The following meeting might be of interest to all those concerned about the future of, not just Highland Park and the Ridgewood Reservoir, but all NYC parks:
Sierra Club Presents: The Selling of Brooklyn Bridge Park
When: Friday, May 30 –6:30 pm
Where: Judson Memorial Church, Washington Sq. Park South (enter at 235 Thompson St.)
Speakers: Judi Francis, President, Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund. Roy Sloane, civic activist
Urban parks are becoming our newest endangered species. The 20-year effort to secure a park in an 85-acre strip along 1.5 miles of Brooklyn's East River waterfront is a prime example of how the seemingly good intention of creating "parks that pay for themselves" is leading to the actual demise of public parks.
The prospect of increasing commercialization of NYC parks, as well as efforts to mobilize public support for a genuine Brooklyn Bridge Park, will be discussed by Judi Francis, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund, and Roy Sloane, who has led public outreach efforts as a board member of the BB Park Local Development Corp.
Requiring parks to pay their own way is an extension of the relentless cutbacks in public funding for NYC parks in recent decades, from 1.5% of the municipal budget in former years to only 0.4% currently.
Unlike traditional parks, which are administered by the NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation, the Brooklyn Bridge Park is being created by a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corp., a state agency whose primary mission is promotion of economic activity. Apart from $150 million committed by the city and state for construction, the park will have to generate enough income to pay for ongoing operation and upkeep.
The main source, under the approved plan, will be payments from owners of apartments in high-rise housing with 1,200 luxury units that private developers will be allowed to build within the park – a massive intrusion into its narrow swath of green space.
Free and open to the public. Wine, cheese and snacks will be served.
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Thursday, May 29, 2008
The following meeting might be of interest to all those concerned about the future of, not just Highland Park and the Ridgewood Reservoir, but all NYC parks:
The following appears in today's issue of the New York Times:
May 29, 2008
A Wilderness, Lost in the City
By WILLIAM C. THOMPSON Jr. and ROBERT F. KENNEDY Jr.
MANY people are astounded to learn that there is a teeming wildlife preserve in New York City. Ridgewood Reservoir on the Brooklyn-Queens border is an oasis where an amazing range of plant and animal species thrive in a verdant landscape of steep hills and narrow valleys amid the city’s paved sidewalks.
But what’s more astounding, the city’s Parks Department could wind up destroying it.
Ridgewood is an accidental wilderness, tucked alongside the Jackie Robinson Parkway. Built in 1858 to provide drinking water to Brooklyn, the reservoir was abandoned in 1989.
As the 50 acres reverted to wetlands, meadows and forests, tens of thousands of plants and trees took root and flourished. Turtles, fish, frogs and millions of insects moved in. Songbirds nested in the glades, transforming the area into a migratory rest stop. According to the National Audubon Society, 137 species of birds use the reservoir, including eight rare species. It is a place as close to unspoiled nature as you’re likely to find anywhere within city limits.
Yet, the New York City Parks Department is considering a $50 million “renovation” project that would cover more than 20 acres of the reservoir with athletic fields and facilities.
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. 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 parks commissioner has said the city needs the athletic fields to combat childhood obesity. This is an important objective, but the money that would be used to destroy this extraordinary natural habitat could be better spent improving Highland Park, 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.
Ridgewood’s natural preserve is a great place for people of all ages to walk and hike. Its trails should be upgraded with benches and rest areas as well as markers pointing out unique flora and fauna. The Parks Department should also open areas of the reservoir for guided nature walks, a great educational tool.
Ridgewood Reservoir offers visitors a rare chance to lose themselves in a forest, to hear bird song, to touch wilderness and to sense the divine. The city shouldn’t let that slip away.
William C. Thompson Jr. is the comptroller of the City of New York. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a lawyer for Riverkeeper, an environmental group.
