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

Monday, March 3, 2008

Some recent updates

Here are a few updates regarding the Ridgewood Reservoir/Highland Park and related subjects:

Last Wednesday, February 27th, I was invited to give a presentation at the Jamaica Bay Task Force meeting at the refuge's visitors center. Lou Widerka and David Quintana were also present. Our group was asked to speak because it was recognized that Ridgewood Reservoir was an important factor in the effort to mitigate stormwater runoff into the bay, as well as, combined sewage overflow. Both contribute to the decline of marine life in Jamaica Bay's watershed and a host of other complex problems. Ida Sanoff deserves a big "Thank You" for getting us on the agenda.

The turnout for the meeting was great. When they ran out of chairs, people stood along the back of the room and in the doorways. I would estimate that there were 75 - 100 people present. I was the first presenter and gave a brief introduction then played the 7 minute DVD. The response was extremely positive. I think people applauded, but it's all a blur now. When I opened the floor for any questions, Ida asked for a show of hands for anyone who thinks that the reservoir should be preserved. Everyone had their hands up.

Mike Feller from the city's Natural Resources Group said some very nice thing about the video and pointed out a key issue using the words of Uli Lorimer (from the video) - "With plenty of time, good management and patience, the Ridgewood Reservoir could still achieve the magnificence and splendor of our native eastern forests." I believe that his point was, that we can't just leave it as is and expect it to return to a native forest, that it needs our help. He also stated that the Department of Parks & Recreation was only looking at the north half of the largest basin, the area with the most non-native species of plants, to create active recreational facilities. David Quintana joined the question and answer session for a few minutes and the discussion may have gotten a little heated...but in a good way.

Other presenters at the meeting were Lenny Houston from the US Army Corp of Engineers. He spoke on marsh restoration projects in Jamaica Bay. Dan Mundy, Jr., of Jamaica Bay EcoWatchers, gave an excellent slideshow and talk on proposed oyster restoration in the bay. Finally, Lisa Eckert, superintendent of Gateway National Recreation Area, spoke about the new GNRA Resource Management Plan in development. At the end of the meeting I spoke briefly with several people. I introduced myself to Bill Tai, who is Director of park's Natural Resources Group. It was late so, unfortunately, I had to keep our conversation short. One thing that I did mention was that the general consensus of those who participated in the two "Listening Sessions" was that they did not want active recreation built in the basins. I also suggested that, like I have done, he should walk around the Ridgewood Reservoir and Highland Park a few times. Randomly ask people what they think about the city's plan to spend $50 million on the reservoir and very little on the park. Also ask them about cutting down the trees in any of the basins. I said that I hadn't come across anyone who thought positively about the plan.

Here are some recent news articles that are relevant:

Forest pros don't grow on trees, city laments

In an article published in the New York Daily News, it is revealed that the city hasn't been able to hire enough specialists to care for the 1 million trees in the mayor's PlanNYC program. I couldn't say exactly why they are having a problem, but the last line in the article could be a big issue:

"The salary range is on a par with government forestry jobs across the country, but, as Garvin notes, the money goes a lot further in Missoula, Mont., than Manhattan."

Groups Urge a Moratorium on City Use of Artificial Turf

People are finally opening their eyes to the problems of artificial turf. An article in Friday's New York Times opens with:
"Several environmental and civic groups are calling for a moratorium on the use of artificial turf in new sports fields in the city, and question the seriousness with which the Bloomberg administration is investigating the turf’s potential hazards."

And, just in case the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation state of affairs isn't complicated enough, there's also this Albatross:

City Agrees to Settlement in Parks Dept. Bias Case

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