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

Sunday, January 20, 2008

No Renovation Money for Highland Park?

On Monday, January 14, four of us were invited to meet with Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski at the Ridgewood Reservoir. We were also joined by the park's administrator, Debbie Kuha, landscape manager, Helen (?) and Highland Park's manager, Felix. The meeting was primarily a walk around Upper Highland Park grounds pointing out alternative locations for active recreation, as well as, areas in need of serious maintenance or restoration. In addition, a short time was spent on the main field of Lower Highland Park. At no time did we walk around the reservoir.

It was a cordial and, somewhat, informative gathering. The outcome didn't really change anything regarding our mission, it only strengthened it. Early in our walk Commissioner Lewandowski made it very clear that there wasn't chance that any of the the $48 million would or could be spent on renovating Upper or Lower Highland Park. End of discussion. She did say that there was $2 million available for the Upper Park.

Late in the walk, a brief conversation regarding a nature sanctuary and education center was broached by Lewandowski. It sounded promising, but I think we should be cautiously optimistic, at best. I asked her why the money could not be spent on Highland Park proper and what is meant by "Highland Park's infrastructure". My reference was to the following taken from the Department of Parks & Recreation website:

"The $50 million that has been allocated will reconstruct Highland Park’s infrastructure and develop a new destination park. Potential improvements include a pedestrian network, new and enhanced active and passive recreation areas, new playgrounds, concessions and improved park structures."

I think she answered my question, I can't be certain. I do not understand how the city can tell the public that moneys are being allocated to a park and then only spend it on expanded new construction, not needed repairs and restoration of existing facilities. The commissioner was told that the surrounding communities would be very angry if they created a recreation facility in the reservoir and left the rest of the park in its current state.

If you read through the "Eric Goetz report" posting, you'll note that Highland Park has been in need of work for, at least, 6 1/2 years. It is also clear that the Department of Parks and Recreation has been aware of that fact.

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