Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Stuart Gaffin is a research scientist with the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He was part of a group that studied the "urban heat island" in New York City and presented solutions for mitigating heat. You can read a full article on NASA's website, but here are some key passages that present compelling arguments for preserving the Ridgewood Reservoir:
"On a hot, sunny afternoon, walk outside and find a parking lot bordered by grass. Put one hand on the asphalt and the other on the grass. The same surfaces of asphalt, stone, brick, and cement that keep weeds and water out of our way can sizzle in the sunlight and raise local temperatures. To make room for all these buildings and roads, cities squeeze out vegetation that would otherwise cool its surroundings by evaporating water. Added to the mix are car motors, hot air from air conditioners and clothes dryers, earth-moving machines, even smokestacks. All of these heat sources work together to raise temperatures. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an urban area can see air temperatures up to 6 degrees Celsius (10 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than the nearby suburban and rural areas."
"An especially effective mitigation strategy involved planting trees. Each tree could not only cool its immediate area, it could also cast shade onto nearby buildings. Gaffin and his colleagues estimated that 17 percent of the city’s surface could be planted with trees. They also estimated, however, that the biggest temperature reductions could be achieved by addressing New York City’s dark, impervious surfaces such as roads and roofs. Their assessment of the city indicated that 64 percent of the city area consisted of such surfaces."
"As he researched mitigation options for the urban heat island, he became aware of another issue that causes some cities as much hardship: stormwater runoff. “The purpose of asphalt is to create an impervious surface,” he explains, to keep out water. Unfortunately, the water that can’t be absorbed by roofs and roads has to go somewhere else." "To deal with runoff from heavy rains, cities have storm sewers, but many cities use the same systems to handle both the overflow from rainstorms and the water flushed out of toilets. Heavy rains can overwhelm these systems (called combined sewer overflows), pushing raw sewage into waterways. “It’s the major source of pathogens in the New York Harbor. It’s a major problem in Europe. This is one of the impediments to ever reclaiming the recreational and other values of our urban water systems,” he says. He has coined a term for this problem, as a parallel to the urban heat island. He calls it “the urban runoff island.”
"Gaffin and his colleagues used Landsat data to assess New York City’s summer heat. The top map shows temperature, with cooler temperatures appearing in blue and hotter temperatures appearing in yellow. The bottom image shows vegetation, with beige indicating sparse vegetation and dark green indicating dense vegetation. The maps show a correlation between dense vegetation and cool temperatures, and between sparse vegetation and high temperatures. NASA’s Landsat satellite captured these images of New York City on August 14, 2002, at 10:30 a.m. (Maps by Robert Simmon, using data from the Landsat Program.) Gaffin and his colleagues used Landsat data to assess New York City’s summer heat. The top map shows temperature, with cooler temperatures appearing in blue and hotter temperatures appearing in yellow. The bottom image shows vegetation, with beige indicating sparse vegetation and dark green indicating dense vegetation. The maps show a correlation between dense vegetation and cool temperatures, and between sparse vegetation and high temperatures. NASA’s Landsat satellite captured these images of New York City on August 14, 2002, at 10:30 a.m. (Maps by Robert Simmon, using data from the Landsat Program.)"
In addition to the heat mitigating value of the forests of the Ridgewood Reservoir is its use to control storm water. A comprehensive management report for the "Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan" was released this month. On the New York City Department of Environment Protection website is a summary of the report. The Department of Parks and Recreation wants to replace forest and vegetation with artificial turf and asphalt at the Ridgewood Reservoir. I guess they didn't get this memo:
"Most notably, the plan builds on the Mayor’s PlaNYC, recommending a series of Best Management Practices for storm water management."
I didn't read any recommendations for cutting down 23 acres of forest. Read the entire news release here.
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Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
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.
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Saturday, October 20, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
This press release from parks seems just a tad hypocritical:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 17, 2007
VOLUNTEERS TO PLANT 10,000 TREES IN PARKS FOR IT’S MY PARK! DAY
DATE: Saturday, October 20, 2007
TIME: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
11:00 a.m. remarks & photo-op
LOCATION: Kissena Corridor Park
Enter at gate at 56th Avenue and 142nd Street
EVENT & PHOTO-OP: Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, City Parks Foundation Executive Director David Rivel, Partnerships for Parks Director Jason Schwartz and Council Member John C. Liu will join approximately 200 volunteers at Kissena Corridor Park to plant a sassafras tree, one of 3,000 to be planted at the site. This year, It’s My Park! Day volunteers will plant 10,000 trees across the five boroughs to support Mayor Bloomberg’s Million Trees NYC initiative.
