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Valley Stream creek carries good news

A westbound view from Mill Road of the

A westbound view from Mill Road of the picturesque creek that flows behind John Duffy's South Valley Stream. Credit: John Duffy

If you’re a Long Islander and a regular Newsday reader, then I can assume two things: You’ve absorbed your share of bad news these last few months, and you have, at some point, complained about your local government.

Me, too.

But from our backyard in South Valley Stream, my wife and I have front-row seats to some good news: We get to see folks enjoy where they live, knowing their quality of life has improved through the efforts of people who work for those governments, who listen to their constituents and who know what they are doing.

Eight years ago, the tidal surge from superstorm Sandy surrounded us in four feet of water, resulting in contents of cellars and garages thrown to the curb in the soggy and stressful weeks that followed. The picturesque creek that flows behind us, officially "Valley Stream" on U.S. Geological Survey maps but known locally as Mill Brook, or just "the creek," became our adversary. It is as if it warned: "This time I took out your cars. Next time I’m coming for your houses."

One year later, a New York Rising Community Reconstruction Plan empowered the Mill Brook Civic Association to determine priorities for our share of rebuilding funds. The civic association crafted its vision with the consulting firm of Louis Berger and Associates, who then worked with Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead to get the shovels in the ground. Among the mitigation projects was a rehabilitation of the public path along the creek on the opposite shore from our backyard, as well as raising our street by six inches. While it took seven years to complete, we can say now this is something that went right.

When we first bought our house, we added many native plant species that we’d discovered while birdwatching in Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, the source of the tides that ebb and flow past our kitchen window. When the NYRCR plans were announced, I was happy to learn that we weren’t alone in recognizing the creek’s importance as a natural resource. In fact, the South Valley Stream plan was awarded an extra $3 million from NYRCR for Best Use of Green Infrastructure. The path is now lined with some of the same natives that we planted in our yard, and the smart engineering gives flood water somewhere to go. The birds and the butterflies are loving it, and the water looks cleaner already.

The long-neglected creek path is now lined with switchgrass and black-eyed Susans instead of phragmites and garbage. It has become Mill Brook Park, a beautiful neighborhood amenity, and exactly what was needed amid the coronavirus pandemic — a place where people can push a baby stroller or teach a child to ride a bike, a place to walk the dog or just get outside and feel normal for a while.

And that’s all good news worth sharing.

Reader John Duffy lives in South Valley Stream.

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