After more than a year of community opposition to a commercial development planned for a site next to a wetland area in Mariners Harbor, the biggest obstacle the developers now face may be in the form of a reptile.
It’s believed that the eastern mud turtle, which is on the New York State list of endangered species, may reside in the area behind United Cerebral Palsy at 2324 Forest Ave. -- where there are plans to build 226,000 square feet of commercial space, which would house a BJ’s Wholesale Club, a gas station, a supermarket and other retail, and would include 838 parking spaces.
After a database revealed historical evidence of the prior presence of the eastern mud turtle at the site, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has requested that the developer, Manhattan-based Josifa LLC, conduct a survey for the species.
“DEC requested the survey because the Natural Heritage Program database showed historical evidence of the prior presence of an endangered species, the eastern mud turtle, at the site, which still contains suitable habitat for the possible existence of the eastern mud turtle,” said Erica Ringewald, a spokeswoman for the DEC.
If the eastern mud turtle is found on-site, the project, which was originally on track to be completed in fall 2019, may experience additional delays.
While the City Council approved the plan in October 2017, conservationists have expressed various concerns, saying the project will result in the destruction of 18 acres of woodlands that play a pivotal role in maintaining the wetland ecosystem.
“During Hurricane Sandy, the community to the east of the wetland was not flooded," said Staten Island Coalition of Wetlands and Forests (SICWF) leader Gabriella Velardi-Ward. "But the mobile home park to the west of the wetland was flooded. Wetlands act like a sponge and absorb more water than most people can imagine. We were not flooded because of this wetland. If we lose it, we will be vulnerable to the high tide flooding, storm surge flooding and torrential rain flooding of climate change.”