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

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A few more turf articles

US Investigates Artificial Turf's Lead Levels
Washington Post, The commission's investigation, still in its initial stages, was prompted this month by New Jersey state officials who closed some synthetic sports fields ...

Artificial Turf Being Investigated By CPSC For Lead Concerns, FL - Apr 19, 2008
New Jersey's epidemiologist, Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, has ordered tests to find out how easily fibers from the artificial turf can be inhaled or swallowed. ...

Toxic artificial turf? / A new concern?
Press of Atlantic City, NJ - Apr 18, 2008
Bresnitz is New Jersey's chief epidemiologist - the state's top "medical detective," so to speak. Usually when he shows up in the news, it's to calm people ...

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"Bad Apple" Award for the parks department

In honor of Earth Day, Natural Resources Defense Council has announced their second annual list of "Good Apple" and "Bad Apple" awards. It came as no surprise that they awarded the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation a "Bad Apple" award for their plans at Ridgewood Reservoir. Eric Goldstein, Director of NRDC's NY Urban Program, writes:

"For not yet heeding the call to preserve this unique natural setting in the heart of New York City (but with the understanding that it is not too late for a change of course), we award the Parks Department plans to develop the Ridgewood Reservoir landscape with an Earth Day 2008 Bad Apple designation."

You can read the entire article here.

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Artificial turf articles

Below are links to three articles from the website of "Healthy Child Healthy World" regarding the increasing use of artificial recreational surfaces and causes for concern:

The Myth of Rubberized Landscapes

The Myth

Discarded rubber tires are the bane of waste management; according to the EPA, we generate 290 million scrap tires annually. Scrap tire stockpiles can pose significant fire hazards, such as the 1983 Virginia tire fire that burned for 9 months. Obviously finding a market for these slow-to-decompose materials is desirable, and many innovative uses have been developed, including rubberized asphalt, playground surfaces, and landscape mulches. From an engineering standpoint, crumb rubber as a soil amendment has performed favorably in reducing compaction to specialty landscape surfaces such as sports fields and putting greens.

Rubber mulches are touted by manufacturers and distributors as permanent (“doesn’t decay away”) and aesthetically pleasing (“no odor” - “looks like shredded wood mulch” – “earth tones and designer colors” – “special fade resistant coating”) landscape materials. Furthermore, we are told that rubber mulch is “safe for flowers, plants and pets” (though it “doesn’t feed or house insects”) and “dramatically improves landscaping.” It seems to be an environmentally-friendly solution to a major waste disposal problem.

Serious Questions About New-Generation Artificial Turf

Artificial turf is being widely promoted as a cost-efficient, environmentally- and user-friendly product that can replace natural grass on sports fields and home lawn areas.

Unfortunately a large number of unsubstantiated claims are being made by promoters of the new-generation artificial turf products (particularly those that incorporate ground rubber as part of their base). Claims made by many artificial promoters include some or all of the following:

1. Artificial surfaces have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years.
2. Initial purchase and installation costs are quickly offset by the absence of on going, maintenance costs.
3. Safety of the artificial playing surface is un-matched by natural turfgrass.

Hazardous Chemicals in Synthetic Turf

A new generation of synthetic turf is becoming popular in the U.S.

Brands such as FieldTurf are springier than the old AstroTurf and feel more like real grass. They also promise low maintenance costs. New York City is so attracted to the new synthetic turf that it is installing it in 79 parks, often substituting it for natural soil and grass.(1)

However, the new artificial grass raises health concerns. In particular, the base of FieldTurf and similar brands includes recycled rubber pellets that could contain harmful chemicals. What's more, we have observed that on many New York City fields, the rubber pellets are also present on the surface. When one of us (William Crain) was picking up some pellets by hand, a boy told him that after playing in the park, he finds the pellets in his shoes at home at night. Because the rubber pellets are much more accessible to children and athletes than we had supposed, we decided to analyze a sample for two possible sets of toxicants -- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and toxic metals.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Troubling signs

The Department of Parks & Recreation has created and installed new "park rules" signs at the corners of the fence surrounding the reservoir basins. They are large, easy to read, but problematic signs.

First, is the issue of the designated "unleashed" areas. There aren't any designations, at least that I could find, posted anywhere in Highland Park. It's also nice that they allow the unleashed hours between "9pm-9am when the park is open." Unfortunately, the park "Closes at 9AM."

A much more serious issue that was observed this morning was that a significant amount of vegetation - seedling, vines, saplings, wildflowers, grasses, etc., has been removed from an area adjacent to the reservoir running path.

During September of last year we posted photos of several dozen trees around the reservoir's perimeter (and, subsequently, some inside) that had been marked with pink spray paint. We were assured by the park's administrator, Debbie Kuha, and Queens Commissioner Lewandowski, that the marks were merely surveyor's marks and that the trees were not going to be removed. In fact, many of those trees appear to still be present, unfortunately, as of today the entire understory surrounding the trees in one section has been wiped out.

