Habitat Restoration Project Begins at Crooke's Point at Great Kills Park

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Clearning of Crooke's Point for the start of a rehabilitation project that will rid this area of non-native species. (Courtesy of the National Park Service, Gateway National Recreation Area)

Updated 30 Jan: Opposition to the pilot program has been included.

Parks officials have launched a pilot program to rehabilitate part of a coastal habitat at Great Kills Park on Staten Island. The project involves clearing two acres of a peninsula in the park known as Crooke’s Point, to root out invasive plant species, and eventually clear the way for planting new trees and shrubs that are native to the region.

Dave Avrin, chief of resources at Gateway National Recreation Area which includes Great Kills Park said, invasive species – primarily vines including Japanese honeysuckle and Oriental Bittersweet — are “choking off” much of the area’s plant life, creating harmful effects on Crooke’s Point.

"Biodiversity of plants is decreased, and as a result, the animals and insects that depend on those plants, the biodiversity of those insects and animals is impacted,” he said.

Under the new pilot program, the National Parks Service is working with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation – a partnership Avrin said that will allow rehabilitation to move more swiftly.

Avrin notes that the peninsula is a natural and undeveloped area. “And it has vegetation that’s very attractive to, you know, to fisherman, it’s very attractive to birdwatchers, it’s a great habitat for migratory species that come through along the coast of Staten Island,” he said.

There are several ways non-native species may have arrived in the area. For example, Avrin said they may have been transported in early shipping materials, over a number of years. Or, he said, seeds may have blown over from neighboring gardens, or been transported there by animals.

Work to clear parts of the two acre swath of the 30 acre peninsula began last week, and over the next few months, that same area will be treated with herbicides. Avrin said the timeline for completion for the entire project is October of 2014.

But not everyone’s in favor of the project. Ellen Pratt, with the conservation group Protectors of Pine Woods, said there’s significant opposition to the way the restoration is being handled, and the potential impact of herbicides leaking into the harbor. She believes the invasive plant species can be managed by hand, and is concerned that the pilot project will actually destroy the natural resources in the area.

“We feel this is a terrible project,” she said. “It’s already destroyed two acres of cover and food for birds, especially resident and migrating birds.”

Pratt supports a plan to plant seeds or acorns, rather than trees and shrubs grown elsewhere, into the area. “A restoration specialist has recommended that you put seeds and acorns of trees and shrubs that are very drought-resistant into the ground, into the sand, and let them germinate and have a chance to grow on their own,” she said.

The 800 acre Great Kills Park is part of the region’s Gateway National Recreation Area, a national park that encompasses and protects parkland, wildlife sanctuaries and historical structures in parts of New York and New Jersey.



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Comments [19]

Freank Lekstutis from Eltingville

There are no invasive plants at Crooke's point!

The fact is that this area was man made to begin with. Leave it as the beautiful habitat that it has become. What sense is there to poisoning it and waiting for it to evolve again? the money set aside for this program could be more intelligently allocated.

Feb. 11 2012 02:28 PM
Howard Fischer from Great Kills Park - Crooke's Point

I would like to question the term the Park Service uses - "restoration". In essence, they are taking a site that is so vital for migratory birds and destroying it. Preserving what already exists should be in theirlong term plan.
I understand so well, the need to remove all non-native species from parks and replace the vegetation with native flora. However in this park, given the sandy soil conditions and geology of Crooke's point, it is not necessary to improve an already existing natural area.
In autumn large numbers of migrating birds feed and rest in the dense thickets and brush found here. The rigors of migration as we know are stressful to birds, so for this reason every natural area or site in urban settings should be left alone. Birds rest and feed here, so I think that should be a priority when one considers an alteration of habitat like this one in any city park.

Feb. 02 2012 09:43 AM

I would just like to echo the well-expressed concerns of the previous commenters, many of whom are some of the Island's most prominent and knowledgeable naturalists and environmental activists.

What NPS and MillionTrees seem to be pretending that they don't know, is that nothing encourages the growth of invasive species more than DISTURBED HABITATS. Far from reestablishing native plant communities, their actions might very well exacerbate the prevalence of nasty invasives like Japanese Knotweed and Phragmites by bulldozing the existing vegetation. Let's hope they come to their senses and indefinitely shelve this barely-baked plan.

