Want to Swim in City Waters? Dive in to the Debate

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Staten Island's Kill van Kull is one of the waterways under scrutiny.

Jim Henderson

Staten Island's Kill van Kull is one of the waterways under scrutiny.

To the untrained eye, the water in Staten Island’s Kill van Kull doesn’t look that different from the wet stuff in the East River or the Bronx River or Pelham Bay. But to scientists and regulators, those water bodies are very different, classified for different kinds of use.

Some of New York City’s waters are classified for “primary contact,” meaning you are supposed to be able to swim in them. But others are only set up for “secondary contact.” You can do recreational fishing, sure, but you really aren’t supposed to touch.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is looking to upgrade the city waterways now designated for secondary contact (known in water-wonk parlance as Class I and SD waters). That’s something clean-water advocates applaud, although they want to make sure the standards are strict enough and linked to plans to actually achieve them.

There’s a hearing Monday, March 9 on these plans that would affect parts of the Hudson and Bronx rivers, the Harlem and East rivers, Flushing Bay and other waterways. It’s at noon in Room 27A at 290 Broadway. Written comments on the plan are due by 5 p.m. on March 16.

City Limits coverage of the Bronx is supported by the New York Community Trust.

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