Thursday, September 11, 2014
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
"A Walk in the Park" just posted a really good reservoir piece today:
DEC/Parks Department Reverse Ridgewood Reservoir Culvert Plan
The decommissioned Ridgewood Reservoir in Highland Park is a natural oasis on the Queens-Brooklyn border. Activists were worried that a state-mandated plan to cut culverts in the reservoir would have impacted the natural beauty of the area. Citizens were concerned that this could pave the way for future development.
By Geoffrey Croft
For years the community fought vehemently against Mayor Bloomberg's $50 million PlaNYC proposal to clear out 20 acres of one of the basins for ballfields and develop the natural area for active recreation.
It appears these efforts may finally be paying off.
Click here to read the entire story.
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The following article was just published in the Queens Courier:
New hope for Ridgewood Reservoir
By Salvatore Licata | email@example.com
The Ridgewood Reservoir is gaining some dam support.
The head of the state Department of Environmental Conservation told lawmakers that the city Parks Department requested his agency reclassify the reservoir as a “low hazard” dam, which would obviate the need for a $6 million construction project to prevent flooding.
The reservoir has been listed as a major flood hazard with potential to do damage to its surroundings. In order to minimize the risk of flooding, the Parks Department planned to connect the reservoir’s three basins by creating three large breaches in the reservoir’s surrounding berms.
“If reclassified, the Class A [low flood threat] designation will allow Parks to maintain the reservoir as a dam, without necessitating breaching the structure and all the associated intrusions, such as access-road construction, tree removal and habitat disturbance,” DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens wrote in a Sept. 2 letter.
Martens said his staff felt the downgrade “may be technically justified,” and that the Parks Department is “in the process of submitting additional information to justify this reclassification,” raising the possibility that the reservoir can be fully preserved.
“We share your view that the reservoir is a unique, historic site that over the years has reverted to nature and has become a haven for wildlife, as well as local residents seeking respite from urbanized surroundings,” Martens wrote.
The letter also said that the DEC is developing a schedule to map the wetlands in the three basins of the reservoir, starting early this fall.
This initial work will identify the exact boundaries of each of the wetlands and what conditions exist there.
Even though the letter is a step forward in the fight to save the reservoir, state Sen. Joe Addabbo remains skeptical.
“I will not rest until there is an A classification [low flood risk] letter from the Parks Department in my hand,” Addabbo said. “I am optimistic we will get what we want but just something more definitive.”
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Monday, September 8, 2014
The following article was published in DNAinfo New York:
Revamped City Plan Would Preserve Ridgewood Reservoir
By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska on September 8, 2014 1:14pm
QUEENS — The state and the city are considering a plan that would allow Ridgewood Reservoir to remain untouched and preserve its ecosystem.
The man-made structure, a historic source of water supply, surrounded by lush greenery, and located in Highland Park, has become a battleground in recent months.
Local park lovers and several elected officials disagreed with a Parks Department plan to build breaches, which would allow flood waters to drain, and roads at the site of the reservoir, while also cutting down nearly 500 trees.
The $6 million plan, the Parks Department said, was meant to comply with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation regulations, put in place after Hurricane Katrina.
The goal was to address the potential for flooding in the area of the reservoir, which the state DEC classified as a “high hazard” dam.
Under that classification, a failure of the reservoir could result in "widespread or serious damage...such that the loss of human life or widespread substantial economic loss is likely."
It was not clear when or why the Ridgewood Reservoir was given that classification.
Earlier this year, local activists started a petition protesting the plan and have garnered nearly 1,000 supporters as of Sept. 8.
In July, several elected officials, including Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, Rep. Grace Meng and state Assemblyman Mike Miller sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressing their concern that the proposed work would affect the park’s ecosystem.
“We are deeply concerned these changes will significantly harm the natural and largely undisturbed habitats of the animals that currently live there," the letter reads.
But last Wednesday, the Parks Department said that it has decided not to pursue the plan and is working to get the site reclassified as a “low hazard” dam.
The Parks Department said the new plan would eliminate the need to build culverts and roads in the park.
Lori Severino, a spokeswoman for the DEC, said the agency "will carefully consider the anticipated reclassification request.”
Local activists said they welcome the new plan.
“It makes sense and it should have happened originally,” said Gary Comorau, president of the Highland Park/Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance, a local advocacy group that promotes the site.
“It’s so spectacular,” he said about the park. “You don't feel like you're in New York City and we want to keep it this way.”
Several years ago, the park also underwent renovations which included repaving of pathways. A new handicap-accessible ramp was also added.
"After having recently invested millions to revitalize the Reservoir, it would be a crime [to] destroy and disturb the thriving natural wildlife," said Crowley, who called the site an "ecological gem."
