Published: Wednesday, April 06, 2011, 7:20 AM
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Renewing their efforts to fight phragmites-fueled fires, and protect Staten Island residents and property, two state lawmakers here have introduced bills that would force the state Department of Environmental Conservation to take action and empower borough property owners.
One measure would require the DEC to remove the combustible weeds from infested wetlands where more than five contiguous acres of phragmites exist.
Another would change current DEC policy that makes it illegal for homeowners to cut down and remove the vegetation from their private property without obtaining a permit.
Said state Sen. Andrew Lanza and Assemblyman Lou Tobacco: "For too long, DEC, which regulates all designated wetlands, has seemed more concerned with protecting these non-native invasive weeds than they do about enacting policies which protect residents and their property -- despite the department's own admission that phragmites pose a serious fire hazard."
"How many life-threatening phragmite fires must Staten Island endure before DEC does something about this?" said Lanza (R-Staten Island). "It is time DEC stopped putting dangerous weeds ahead of the people and property of Staten Island."
"Current DEC policies and the weeds' propensity for fueling summer fires has put the lives and property of Staten Islanders in jeopardy while forcing local first responders to risk their safety to battle these often-fierce blazes," said Tobacco (R-South Shore).
Lanza also encouraged Islanders to show their support for the bills by signing his online petition at lanza.nysenate.gov.