As John Garcia explained, serpentine rock, as you may not know, contains asbestos within it. This is not a problem at all when it is undisturbed, and is actually a good thing. However, when it is destroyed for construction purposes, it then releases the asbestos into the air, with all the concomitant risks for both workers and residents that this deadly natural chemical can cause. Lung cancers, breathing problems, and other issues abound among workers and others in areas where the serpentine rock is disturbed. Even though it is a natural substance, it is still a source of asbestos.
During his time at CSI, he took a class toward his Bachelor’s Degree. Mr. Garcia was, during this class, involved in a study of Russian mines. It was found that the miners, who were tunneling through serpentine rock, were experiencing multiple types of cancers for decades afterward.
However, when the rock is undisturbed, it does a very curious thing. According to Mr Garcia, the rock itself can absorb large amounts of water when it rains. This has the effect of preserving the hillsides and other land where the rock is located. It preserves the hillsides by preventing the rainwater from eroding them. So, removal of this rock would be devastating to the local area and community.
Especially when you consider the PowerPoint presentation/report by Alan Benimoff (who you may remember from our previous article about the Graniteville Quarry Park published last year ).
Whether you believe in climate change or not, you must have noticed that we no longer have rainstorms. We now have torrential downpours. Homes with solid foundations now get leaks in their basements and other areas, sump pumps are an absolute necessity in such homes, and these are not even adequate when the rain seeps in through the walls.
Why does this happen? Does anyone know? Does it actually matter? The fact is that is does happen, and prevention is the best strategy; prevention meaning not building on these precarious hillsides. Find a different location for the latest condominium complex or townhouse.
In addition to his work with the SANC, John Garcia has also been involved in helping certain properties that were need of waivers not to get built. The waivers were needed because the builders were building on hillsides and would need to build retaining walls. In the experience of many on Staten Island and elsewhere, too many builders cut corners on the retaining wall construction in order to save money, and it is the people who purchase the properties or rent the apartments, that invariably suffer for their errors.
So, Mr Garcia has been using Dr Benimoff’s PowerPoint presentation in order to get developments that need waivers for retaining walls not to be built. One example was the “Pinewood Oaks” condominium development that would have needed retaining walls for their hillside build. Since these retaining walls so often fail, their permit request was denied by the city.
According to the premise of Dr. Benimoff’s paper, such structures should not be built in the future, as they are inherently unstable. This is often due to the heavy rainfall that we have been experiencing in recent years, leading to the collapse or failure of retaining walls, followed by the foundations shifting in the homes that are owned or rented.
The rainfall can be devastating on Staten Island, and is also one of the many reasons why the people of Staten Island are fighting against the BJs Wholesale project that will destroy wetlands that currently absorb water. (insert previous article)
On a more pleasant note, John Garcia also spoke about an event that occurred in 2018, where representatives from the New York Botanical Garden visited the preserve to observe and seek unique species of animals and plants. The 10 and a half acre area on Staten Island is home to many species of plants that are unique and cannot be found anywhere else. In an email to John Garcia from Daniel Altha of the New York Botanical Garden, “…Together we made almost 497 observations of 98 species. The most commonly observed species was the Green Comet Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora) with 263 observations. “
Other events have also occurred since that time, including visits from elementary school students, and an event where they created the Roots Of Peace Community Garden, along with special String Theory temporary sculptures that were created by a local artist.
This SANC community center seeks to be a place where people can go to find peace and calm in nature, as well as learn about the wildlife and plant species that exist on Staten Island. So many people do not realize that it is not necessary to journey to another place in order to see unique plant and animal species. They are often in our own backyards.
John Garcia is also the president of Roots of Peace Community Garden. According to its website, “…We are college students from New Jersey planning to initiate a community garden project in the Parkhill/Stapleton area of Staten Island, NY. Parkhill is home to the largest population of Liberian refugees outside of West Africa. The surrounding communities contain a diverse group of members from a variety of economic backgrounds and ethnicities. We intend to work with community members and volunteers to create a safe, productive, and eventually self-sufficient space to grow great food!” (http://cultivatingpeace.blogspot.com/)
Mr. Garcia was also previously involved in Public Safety at the College of Staten Island, which is how he met Dr. Benimoff.
The Roots of Peace Community Garden and the Serpentine Art and Nature Commons have not had as many events over the course of the last year due to the pandemic, however, they are planning a number of events in the near future.
Roots of Peace already had a planting event two Saturdays ago, where members of the community helped plant the garden for this season.
The Serpentine Art and Nature Commons are hosting twenty Summer Youth Employment teens this summer in order to help maintain the grounds, according to their Facebook page.
You can contact John Garcia at [email protected]