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 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.
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.
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.
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.Gabriella Velardi-Ward
“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.”
Written By Kerri McLean
Additional Allies in Advocacy:
- North Shore Waterfront Conservancy
- Natural Resources Protective Association
- Friends of Mount Manresa
- Sustainable Staten Island
- Mariners Harbor Civic Association
- Richmondtown Civic Association
- Preservation League of Staten Island
- City West HOA
- Regal Walk HOA
- NY/NJ Baykeeper
- National Resource Defense Council (NRDC)
- The Environment TV
- Sierra Club New York