Feb. 01 2012 10:23 PM
JOAN MARTIN from Staten Island NY

It appears that NPS is taking a very narrow view re: invasive species, and is destroying the good with the bad.Why use these drastic,environmentally damaging methods when there is much vegetation there worth saving? There are too many unanswered questions for this project to continue. It should be stopped until a more complete evaluation is made public.
There are many areas where trees would be welcome. This is not one.

Jan. 31 2012 04:57 PM
John Grzeskowiak from Tottenville

During a recent Protectors of Pine Oak Woods semi-annual meeting, NPS seemed to be sympathetic to the concerns of the community. Unfortunately, the stated 1-acre pilot became a 2-acre project including bulldozing and the application of herbicides. Their arrogance is unbelievable! At some later date, trees will be planted via the Million Trees Project. Although well intentioned, has anyone evaluated the success of this program? Has NPS visited any of the previously planted sites?
The NY/NJBaykeeper organization is conducting research in Raritan Bay to determine the feasibility of restoring the natural oyster beds which are vital to the ecological integrity of this estuary. Baykeeper has an oyster reef and research cages in the Great Kills area. Can NPS guarantee that the herbicides will not affect these oysters?
Why not concentrate on eliminating phragmites in other areas of the park?

Jan. 31 2012 01:32 PM
Cliff Hagen from Staten Island, New York

Local parks in New York City are in need of "restoration." Why is the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation spending city money on a federal project in a federal park? If there is a federal mandate to remove invasives from a federal park then National Park Service should cover the entire cost. Everyone should call on Commissioner Benepe to reconsider spending city money on this federal project.

Jan. 31 2012 01:08 PM
Donald Recklies from Brooklyn, NY

The desire of the NPS to re-introduce native species at Crooke's Point is admirable, and perhaps - PERHAPS - they can employ herbicides in a way that won't adversly impact the surrounding environment, but who can really believe that they have the resources to maintain the project once the destruction is done? One can point at some of the Million Trees projects, but these have no track record and we don't yet know whether they will be successful in the long term - and none of those projects occupies such a critical area as Crooke's Poi9nt..

Jan. 31 2012 07:42 AM
ALBERT F. BARRY from Great Kills

As can be seen by the comments left here, this is a mistake by the Nat'l Parks Sevice. Isn't their motto "DO NO HARM" - this will do much harm. The fact that there is a bulldozer on Crooke's Point is a tell-tale sign.
The Blue Claw Crab and the Black Mussell have made an extrodinary comeback in Great Kills Harbor over the past 20 years. I suspect that ANY herbicide used on Crooke's Point will deplete the gaining quality and quantity of the said marine life that has been on the march to repopulate the harbor area and the water bed out to Ambrose Light. This is difficult to understand the NPS reasoning. Postponement of this project is necessary.

Jan. 30 2012 10:29 PM
Linda Cohen from staten island

I actually like Crooke's Point the way it is, with it's wild tangle of "diverse" invasives living side by side. These low-profile plants allow for a 360 degree view of the sky that is special.
Too bad an agency that prides itself for collaborating with residents such as "Partnerships for Parks" would now involve itself in ignoring residents while destroying wildlife habitat and using herbicides without proper study. NYC Parks and Rec is acting like an Authority.
What a sad waste this is on so many levels. And what a distraction this is from the real work that needs to be done here.

Jan. 30 2012 08:20 PM
Joe Trezza from Staten Island

The casual park-goer sees Great Kills Park in a narrow light, say as merely a marina to the deckhand or as just a concrete path to jog.

But the “restoration” of Crookes Point will not affect the people of the park, for most never venture past the permit parking sign that looms a half-mile from where it will take place. Crookes Point and the new trees the Park Service will plant will remain a secret to all but the native animals that will suffer accordingly.

Over 130 species of bird can be found at Crookes Point, from breeding field sparrows to migrating yellow-rumped warblers, the latter using the site’s unique mix of beach and pine grove as a vital pit stop on their biannual journeys to breeding and wintering grounds north and south.

If Crookes Point is overcome with tall trees, the sparrows will have no shrubs to conceal their nests and the warblers will have no berries on which to feast. Native cottontail rabbits will have no undergrowth to hide in from hawks, and the spectacle of thousands of monarch butterflies that pass through the park each fall will no longer be, for the insects will have no use for a land at which they can’t feed.

