The reservoir's historic structures & ecosystems are an opportunity to create a unique environmental education center for our children & their future.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

New York Daily News article

The following article was published in today's New York Daily News. Writer John Lauinger did a great job with the coverage:

Forest fans howl over plans to raze 20 acres in Ridgewood Reservoir

By John Lauinger Daily News Staff Writer

Sunday, October 21st 2007, 4:00 AM

Bring on the bulldozers!

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe delivered a shock to nature lovers and community activists last week when he said the city is planning to level more than 20 acres of dense forest in Ridgewood Reservoir to make way for recreational facilities, attendees of the meeting said.

The brief disclosure came at an under-the-radar meeting at the Parks Department's Manhattan headquarters in which Benepe highlighted some of the $400 million in park upgrades proposed in Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC initiative.

"I had the sense that they had made up their minds that this is what they wanted to do," said Heidi Steiner, 50, who attended the meeting and is a member of the Ridgewood Reservoir Education and Preservation Project.

Steiner, other meeting attendees and some community activists said they were stunned by Benepe's comments, considering that public opinion at two earlier public meetings was heavily against such a tree-chopping plan.

"It just blows my mind that they think they need to put more recreational facilities there," said Robb Jett, a 52-year-old computer technician from Brooklyn who attended Monday's meeting.

The 50-acre reservoir, which is sandwiched between the upper and lower levels of Highland Park along the Queens-Brooklyn border, was an active water source until 1959, and served as a backup reservoir for Queens and Brooklyn until 1989.

But nature has reclaimed the reservoir in the years that have followed.

The thick forests that now cover most of the terrain provide ideal habitat for many species of wildlife - in particular, more than 120 species of migratory birds, some of which are rarely found nesting in the city.

"The Ridgewood Reservoir is perhaps, a little surprisingly, one of the most pristine and important natural areas within the boundaries of the five boroughs," said Elliotte Harold, 41, a college professor from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and a member of the Brooklyn Birding Club.

"It's a very unique place, and it would be a shame to see it turned into just another baseball field," he said.

Benepe told the Daily News on Friday that the $46 million plan is not a "done deal" - but then spent several minutes explaining why recreational facilities are needed at the site.

"We have a very strong obligation to provide sports and recreational facilities so that kids can get exercise and avoid problems like diabetes and heart disease," he said.

Those arguments didn't sit well with Steiner, who lives in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn.

"There are other solutions to the problem other than destroying one of the few natural areas remaining in the city," she said.

Benepe said the city has a shortage of "first-rate" recreational facilities, and said Queens is "blessed with thousands of acres of parkland that is mostly natural."

But community activists said replacing more than 20 acres of forest with AstroTurf sports fields contradicts Bloomberg's much-publicized plan to plant a million trees in the city by 2030.

"It's very hypocritical for them, on their own property, to cut down thousands of trees and then boast about how they're planting trees on the sidewalk, which they're making residents pay for," said Christina Wilkinson, president of the Newtown Historical Society.

Benepe strongly disagreed.

"These are really accidental landscapes that have grown up out of lack of maintenance and lack of use," he said.

jlauinger@nydailynews.com

Send us an email

1 comment:

Parnell said...

Everyone agrees that the forest grew up accidentially, Benepes implication that that makes this small wilderness wonderland less valuable is sad.