Urban Fold

'Fleeting Paradise' Shows the Perils of Wetland Restoration

In the Bronx, three acres of newly planted wetlands were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. As New York seeks to fortify its coast, should it rebuild this 'Paradise in the Bronx'?

The vision of developer Steven Smith, who built the three acres of wetlands in exchange for the right to develop the remainder of the 28-acre site in the Bronx, the "verdant slopes and grassy marshes" that resulted from two years of planning, nine months of work, and $1.5 million, were "washed away in a matter of hours by Hurricane Sandy’s 13-foot storm surge."

"What remain are a few patches of marsh grass, a Charlie Brown-like evergreen and one lonely, weedy mound just below a concrete wall," writes Liz Robbins.

Smith would like to rebuild the habitat, but as the city explores wetland restoration as one of several methods to fortify its coast, just how to do that is an open question. “This has to be done properly,” he said, shaking his head. “This is an environmental disaster. And you don’t want to repeat this mistake again.”

"Based on what survived [boulders piled as riprap and a mile-long 15-foot-high cast-concrete wall], Mr. Smith advocates rebuilding by integrating, or layering, hard and soft materials," says Robbins.

"Kelly Risotto, whose Land Use Ecological Services designed the habitat...said her company, based in Medford on Long Island, would replant in the spring." However, "[a] spokeswoman for the Environmental Conservation Department said it was still evaluating plans for the wetlands."

Full Story: In the Bronx, Restoring a Fleeting Paradise

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