Community Member

Coalition For Wetlands And Forests

Staten Island, New York

Graniteville community on Staten Island is an environmental justice community. One of the resources in this community is Graniteville Swamp (AKA the Graniteville Wetland and Forest). This swamp contains 2 types of wetlands, a tidal wetland (12 acres) and a freshwater wetland (18 acres). This combined wetland saved the community during Hurricane Sandy. They were not flooded, but other communities on Staten Island were.

Gabriella Velardi-Ward describes the fight to protect wetlands in Staten Island from destruction.

Gabriella Velardi-Ward co-founded Staten Island’s Coalition for Wetlands and Forests (CWF) to protect the diverse, environmental justice community of Graniteville. Sitting next to a 30-acre natural wetland that includes tidal and freshwater marshes, the community of mostly black and brown residents, economically and environmentally fragile, has become a high-risk flood area, since the destruction of the freshwater wetlands. When she discovered a developer’s plan to build a BJ’s Wholesale Club and 835-car parking lot on 18 acres of the wetlands, “coming out of the ground 5-8 feet above street level,” Velardi-Ward had to get to work.

The New York Times covered the fight to protect the Staten island wetlands.

While the developer’s permits were granted, CWF, working with the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, is suing the state Department of Environmental Conservation to do their own Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). CWF claims that the initial EIS by the city was “totally inadequate and flawed.” The lawsuit argues that the Department of Environmental Conservation is required to provide a new EIS and to provide a public hearing.

Graniteville Wetlands in the winter.

CWF has started a campaign to convince Gov. Cuomo to acquire the land and turn it over to NY State Department of Parks and Recreation. Rep. Max Rose, Assembly member Nicole Malliotakis, State Senator Diane Savino, Assembly member Michael Cusick, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, as well as 1700 letter-writing residents all echoed the calls for a public meeting to discuss the proposal.

Over 500 people showed up on Forest Avenue, Staten Island for a March to protest the development of the Graniteville wetlands.

Support in the form of grants from organizations such as The Rose Foundation, The Citizens Committee New York, and Anthropocene Alliance has enabled them to continue community organizing work.

“Joining Anthropocene Alliance has made a big difference for us. We may not have gotten as far as we have without them. With their help, we have received pro bono analysis from a wetland scientist and pro bono legal help.”

Gabriella Velardi-Ward

Written By Kerri McLean

Additional Allies in Advocacy:


These Wetlands Helped Stop Flooding From Sandy. Now a BJ’s May Move In. – The New York Times (

Plan To Turn Staten Island Wetlands Into BJ’s Wholesale Club Moves Forward

Activists Still Hoping to Derail Plan to Develop on Staten Island Wetland

Ecosystem, homes at risk in Graniteville (letter to the editor)

Comptroller Stringer Calls on State DEC to Reject Development Permit on Staten Island’s Graniteville Swamp Wetlands

Kerri McLean

Kerri McLean

Kerri is a Florida-based educator and writer devoted to telling the stories of heroes on the front lines of environmental justice. Experiencing over 30 years of hurricanes in the Florida Keys, she understands the ravages of climate change and repetitive flooding.


Gabriella Velardi-Ward


Social Media

Climate Impacts

Flooding, Water Contamination


Fighting Industrial Contamination, Halting Bad Development, Nature-Based Solutions

501c3 Tax Deductible


Accepting Donations