Here is a map of the south end of the reservoir property, adjacent to Highland Boulevard. The Pink rectangle outlines the area of the photographs. The stretch of woods contains a remnant section of roadway the rises up from near Highland Blvd., then opens onto a grassy area parallel to the road, up to the intersection of Vermont Place. The rectangular outline is approximately 30 yards by 100 yards. Below are photos taken in September and November of last year, matched with photos that were taken today at the same stretch of remnant roadway.

Is this the same kind of heavy-handed approach that we can expect from the Department of Parks within the reservoir basins? Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe sent our group a letter in March and wrote, "A portion of the third basin is composed almost entirely of exotic vegetation that has limited value as wildlife habitat." Is that how he will justify leveling the reservoir's forests and other habitats?

The New York Daily News published a story about an ecological assessment report prepared for the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and acquired by their reporter. The report states, with regard to Mr. Benepe's "limited value" habitat:

"West Basin

The West Basin had the high species richness and abundance, supporting species from the widest variety of guilds, due to the increased compositional and structural diversity of habitats at the site relative to other areas. Five species of sparrows were seen actively feeding on the ground of the open grassy meadow bordered by birch trees, for example. Indigo Buntings were seen along the edge of the meadow, and nearly 13 species of warbler were observed foraging in the canopy trees, while several warblers tended to utilize scattered low shrubs or stands of reed grass (Common Yellowthroat specifically, but also Ovenbird). Flocks of Kinglets, both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned foraged extensively in the birch and poplar stands, as did mixed flocks of Northern Parulas, Black-throated Green Warblers, Black-capped Chickadees, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. The Southeast quadrant of the west basin, which was more uniformly in habitat, supported mainly warblers and the mixed feeding flocks previously described. The black locust/mugwort forest to the north supported Black- and-white, Northern Parula, Black-throated Green, and Nashville Warblers, as well as numerous woodpeckers including Downy, Red-bellied and Northern Flicker. Both Coopers Hawks (Special Concern) and Sharp-shinned Hawks (Special Concern) were observed hunting in the entire west basin. Where understory shrubs existed in the north section, various sparrows could be found, including good numbers of White-throated, Swamp and a single Lincoln’s. The eastern edge of the west basin was more diverse with fruiting shrubs and attracted many Gray Catbirds, American Robins, and two species of Catharus trush (Swainson’s and Gray-cheeked)."

Other news:

Debby Kuha, Forest Park and Highland Park Administrator told our group that the parks department would be starting construction very shortly on a soccer field in Lower Highland Park. It will be located between the children’s garden and the tennis courts. She also said that $2.5M has been allocated by Councilman Dilan to upgrade the performance area/spray shower in the lower park. It has not been made clear whether the soccer field will be natural turf or artificial turf. Given all the health concerns surrounding crumb rubber-based products and its proximity to the children's garden, one would presume that Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe has decided to use natural turf.

To express your concern about the use of artificial turf for the Highland Park soccer field, please contact the NYC Commissioner of Parks & Recreation, as well as, the park's administrator and the Queens Commissioner of Parks:

Adrian Benepe (Commissioner of Parks)
phone: 212-360-1305

Dorothy Lewandowski (Queens Parks Commissioner)
phone: 718-520-5905

Deborah Kuha (Administrator, Forest Park & Highland Park):
phone: 718-520-5905

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Directions to Ridgewood Reservoir

Here are directions to Ridgewood Reservoir. You can view a map here. For future reference, I've added the permalink to the sidebar's quick links section:


From the East - Take the Jackie Robinson Parkway to the Cypress Avenue exit. At the end of the exit ramp make a left onto Vermont Place. After approximately .25 mile, you'll see a parking lot on your right. Pull in and park. Take the stairway across Vermont Place from the parking lot up to the paved path that surrounds the reservoirs.

From Brooklyn - Take Eastern Parkway to the end and make a right on Bushwick Avenue. At .25 miles, left onto Highland Blvd. and stay in the right lane (the left lane is an entrance to the Jackie Robinson Parkway). Proceed to the traffic light at the intersection of Vermont Place (.75 miles) and make a left turn. The parking lot entrance will be on your left.

From Manhattan - Take the Manhattan Bridge to Flatbush Avenue. Flatbush Avenue for approximately 2.5 miles to Grand Army Plaza. Go around the plaza and follow the signs to Eastern Parkway. Take Eastern Parkway to the end and make a right on Bushwick Avenue. At .25 miles, left onto Highland Blvd. and stay in the right lane (the left lane is an entrance to the Jackie Robinson Parkway). Proceed to the traffic light at the intersection of Vermont Place (.75 miles) and make a left turn. The parking lot entrance will be on your left.


