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

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Press Release

The following is today's press release from the New York City Comptroller's office. It is very good news. Feel free to leave your comments on this post:

June 26, 2008

Jeff Simmons, (212) 669-2636


Citing concerns about the environmental impact, increased truck traffic, and the vendor selection process, New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. today announced that his office has rejected a contract by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to develop a portion of the Ridgewood Reservoir into sports fields.

In a letter to Parks’ Chief Contracting Officer, the Comptroller’s Office returned the contract “to allow additional time for your agency to respond to our concerns pertaining to potential scope changes due to environmental review uncertainties and for administrative issues.” You can view the letter at "".

Parks submitted the $3.3 million contract forged with Mark K. Morrison Associates LTD (MMA) for registration on May 29. The agreement called for MMA to provide landscape design services for the reconstruction of Highland Park at the Ridgewood Reservoir site in Queens.

Parks has been considering a $50 million “renovation” project that would replace a large swath of Ridgewood wilderness with sports facilities athletic fields, claiming that the project is necessary to help combat child obesity. However, Thompson has consistently urged the City to rethink its plans to develop the 50-acre site.

The contract rejection was based on a number of concerns. Thompson noted MMA’s proposal to partially or completely fill Basin No. 3 at the site would require 27,500 large truckloads of fill to be transported through the adjacent neighborhoods. Thompson said that even if this is partially filled, it would require about 11,700 large truckloads of dirt to be transported there.

“Either of these options would have significant negative impacts to the areas surrounding the park, which will have to bear the brunt of the noise, emissions and traffic disruptions for many years,” the letter said. “For comparison purposes, it took six years to bring 1.7 million cubic yards of fill to Ferry Point Park in the Bronx.”

Thompson also cautioned that Parks was in the process of meeting with agencies regarding environmental assessment issues, and that an Environmental Assessment Statement (EAS) EAS could be included as a separate fee in any proposal. That information would help in determining whether adverse effects on the environment may be significant enough to warrant further analysis.

The Comptroller further questioned the selection process. The vendor was selected from among three participants through a quasi-competitive process. Thompson noted that changes to the design that may arise from the environmental and public assessments may significantly impact the vendor’s proposal.

“Given the sensitive ecological nature of the location, we strongly believe that the environmental assessment process must have maximum transparency,” the letter reads. “In that light, we are also concerned that it may be a conflict of interest to have the EAS vendor be a subcontractor to the architect, who has a vested interest in pursuing the construction.”

Last Thursday, Thompson testified at a New York City Council’s Parks & Recreation Committee hearing on the future of the Ridgewood Reservoir. Earlier, in an opinion piece published in The New York Times last month, Thompson and environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. warned against destroying “this extraordinary natural habitat” on the Brooklyn-Queens border.

“This plan flies in the face of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s widely hailed environmental blueprint, which bemoans the loss of the city’s natural areas,” they wrote. “The Parks Department’s own scientific consultants have warned against disturbing the reservoir, an area they call ‘highly significant for the biodiversity of New York City and the region.”

The reservoir was built in 1858 to provide drinking water to Brooklyn residents. It was converted as a back-up reservoir in 1959 and taken offline in 1989. Since then, trees, plants, turtles, fish, frogs and more than 137 bird species, including eight rare ones identified on the National Audubon Society’s “Watch List,” thrive on the land.

Comptroller Thompson maintains that the City’s money could be better spent improving Highland Park, immediately next to Ridgewood Reservoir. Highland Park has plenty of ball fields to serve its neighborhood, but they are in such deplorable condition that few people use them.

Additionally, Thompson recommends that the trail surrounding the perimeter of the reservoir be upgraded with benches and rest areas as well as signage calling attention to its unique flora and fauna, and believes the area around the reservoir should be opened for guided nature walks.


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