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

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

2001 Highland Park report

In 2001, the manager of Highland Park, Eric Goetz, prepared a report about the park. It lists current conditions and makes recommendations for needed improvements. Mr Goetz is currently the manager for Districts 6 & 7 in Queens. Many, if not all, of the conditions described in his report, still exists 7 years later. His recommendations fell on deaf ears, as the parks department wants to spend 48 million dollars to begin another project instead of fixing existing conditions. Does that mean when (and if) the planned reservoir section of Highland Park starts to deteriorate that it too will be ignored?

Highland Park - The Present and the Future
Prepared by Eric M. Goetz - July 2001


This brief report is to review the current conditions in Highland Park (Lower, Upper and the Reservoir) and provide ideas for the future of the park.

On the following page, there is a map of the park with the major facilities illustrated.

These facilities include:

• Two playgrounds.
• Two public comfort stations.
• Six turf ballfields
• Two bocce courts
• Four horseshoe pits (two full courts).
• Eight handball courts
• Thirteen all-weather tennis courts.
• Basketball courts.
• Part of the Brooklyn-Queens bike trail (starts at the entrance of Upper Highland Park runs through Upper Highland to the Reservoir, goes around the Reservoir and leads to Cypress Hills.
• The Statue of Virtue (honoring WW I veterans).
• An active Children's Garden.
• A parking lot with capacity of about 50 to 75 vehicles.

Statue of Virtue (photo) Upper Playground (photo)

Over the past five years, there have been a few projects which have upgraded the park, including:

• Upgrading the upper playground (Queens Requirement Contract).
• The building of a comfort station near ballfield 116 (Brooklyn Construction).
• Rehabing the 13 tennis courts (Brooklyn Construction).
• Installation of activity lights around ballfields 1 and 2 (Queens Construction).
• Repaving the pathway around the Reservoir as part of the Brooklyn/Queens Greenway (ISTEA funding).
• Replacing the roof on the building at the Children's Garden (BC Murphy intuitive).

In the future, there is funding for the reconstruction of ballfield #1. Parks is currently seeking additional funding to complete fields #1 and #2 at the same time.

Also during the past two years, Queens Borough Commissioner Richard Murphy has had the Arborist Apprentices in all parts of Highland Park and the Reservoir to prune trees to open up sight lines. In addition, over the past five to ten years, Parks has been cutting the grass and opening up sight lines around the Reservoir, even though this property has not been officially turned over to Parks from DEP.

For the past two years, Queens Parks (with Borough Commissioner Murphy's leadership) has been working with DEP to make the reservoir safe. In Summer 2001, as part of the remediation program for the Salem Field's lawsuit, the fence line around the bowls of the reservoir is being replaced, At the same time, vegetation is being cut back Below are photos of the before, during and after process.

Possible Ideas:

This section looks at possible ideas and Capital needs for the Park/Reservoir. All of the issues below require Capital funding and planning. However, one type of work can be done with a small amount of funding. This work involves the trees at all levels. Even though Queens Parks has completed a tremendous amount of tree work over the years, the park still requires much more attention. The idea of this work is to:

1. Improve safety (open up sight lines and remove dangerous conditions).
2. Make the park more inviting.
3. Improve the health of the existing trees (including proper pruning and the removal of vines).

Lower Highland Park

• Converting the old clay tennis courts into an astro turf field dedicated to youth soccer. Currently the area is bare and is used for adult soccer. Over the years, the area has seen many problems with illegal BBQs and drinking, plus public urination. The project would also include restoring the hex block paths on either side of this area.
• Redeveloping the old horseshoe pit bocce courts and checker table area into a non-BBQ picnic area. Currently, there is no official picnic area in the park and the items mentioned above are not used. This area is mainly used as a dog run or a pit-stop for the homeless.
• Developing the vacant area adjacent to the tennis courts (new and old) into a planted area to provide a buffer between the park and the houses along Sunnyside. This area is currently bare or covered with woodchips and used for illegal dumping (photo)
• Re-do the handball courts (floor, fencing and resurfacing the walls).
• Install erosion control on the hillsides. This could be done with plantings or other erosion control devices.

Upper Highland Park:

• Repaving the path system. The Greenway project did not repave any of the path system in Upper Highland.
• Restoration of the stone bridge, the path system and overlook areas. Much of this path system is in an advance stage of deterioration or has been covered by vegetation for over ten years. Security lighting is essential for this area since it is hidden from view but with restoration work, the area could become a focal point for the park.
• Restoration or the formal garden area. This area appears to have been used as a stage area for performances. When one looks outward from the stage area and the way the path and lighting system is set-up, this area could become an area for small concerts and shows. It is believed that there was a bathroom in stage area.
• Developing volleyball court area. Near the parking lot there is an asphalted area and the remains of a building foundation. There is room for developing three volleyball courts. Volleyball is the common use for this area now.
• Development of a non-BBO picnic area. This could be an area adjacent to the volleyball area.
• Reconstruction of the four ballflelds. Fields #3 and 4 need the most work and should be dedicated to little leagues. Fields #5 and 6 (photo) should be developed for softball and older leagues. I do not think that these fields can support adult baseball leagues (fields too small).

Ridgewood Reservoir:

• Restoring the path and staircase systems.
• Restoring and improving lighting along the path systems.
• Restoring the horticultural and lawn features.
• Developing an educational program revolving [around] the existing wetlands (bowl #2).
• If the other two bowls are transferred to Parks from DEP include them with the educational program.
• Reviewing the condition of the three buildings on the property and possibly developing one of them into an educational/bathroom/maintenance office. One idea is to re-build the caretakers shed since the area has space for a small parking area for employees or visitors.

Restoring of path system (photo)
Wetland Management (photo)
Re-developing one of the buildings (photo)

Other types of funding are needed for the park:

• Recreation - funding for teams, soccer and baseball clinics.
• Urban Park Services - educational programs.
• Maintenance - to maintain the overall park.

Basically with this type of development, Highland Park could provide:

1. Recreational complex on the lower level
2. Family oriented atmosphere on the upper level.

3. Combination of recreational/educational atmosphere around the reservoir.

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