In closing, the Park Service’s attempt to enhance Great Kills will in fact destroy it for those who need and use it most — the creatures that make it natural in the first place.

Jan. 30 2012 06:41 PM
Tom Coleman from Midland Beach

Dave Arvin and Doug Adamo must by now know that they have made a BIG mistake and are looking for a way out.I have met with them several times. They are two empty suits who are clueless as to the very large diversity of wildlife that exists in the area without their help.They have mislead and patronized us for over a year now.And just what is the plan to prevent he invasives from coming back? And what is the plan to save the Ospreys whose nest in within a few hundred feet of the area to be sprayed and whose nest is touted in the NPS brochure on Great Kills Park as the only one on Island?.Remember "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson?

Jan. 30 2012 05:36 PM
S. D. Rosenbaum from Manhattan

Stop the' Crooks 'from poisoning the' Point'.

Please listen to people who care about the environment & have been studying about this subject for decades. A facile band aid is not the answer. Their plans remind me of those people who paint branches in the winter to give color to their garden when there are so many naturally colorful shrubs.

Please stop at once the poisoning of the earth, the depleting of the little bit of established earth there is, and the uprooting of the birds, animals, insects, plants who will be homeless from this destruction.
"Crooks" cause it's our tax money used to implement plans made without vision, knowledge, or regard for the balance of nature .

Jan. 30 2012 04:17 PM
Dolores Sabbatino from Staten Island

Here on Staten Island there are many who have rejected this plan and have expressed their concerns. Is anyone listening? This type of "thinking" continues to destroy Staten Island. For the very reasons stated in the above blogs, which I do not need to reiterate, please listen to the voices of many.

Jan. 30 2012 02:33 PM
Joann Gentsch

I think with so many people opposed to this project and making many valid points about proceeding with this project, maybe rethinking and postponing the project would be the prudent thing to do. A less drastic measure would preserve the wildlife and give community opponents a chance to vocalize their objections and together join forces to implement an amicable plan.

Jan. 30 2012 02:06 PM
John & Karen vLadley

Contrary to all the good intentions, this project may very well destroy a unique habitat!

John & Karen Ladley

Jan. 30 2012 01:50 PM

Thank you for your comments. This is only our first report on the pilot project at Crooke's Point, and I welcome your thoughts as we continue coverage. Please feel free to reach out to me directly at

Jan. 30 2012 12:36 PM
ellen pratt from Crooke's Point, Staten Isl

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, Staten Island's 2,000 member land conservat-
ion organization, is totally opposed to this "restoration" plan which invol
ves using Garlon4 or Accord XL to poison native and non-native vegetation.
Crooke's Point is a vitally important resting and feeding site for birds and Monarch Butterflies along the Atlantic Migratory Flyway, in the densely
populated metropolitcan region. Currently existing shrubs and vines provide cover and food for resident birds as well. Crooke's Point is a bea-
utiful natural area enjoyed as such the public. A 2 acre area has now been
demolished. Native shrub and tree saplings will take decades to grow to pro
vide a similarly rich natural resource! NPS has stated a 50% survival rate
will be considered successful. Meanwhile they have bulldozed all the veg- will herbicides be able to work. This is GOVERNMENT OUT OF
CONTROL destroying rich natural resources in a 'protected' public park.

Jan. 30 2012 11:33 AM
Elaine Croteau from Staten Island

There are several issues with the so-called rehabilitation of Crooke's Point.
First, there needs to be more intensive review of how the herbicides will leach into the surrounding water and the affect it will have on the fish. Also, how to keep the herbicides from filtering into the areas beyond the pilot site.
Second, this is a very important flyway for migrating birds and monarch butterflies.
Third, there are other less intrusives ways to remove invasives.
Fourth, what will prevent invasives from returning.
Fifth, this is a natural area so designated by NPS. Just by definition a natural area is not one that is planted with hundreds of trees with the expectation that may be 50% would survive. Just looking at the area you will find very few trees.
I wish NPS would review the scope of the job and remember DO NO HARM.

Jan. 30 2012 11:18 AM
Lenore Miller from Staten Island

This has been a highly contentious issue on Staten Island, with environmental groups strongly oppposed to the bulldozing and application of herbicide. You did not explore this aspect in your report and a follow up would be appropriate.

Jan. 29 2012 08:08 PM

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