DETAILS: Nearly 6,000 volunteers will participate in this semi-annual citywide event to care for and celebrate NYC’s parks. There is one reforestation site in each borough where volunteers will plant a total of 10,000 trees in support of Mayor Bloomberg’s Million Trees NYC initiative to plant and care for one million trees throughout the five boroughs in the next decade. In addition to the primary reforestation site in each borough, volunteers will plant additional trees, perform tree maintenance, clean, rake, mulch, paint and plant bulbs at more than 170 parks citywide.
It’s My Park! Day is a volunteer initiative of Partnerships for Parks, a joint program of Parks and City Parks Foundation.
Contact: Warner Johnston / Abigail Lootens (212) 360-1311
My best guess is that:
Tiny new trees = Photo op = Good
Old forest = No photo op = Rip it down
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The Brooklyn Bird Club is doing another survey this weekend. Here is the information from their website:
Saturday, October 20th, Ridgewood Reservoir bird and nature survey
Leaders: Heidi Steiner and Steve Nanz
Registration period: two weeks before each trip date, beginning with the first Tuesday, ending on the last Thursday in second week.
Registrar: Heidi Steiner-Nanz 718- 369-2116 before 8 PM or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: This trip will focus and document birds for this future Brooklyn/Queens park, formerly a reservoir that supplied Brooklyn's water in the late 19th century. The greenspace adjoining Highland Park has been classified as a "destination park" under Mayor Bloomberg's PLANYC plan, to undergo a complete restoration, though with contentious issues.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2007
It appears that Commissioner Benepe is on a public relations campaign, plugging his PlaNYC 2030 initiative, which includes, for all intents and purposes, the destruction of the Ridgewood Reservoir habitats.
Here is an announcement of his next event. We need a good turn out, if you can, please attend and ask him the difficult questions. This is from the New York City Audubon Society website:
November Lecture Wednesday, November 14th, at 6pm
Adrian Benepe has worked for the last 28 years protecting and enhancing New York City's natural and historic beauty. Since his appointment as Commissioner of the Department of Parks & Recreation by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on January 25, 2002, he has focused on improving park facilities and programs for children and developing new waterfront parks and greenways. Commissioner Benepe will discuss how currently, New York City’s parks are undergoing a renewed period of transformation and expansion. The Department of Parks and Recreation is managing the biggest capital investment in New York City’s parks since the 1930s. Thanks to Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC initiative, Parks is receiving an additional $1.2 billion to expand active recreation and for greening initiatives. Commissioner Benepe will explain these projects and discuss their role in creating a greener, more sustainable city.
The November lecture will be held at Helen Mills Theatre, 137-139 West 26th Street. All lectures are open to the public free of charge.
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Monday, October 15, 2007
Tonight Heidi, Rusty and I went to a presentation given by parks commissioner Benepe. The subject was the mayor's PlaNYC 2030 and what it meant for the city parks. In a nutshell, despite overwhelming consensus for the community to leave Ridgewood Reservoir as a nature sanctuary, Commissioner Benepe plans to cut down, at least, 23 acres of forest. They plan to turn the largest of the basins into active recreational facilities. He said that basins 1 and 2 would be left alone, but I believe that comment is worthless.
Why would they take the time to organize two community meetings to get input from the very people that this project will most impact, and then completely ignore them?
I'm mentally exhausted and will follow up tomorrow. Let me know what you think.
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Saturday, October 13, 2007
The USDA Forest Service, Urban and Community Forestry has some really go data on the benefits of urban forests. There's a ton of information here, but here is the short list:
- Trees Improve Air Quality
- Trees Reduce Storm Water Runoff and Erosion
- Trees Temper Local Climate
- Trees Conserve Energy
- Trees Are Good for the Economy
- Trees Create Habitat for Plants and Animals
- Trees Improve Health
- Trees Promote Community
In addition, the Urban and Community Forestry Program in New York State partnered with the NY State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) in an investigation of the “heat island effect” in New York City and mitigation strategies for lowering temperatures. You can read the summary report here. You can download the entire report in PDF format here.
To give you a brief idea of the cooling effect of a forested area, here are two images from the report:
Notice how the cool areas in Queens correspond with the Ridgewood Reservoir and Forest Park areas. If the parks department goes ahead with plans to remove the forests at the reservoir, the temperature will go up.
