Flushing Bay's Story
Historically a lush wetland and hunting ground for the Native American Manticock tribe, Flushing Bay is now home to an active boating population, LaGuardia airport, commercial and industrial waterfront uses, and a 1.5 mile long waterfront promenade.
Over two billion gallons of raw, untreated sewage is dumped into Flushing Bay and Creek every year. This includes the waste from toilets as well as sinks, baths, washing machines and stormwater that runs into the sewer, carrying oils, litter and pet waste. Nearly every time it rains, NYC's sewer system gets overwhelmed with stormwater runoff and doesn't have the capacity to treat all of the stormwater and wastewater. The sewers overflow and dump raw sewage and stormwater into the waterways. This is called Combined Sewer Overflow, or CSO. Flushing Bay has one of the largest CSO outfalls, which alone dumps a billion gallons of sewage and stormwater into Flushing Bay every year.
Reducing CSO into the Bay will mitigate ongoing pollution in Flushing Bay and allow the habitat to be restored. The NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has recently completed dredging to remove contaminated material and will be restoring some wetland habitat along the shoreline. However, DEP also has plans to use chlorination in Flushing Creek to disinfect CSO pollution. This poses a threat to the wildlife and native oyster population, which acts as a natural water filter. There are also plans to build a massive CSO tunnel to reduce CSO going into Flushing Bay, but this will take decades to complete and will still leave hundreds of millions of gallons of CSO to enter the Bay.
Oysters play a critical role in remediating the wetland ecosystem. An adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day and provide habitats for other marine species. During coastal storms, oyster reefs help attenuate wave energy, playing a vital role in the resiliency of the shoreline.
Flushing Bay is a popular waterbody for dragon boating, a form of human-powered boating and one of the world's fastest growing water sports. Hundreds of dragon boaters practice on Flushing Bay during the recreation season, coming from all over New York City, Long Island and surrounding counties.
Flushing Bay is also enjoyed by canoeists, kayakers, and motor-powered boaters as well as joggers and cyclists along the promenade, and fishermen and naturalists along the banks.
The Flushing Bay waterfront is a short walk from major population centers of Flushing, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, to Flushing Meadow Corona Park, and to public transportation the 7 train station: Mets-Willets Point. However, access to the waterfront is obstructed by highways, dangerous intersections, and the CitiField Parking Lot. Planning is needed to increase and make safe better public access.