Habitat Devastation, Two Years Later, in Southpoint Park


Two summers ago, defying community resistance and overthrowing an approved plan, RIOC devastated the shoreline areas in Southpoint Park. These were the last natural shorelines on Roosevelt Island. Their contractor, Langan Engineering, promised that the displaced species would return to the restored habitats. The claim was no more true then than it is now.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Results: Habitat Devastation, Two Years Later

Spear thistle, an invasive species, surrounded by dead, dried out grasses Langan planted sparingly. Removing invasive species, RIOC claimed, was a primary goal in ripping up the shorelines.

Habitat devastation is not new to Roosevelt Island. But the plan that Langan Engineering followed was not to restore habitats but to reduce them to rubble and replant them with species making returning any species impossible.

A much need plan for revetting the shorelines masked the devastating follow through on land.

The natural shorelines were full of life. The grasses and plants provided food and shelter for birds and small animals. All of this is gone.

The results are painful for anyone who cares about wildlife and nature.

While an alleged environmentalist trotted out by Langan assured residents that the displaced species would soon return, instead, we have struggling young trees, dead grasses, spear thistle and Canadian geese crowding together, escaping 90 degree heat.

Trees and grasses that once provided shelter for nests where next generations were born and grew are gone. The trees Langan planted are sparse, and some struggle for survival. The grasses are dying, apparently from neglect, as invasive species take root.

Struggling trees, their lower branches unable to fill out with leaves, sit in a small field of dead and dying grasses – and thriving thistle.

Focusing on the Birds

Birds, squirrels and other animals abandoned the shorelines once RIOC ripped them to pieces, then refilled the space with concrete and rocks. Some certainly starved or were killed by predators with the shelters and sources of food gone.

But Canadian geese, which flourished on Roosevelt Island for years, make a clear example of the damage.

These parents have only a single surviving gosling.

Each year, bright yellow goslings followed their parents out of nests where they hatched, parading through Southpoint and beyond. While some remain, the families are fewer, and the traditional nesting places were lost to Langan’s heavy equipment.

Appalling images of abandoned nests, the eggs unfertilized and unhatched baking in the sun… The Wildlife Freedom Foundation sanctuary protects a few geese where proper habitat can’t be found. The cats in the sanctuary coexist peacefully, but the ground is bare.

Goslings must venture beyond if they have a chance of learning how to fend for themselves. This exposes them to high heat, cars, bikes and predators. They have few places to hide.

All this makes Roosevelt Island the home to needless animal suffering. It was never what the people who live here wanted.

These eggs, laid where no shelter was possible, were left to bake in the sun, mother unknown, Photo courtesy of Janet Falk/Janet Falk Communications and Research

As for RIOC, you’re free to speculate on their motives. But where they control the land, one sure thing is clear. They share the land but not Roosevelt Islanders’ values.

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