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Here are some interesting statistics regarding New York City Department of Parks and Recreation facilities. I would think that Mayor Bloomberg's plans for the greening of New York City would include more or better nature centers. As of this writing, they only include the destruction of the most incredible habitat and potentially greatest urban Nature Sanctuary in the country:
Baseball Diamonds: 722
Basketball Courts: "Over 600" (source: Department of Parks and Recreation website)
Golf Courses: 16
Recreation Centers: 51
Soccer Fields: 128
Swimming Pools: 69
Tennis Courts: 712
(Source: The Trust for Public Lands, Center for City Park Excellent, updated 8/2007)
Nature Centers: 16, of which 4 are only open by appointment.
Many of the centers have odd hour of operation and some are really visitor's centers and, in my opinion, don't qualify as nature centers. There is little information online, other than what the parks department lists. Let me know if you have any photos and experiences to relate about NYC nature centers. In coming weeks I will visit all of them and post photos and reviews. Here are their hours:
1) Pelham Bay Nature Center 718-885-3467 Open by appointment.
2) Crotona Park 718-378-2061 Open by appointment.
3) Van Cortlandt Nature Center 718-548-0912 Open Wednesday - Sunday from 10:00 a. m. - 4:00 p. m. (from Memorial Day through Labor Day). Open by appointment only at all other times.
4) Orchard Beach Nature Center 718-885-3466 Open Tuesday - Sunday from 10:00 a. m. - 4:00 p. m. (from Memorial Day through Labor Day). Open by appointment only at all other times.
5) Blue Heron Nature Center 718-967-3542 Open Tuesday - Saturday from 11:00 a. m. - 4:00 p. m.; Sundays from 12:00 p. m. - 4:00 p. m.
6) The High Rock Nature Center 718-667-6042 Open by appointment only.
7) Greenbelt Nature Center La Tourette Park 718-351-3450 (April-December) Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a. m. - 5 p. m. Closed on Mondays, major holidays and on Easter.
8) Alley Pond Nature Center Alley Pond Park Phone: 718-217-6034 or 718-846-2731 Fax: 718-217-6598 Open by appointment only.
9) Alley Pond Environmental Center 718-229-4000 (September-June) Monday-Saturday 9 a. m. - 4:30 p. m; Sunday 9 a. m. - 3:30 p. m. Closed Sundays in July and August and some holidays
10) Forest Park Nature/Visitors Center 718-846-2731 Open every day from 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Closed Wednesdays.
11) Inwood Hill Nature Center 212-304-2365 Open every day from 11:00 a. m. - 4:00 p. m.
12) Belvedere Castle Visitor Center 212-628-2345 Open Tuesday - Sunday from 10:00 a. m. - 5:00 p. m.
13) Dana Discovery Center 212- 860-1370 Open Tuesday - Sunday from 10:00 a. m. - 5:00 p. m.
14) The Salt Marsh Nature Center 718-421-2021 Open every day from 11 a. m. - 5:00 p. m. Closed Wednesdays.
15) Audubon Center, Prospect Park 718-287-3400 (April-December) Thursday-Sunday & holidays, 12 - 5 p. m. (January-March) Weekends and school holidays, 12 - 4 p. m.
16) Visitors Center at Fort Greene Park 718-722-3218 Open seven days a week from 9 a. m. - 5 p. m.
(source: Department of Parks and Recreation website
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Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
This morning Heidi, Jean and I went to the reservoir. On our way back to the parking lot Heidi and I stopped to talk to a couple of surveyor's working near one of the basins. They were standing at the edge of Vermont Place, to the north of the parking lot and facing towards the west berm of basin 3. I don't know anything about surveyor's marks, so I took photos of the new, spray painted markings. I could be wrong, but the meaning seemed obvious. For about 100 yards there were "X"s that had a -> at one end and a <- at the other. So the running path had a string of marks that looked sort of like this:
-> X X X X X X X <-
We walked over to the surveyors and I said to one guy, "So, is this where they are going to knock a hole in the hillside for access to the new ballfields." He said, yes. He volunteered other information about the project. One interesting opinion was, "Those trees are all falling down, anyway, because of the basin's clay liner." Hmmm. I asked him if he had been into the basins and he said no, but they would soon because they have to survey the interiors! I am really concerned. When they go down into the basins to survey (and I'm not sure why they even have to) they are going to cut down trees. This may be just the excuse the Department of Parks and Recreation is looking for to let some of their workers go nuts with a chainsaw. Also, someone has gone through the bisecting paths and started to cut down many small trees and shrubs. There were two surveyor marks on the original wrought iron fences along one of the paths. In addition, there were some small trees that had been cut down on the berm within basin 2.
I am concerned that the city plans to move ahead with destroying part (or all) of the habitats, despite the community's desire to keep it as a nature preserve.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
The Ridgewood Reservoir Education & Preservation Project has been established by the Newtown Historical Society. More information will follow shortly.