Environmental groups file suit to delay Bayonne Bridge raising

BAYONNE — Claiming that the Port Authority and Coast Guard ignored complaints about potential health hazards related to the current plan to raise the Bayonne Bridge, a coalition of organizations representing neighborhoods in Newark, Bayonne, and Staten Island filed suit in Federal District Court in Manhattan on July 31 against top U.S. Coast Guard administrators and the all members of Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority. The lawsuit calls on the U.S. Coast Guard to complete a full, legally required study of the likely harmful health and environmental consequences.
“The U.S. Coast Guard has given the green light to the Port Authority to expand without any mitigation or even acknowledgement of the unfair burden that the raising of the Bridge will have on our communities. Ironbound residents will continue to suffer the health consequences from increased air pollution that this project will bring. We asked them for a fair assessment and the reasonable mitigation of these impacts – but what we got was complete disregard for our concerns and for our residents’ well being,” said Ana I. Baptista, PhD., Environmental & Planning Projects Director Ironbound Community Corp, and Coalition for Healthy Ports Steering Committee Member.
The U.S. Coast Guard, which gave its blessing to the project in May, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, awarded bids for construction in July,
The Coast Guard found in its environmental review there were Findings of No Significant Impact (FONSI). The permit for the project will be issued within the next week or so.
But groups such as the New Jersey Sierra Club believe the Coast Guard is wrong because it did not look at the entire scope of the project or the impact on surrounding communities. The groups claim that there was no baseline health study done to look at potential health impacts from additional pollution from the volume and size of ships coming into the port, and other matters.
The environmental assessment did not call for any mitigation plan, these groups pointed out, and the assessment did not address issues to offset air pollution, such as using electric power to move goods in the port facilities or using cleaner diesel and other hybrid technology to limit pollution or having clean diesel ships. The Environmental Protection Agency’s concern about this project was not addressed in the DEA’s assessment, according to environmentalists. The assessment did not look at the increase in noise and shipment of hazardous materials through these communities or pollution from additional traffic jams because of an increase in port activity. They also tried to fast track the project without adequate public education and scrutiny. Documents, they said, were not available in a timely manner, and there were no materials available in Spanish.
“We looked at the U.S. Coast Guard’s “No Significant Impact” Statement in connection to the raising of the Bayonne Bridge as a death sentence for the people in our communities. Their decision in the Environmental Assessment to ignore the severity of the cumulative, adverse and hazardous exiting conditions in the environmental justice communities of Port Richmond, Elm Park and Mariners Harbor and along our waterfront is immoral and unethical. It is also an outright violation of our people’s civil, human and environmental justice rights,” said Beryl A. Thurman, Executive Director/President, North Shore Waterfront Conservancy of Staten Island, Inc.
The Port Authority has declined comment on the suit. – By Al Sullivan

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