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Pralls Island

The Daily Plant : Thursday, May 10, 2007

Going Beyond The Call

Photo by Bill Tai

Every day, Parkies go to work cleaning parks, planting flowers, maintaining trees, and managing special events. At times, our daily jobs get interrupted to meet natural and other emergencies. This spring, Parks staff in every division and borough rose to the challenge of two such natural emergencies: the discovery of the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) on Prall's Island outside Staten Island, and the Nor'easter storm that struck the tri-state area on April 15.

Prall's Island is an 80-acre, uninhabited natural area covered by woods and located in the Arthur Kill River between Staten Island and New Jersey. Prall's is managed by our Natural Resources Group (NRG) and, although parkland, is completely inaccessible except by boats landing on small amounts of shore. Somehow, however, the Asian Long Horned beetle was able to fly to the island, infecting over 40 trees, and jeopardizing the rest. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets (NYSDAM), NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and Parks formed a unique federal/state/city partnership to take on the ALB through an aggressive tree removal.

State DEC and Parks took the lead in this complex operational effort, which started by transporting chippers, beach tractors, and a John Deere Gator by a private barge and loading them on the island by crane. This first of its kind operation for Parks was coordinated by Parks' new Chief Dockmaster Bill Lindman. With equipment loaded, a month-long effort took place to remove, drag, and chip nearly 3,000 host species trees. This effort involved three levels of government and many Parks divisions including NRG, Forestry, Operations, Marinas, PEP, EMTs, Press, and M&O. Parks staff of all titles worked long days in the difficult terrain of this island, trying to avoid swamps, poison ivy, debris, and more to get the job done. NRG staff coordinated the response while protecting natural areas on the island. Foresters cut and chipped. CPWs moved trees through rough terrain. Our Staten Island mechanics fixed equipment on the island. The emergency operation was the first that Parks has managed under the City's now required Incident Command System (ICS), which emphasizes clear lines of authority and employee safety. Miraculously, this large clearing and removal operation involving over 30 staff a day on a deserted island was conducted with no injuries - outside of some miserable poison ivy - and no damage to our equipment.

But only hours after the last barge left Prall's Island, we remobilized for another major natural event: the 2007 Nor'easter. This storm coincided with one of the area's highest tide conditions of the year, causing flooding levels unseen since 1993. Boats washed up on backyards of Long Island. Flushing Meadows Corona Park in particular was overrun by water, as were parks in other boroughs. Still, Parks responded. Marina staff secured all patrons and boats. Drivers from the Bronx and Brooklyn picked up and delivered shipments of sandbags with rack trucks to the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management (OEM). Bronx Forestry and Brooklyn Forestry responded to tree conditions obstructing MTA lines. Queens M&O staff laid down numerous sandbags and monitored the erosion condition at Rockaway Beach, while also sending a crew in the middle of the night to assist a flooded Amtrak site with pumps. Operations and forestry staff worked all weekend to ensure the safety of our resources. 5 Boro Operations staffed the OEM Emergency Operations Center for 30 straight hours, and worked with DEP, FDNY, ConEd, Tech Services, and Brooklyn M&O to help diffuse a critical flooding issue in the pre-dawn hours at Prospect Park Zoo.

In all, Parkies displayed a wide variety of technical and organizational skills and showed the highest levels of commitment. While we can't name everyone who participated in these response efforts, we do want to thank by name those key staff who served in the unpleasant terrain of Pralls Island. Thanks to everyone who stepped to the plate.

NRG: Bill Tai, Nate McVay, Adam Thornbrough, Tim Wenskus, Alex Summers, Rich Love, Michael Feller. Central Forestry: Fiona Watt. 5 Boro Operations: Bill Lindman, Paris Xirogiannis, Kaleem Kamboj, Keith Kerman, Mahanth Joishy, Jonathan Ells, Mark Beyer, Dimitrios Paleologos, Howard Febo, Chris Vallozzi. 5 Boro Tech Services: Keith Livingston, Christopher Rawdon. Bronx: Donald Horn, Dennis Osborne, Eric Moore, Anthony Claudio, James Lemyre, Dominicana Maldonado, Arthur Hinds, Robert Ruiz, Vincent Sams, James Milligan, Keesha Little, John Crespo, Kurt Walford, Miguel Caraballo. Brooklyn: Michael McCarthy, Victor Versace, William Cleveland, Santos Mesa, Ben Gonzales, Mohammed Hanif, Otis Softleigh, Robert McCarthy, Mariusz Ledwon, Nick Dixon, Alex Echeverria, Clarence Williams, Vinson Davis, Katy Rosa, Fred Wilken, Philip Lorenz, David Volly, Israel Lozano, Michael Gear, Rene Sanchez, Robert Silver, Terry Ryan, Joseph Molinari. Manhattan: Martin Hayes, Miguel Castro, Christopher Martin, Carlos Guzman, Manuel Rodriguez, Bryan Gosicki, Jean Duvernay, Bill Steyer, Norman Cook, Rafael Santos, Beverly Lowers, Jill Cohen Queens: Anthony Squilicotti, Artis Roberts, Barret Price, Brian Gill, Craig Brown, Dwight Skeeter, Eric Clyde, Gilbert O’Brien, Hugo Ramos, Jim Joesten, Julio Valencia, Lenny Rodriguez, Mark Enriquez, Mark Kaminsky, Roland Dhrami, Ron Williams, Rory Verga, Steve Drago, William Maddox, Pat McCarthy. Staten Island: Arne Israel, Keith Cavaliere, Frank Foreman, Joe Lamantia. Press Office: Danny Avila

Written by Keith Kerman and Mahanth Joishy


“The second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing
but the habits he has acquired during the first half.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky
(1821 – 1881)

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