that work at the site complied with guidelines.
Joe Graziose, RXR’s executive vice president of residential development and construction, said that a complete restoration of the wetlands was part of the deal the company made with the city, and that RXR planned to honor that commitment. He emphasized that everything involved in RXR’s development at Garvies Point is in full compliance with the DEC and the City of Glen Cove.
Nieri also shared his photos with Carol DiPaolo, program director and water monitoring coordinator at the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor. DiPaolo said that she shared Nieri’s feelings of surprise and disappointment, considering how lively the Garvies Point wetlands were before the construction.
“I think [for] anybody who knows this area, and has looked at those wetlands for years and years,” DiPaolo said, “to then see everything moved over so that there’s no blade of green left, it [is] a shock.”
RXR’s compliance with DEC guidelines involves replanting the wetlands nearby. But Nieri said he didn’t believe that would be enough. “We’ve seen in the past that relocation of the wetlands usually doesn’t rebound, and doesn’t look anything like the original wetlands area,” he said.
One of the biggest reasons for Nieri’s skepticism, he explained, is the fact that the construction has resulted in the cutting down of mature trees. The roots of those trees help hold the wetlands together, he said, and they can deteriorate if the roots are gone. Even if the trees are replanted, he explained, “Mature trees that were cut down cannot be replaced by saplings.”
“It’s just shocking,” Nieri added, “and I don’t think it’ll be restored to what it once was.”
Graziose said that the sloping land through which the trees’ roots had spread was eroded by water to the point where it was almost as steep as a cliff. RXR is in the process of creating a “proper slope” by filling the area in with soil. Hundreds of new plants will be added, and Graziose said, their roots will provide better support than fully grown trees would.
DiPaolo said that she felt uneasy about the replanting process, because she didn’t believe the radical nature of RXR’s intrusion in the wetlands is in line with the language the company has used. “When your concept is that [the area] will be disturbed and replenished,” she said, “that doesn’t mean to us that it would be cut down and replanted.”
At this point, however, DiPaolo said, the Hempstead Harbor coalition cannot act against the development. Instead, the group will wait to see if it is satisfied with the replenishment process before deciding whether or not to interfere. According to DiPaolo, that decision should be made sometime this spring. “At this point,” she said, “there really is nothing to do but watch.”
Graziose said that the wetlands have been disturbed because the Garvies Point project requires the installation of bulkheads — barriers that divide land from water — throughout the development.
Capobianco said he hoped the DEC and RXR were correct in saying that the developer fully complied with department regulations, and added that the city should remain vigilant. “I just think we have to monitor what RXR is doing down there closely to make sure that what they’re doing is correct and proper,” he said.