Take the "J" train to the Cleveland Street station (coming from the east, be in the first car; from the west, the last car). Exit the station taking the stairway to the right. Turn left onto Cleveland Street and walk 2 blocks to the entrance of Lower Highland Park. Walk into the park, taking the sidewalk that passes the basket ball and tennis courts (they'll be on your left). Follow the sidewalk to the left; you'll be walking uphill and the handball courts will be on your left. Take the stairs to your right up to Highland Blvd. Cross Highland Blvd. You'll see the parking lot described in the driving directions ahead of you. There is also a flight of stairs up to the running path just at the intersection of Highland Blvd. and Vermont Place. You can take those up to the running track and walk a short distance north, to the other stairway. Total walking distance from the "J" train to the edge of the reservoir is about 1/2 mile

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Monday, April 14, 2008

More about parks and artificial turf

Here are two more items regarding artificial turf. The first is from WNBC News:

Three Artificial Turf Fields Shut Down Due To Lead Levels

Posted: 4:28 pm EDT April 14, 2008
Updated: 6:52 pm EDT April 14, 2008

TRENTON, N.J. -- Three athletic fields in New Jersey used by thousands of people have been shut down because officials say elevated lead levels in the turf pose a health risk.

The fields are in Newark, Ewing and Hoboken. In Newark, workers in hazmat suits rolled up the turf and put it into Dumpsters to be hauled away.

In Hoboken, soccer players were turned away from Frank Sinatra Park because of concerns about lead in the fibers of its turf.

New Jersey officials are urging owners of these types of fields to make sure their turf is lead-free.

State health officials said they found lead levels eight to 10 times higher than allowed in soil when they randomly tested two-dozen turf fields around the state.
The state's epidemiologist is asking the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate.

Health Commissioner Heather Howard said the New Jersey findings could have national implications.

It's not known how easily lead from turf is absorbed by the body. Specialized tests on the high-lead turf samples are expected early next month.

The following is from the minutes of the last meeting of Brooklyn Community Board 6. BCB6 very rarely has any mention of their Parks and Recreation Committee in their minutes. Looking back at their calendars, it appears that the Parks and Recreation Committee hardly ever holds meetings:

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The Department of Parks tree record

When stories such as the following from "Metro NY" appear in print, it should cause great concern among the communities that surround Highland Park and the Ridgewood Reservoir. Is there any method available to New York City residents and the NYC City Council that can prevent the department of parks from doing, pretty much, anything that they want to do, because there doesn't appear to be. Can and will they start development in the reservoir basins despite the community's objections, without the proper permits and then just blame it on the contractors?

City has no count on felled trees
by patrick arden / metro new york

APR 14, 2008

MANHATTAN. Mayor Bloomberg has declared April MillionTreesNYC Month, part of his highly publicized initiative to plant one million new trees by 2017. Yet Thursday, city attorney Susan Shapiro couldn’t answer a judge’s questions about how many trees have been cut down for the controversial sports fields project on Randall’s Island.

“The city doesn’t know the number of trees, because the contractors never got a permit,” claimed Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates, who cites sources close to the project. He estimates that thousands were cut down.

“You need a permit to remove a tree,” said former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, who pushed for a city law against the illegal destruction of trees, or “arborcide.” “People could be fined up to $15,000 and it can extend to a short term in jail,” Stern said.

Contractors are required to have forestry permits issued by the Parks Department before removing trees, Stern said. But the department has refused repeated requests by Metro for the Randall’s Island forestry permits.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Shovel in one hand, chainsaw in the other

This following article is from Metro New York. Be sure to check out all the linked articles:

Mayor’s program: Plant million trees
by Patrick Arden / Metro New York

APR 2, 2008

NEW YORK. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has declared April as MillionTreesNYC Month. But to accomplish his goal of planting 1 million new trees by 2030, New Yorkers might have to buy most of the saplings themselves.

Residents near the Ridgewood Reservoir wonder why all the emphasis is on “new.” They’re fighting a proposal to raze 20 acres of dense forest to put down artificial turf fields. Yet, as the neighborhood around Yankee Stadium learned in a court ruling, “Trees themselves have no legal protections.”

Former Parks commissioner Henry Stern pushed for a law to punish the destroyers of trees. Nowadays it’s likely to be the city that’s pulling the chain saw.

“I’ve never seen an administration so intent on the destruction of trees,” said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates. “It’s open season.”

Tree muggers

Here’s a partial list of recent hatchet jobs:

Randall’s Island: thousands

Macombs Dam and Mullaly parks: 377

Washington Square: up to 32

Highbridge Park: 51

Union Square: 14

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