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Friday, September 5, 2014
The New York Daily News also just published a good story about recent developments with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation:
Ridgewood Reservoir could keep its wild appeal under new state plan
Advocates for the green oasis on the Brooklyn-Queens border have been fighting to preserve the natural parkland. State officials say the city may not need to cut culverts as part of an anti-flooding plan they originally mandated. State Department of Environmental Conservation will consider reclassifying the site as a non-hazardous dam.
BY Lisa L. Colangelo
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, September 4, 2014, 8:33 PM
The Ridgewood Reservoir may get to stay wild.
The city may not need to cut culverts and roads through the green oasis in order to stave off the potential risk of flooding, state officials said this week.
It marked the first sign of victory for the activists who have been battling for seven years to protect the untamed 50-acre site, which has grown into a natural woodland since the reservior was closed more than two decades ago.
“There aren’t wild places left like this is New York,” said activist Robb Jett, who founded Save the Ridgewood Reservoir. “There’s more to gain to keep it as a natural area.”
State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens told lawmakers the area could be reclassified as a low-risk dam, a distinction that would eliminate the need for flooding mitigation measures currently required by state law.
The state will make that decision after it completes a review of information provided by the city Parks Department.
The news comes in time to head off a $6 million Parks project — mandated by the state — that opponents said would destroy the reservoir’s delicate ecosystem.
More than 150 species of migratory and resident birds use the lush area, Jett said.
Another activist, Christina Wilkinson, convinced eight local lawmakers earlier this year to sign a letter to Gov. Cuomo detailing the importance of preserving the site.
“This new plan will be great for the community because it preserves the natural environment of the park, prevents any new development,” said Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, who signed the letter. “And most importantly, (it) saves our taxpayers over $6 million.”
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Thursday, September 4, 2014
Good news travels fast! This article was published late this morning in the Queens Chronicle:
Ridgewood Reservoir to be reclassified?
by Christopher Barca, Reporter | Posted: Thursday, September 4, 2014 10:30 am
Ridgewood Reservoir to be reclassified?
Activists fighting for the reclassification of the Ridgewood Reservoir shouldn’t uncork the champagne just yet, but they may have scored a victory this week.
The Parks Department will apply to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for a redesignation of the reservoir, within Highland Park on the Glendale-Brooklyn border, from a Class C “high hazard” dam to a Class A “low hazard” dam, according to agency spokesman Zach Feder.
That could negate the need for a project that residents say would destroy the park by requiring the cutting down of almost 500 trees and the construction of roads that would negatively impact the habitat of many of the park’s wildlife species.
“Parks has discussed the prospect of instead reclassifying the reservoir as a Class A “low hazard” site with DEC, which would eliminate the need to create any breaches,” Feder said. “Parks is currently working on a package that we will submit to DEC in support of this reclassification.”
If the state DEC approves the agency’s reclassification application, the proposed two-year, $6 million culvert creation project mandated by the DEC will be deemed unnecessary and terminated.
The planned construction work would include creating large culverts in the embankments between the three basins of the park, one of which is filled with water.
According to the DEC, such work would reduce the risk of a breach of one or more of the basins during an unprecedented storm, which might lead to severe flooding in the surrounding areas.
However, residents and Community Board 5 have claimed that it would be nearly impossible for enough precipitation to fill the basins to a point where a potential breach will seriously threaten the surrounding area.
In recent months, area elected officials and activists have petitioned for the reclassification of the reservoir in their own way.
In a letter to Gov. Cuomo dated July 24, Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) and Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn, Queens), state Sens. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and state Assemblymembers Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) and Cathy Nolan (D-Sunnyside) expressed their concern over what the proposed work would do to the park’s ecosystem.
“The proposed work consists of breaching the berms that separate the Ridgewood Reservoir’s basins, building permanent access roads into this habitat, and cutting down at least 470 trees,” the letter reads. “We are concerned these changes will significantly harm the natural and largely undisturbed habitats of the animals that live there.”
Additionally, the preservation group Save Ridgewood Reservoir started a petition on the social change website Change.org to rally support for its cause in July. As of Wednesday, 793 people had signed it.
Many of the petition’s signatories are from the area, including Queens Civic Congress President Richard Hellenbrecht and New York City Audubon President Harrison Maas, but some from as far away as Kentucky left messages of encouragement.
“This is a rich environmental habitat,” Hellenbrecht wrote, “and offers a unique perspective of NYC history and must be maintained in its natural state.”
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We just received a copy of the response letter from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens. It appears that pressure from our elected officials, our Change.org petition and hard work from everyone in the community may finally be paying off. A success party may still be a bit premature, but this is the best bit of good news that we've had in a long time:
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