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Thursday, May 22, 2008
I was pleased to read the following in the May/June issue of the New York City Audubon Society's newsletter "The Urban Audubon":
"HIGHLAND PARK DEVELOPMENT PLANS"
"Highland Park, one of eight parks slated for development as part of Mayor Bloomberg's PIaNYC, is also home to the former Ridgewood Reservoir. This 50-acre site, formerly part of the City's water supply, was decommissioned and partially drained in 1989, and has become a unique natural habitat. Concerned about proposals to build ball fields on the site, a group of Queens and Brooklyn bird and nature enthusiasts formed the Ridgewood Reservoir Education and Preservation Project (RREPP) to fight for the protection of the reservoir site. RREPP has conducted breeding bird surveys, hosted educational tours of the site, and worked with other community groups to promote the concept of using the former reservoir as an environmental learning center. Recently, Queens Borough Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski assured NYC Audubon staff that the design team is considering all options as it creates a final plan for the park, and that community groups will be consulted in the process. "[The] Parks (Department] is aware of the natural greatness of the area and does not seek to destroy it, but rather make it accessible," she said. At this point, two of the three basins are proposed to be kept as nature preserves, while a portion of the third, a site dominated by exotic species, such as Norway maple, is being studied as a possible site for active recreation. NYC Audubon has strongly urged the Parks Department to commit to no net loss of forest cover within the Highland Park complex, to create access to the reservoir basins for passive recreation, and to explore the possibility of locating additional ball fields at other locations within Highland Park."
Commissioner Lewandowski's assessment of the trees in basin #3 is inaccurate and misleading. First, the northern half of the basin is dominated by Black Locusts. The southern end of the basin, which is considerably wetter habitat, is dominated by Grey Birch. Both species are native to North America. The following charts and excerpt was taken from an ecological assessment performed by a company hired by the parks department. Park's administrators either didn't read it or have chosen to ignore the information and continue to mislead the public. Note that the "West Basin" is what has been referred to previously as "Basin #3":
"The West Basin is the largest basin at the Ridgewood Reservoir Site, and had both the greatest number of plant species (n = 90) and plant communities present of any of the three basins. Despite this overall diversity, the majority of these species and communities were located in the southern half of the basin. The northern half of the basin consisted almost entirely of an open, savannah-like habitat dominated by only by black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) in the forest canopy and mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) in the understory."
"To the south of this area, however, were numerous species and habitats of both wetland and conservation significance. Directly to the south of the locust-mugwort savannah, for example, was an interesting open grassy area with occasional clusters of grey birch (Betula populifolia) trees, sedges (Cyperus spp.), rushes (Juncus spp., Eleocharis spp.), and mosses. Based on the composition and structure of vegetation in this area, it appears likely that significant periods of inundation have occurred here, probably in the early spring and winter months. Further evidence of this was provided by the extremely shallow rooting systems of the few birch trees growing in this area, which is a common physiological adaptation to hydric soil conditions. Photographs taken by local naturalists in January of 2007 in fact show the open areas to consist entirely of standing water. Surrounding this open, grassy area were dense birch and poplar stands with little undergrowth, as well as large areas of rich woodlands dominated by grey birch, black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), willow (Salix spp.) and poplar species (Populus spp.) in the canopy, with numerous composites (e.g., Aster, Solidago, Eupatorium, etc.), grasses, and other herbaceous species in the understory. These included the Endangered Eupatorium serotinum and Threatened E. hyssopifolium var. laciniatum as well as numerous facultative wetland species. To the south of these areas were a variety of habitats, many of which were more obvious wetlands, including birch and maple swamps and open pools of standing water in the southwest, herbaceous species-dominated wetlands (e.g., Scirpus cyperinus, Phragmites australis) in the south-central area, and more upland forests located in the southeast. The Threatened Ludwigia sphaerocarpa occurred in southwestern area, and south-central area had populations of both Eupatorium serotinum and E. hyssopifolium var. laciniatum."
To see another example of the parks department's deceptive tactics, check out their true regard for "exotic" tree species. This link will bring you to their list of street trees that they recommend (and plant) around the city. I have pasted the list below and noted the countries of origin. If the parks department were really concerned about "exotic" species, why are 24 of the 42 recommended species non-native to the US? They are just trying to set us up for the day when they begin cutting down and chipping the trees in the reservoir basins.
Eucommia ulmoides Hardy Rubber Tree (China)
Ginkgo biloba Ginkgo (China)
Gleditsia triacanthos inermis Honeylocust (US)
Gymnocladus dioicus Kentucky Coffeetree (US)
Liquidambar styraciflua Sweetgum (US)
Liriodendron tulipifera Tulip Tree (US)
Metasequoia glyptostroboides Dawn Redwood (China)
Quercus bicolor Swamp White Oak (US)
Quercus imbricaria Shingle Oak (US)
Quercus palustris Pin Oak (US)
Quercus phellos Willow Oak (US)
Quercus rubra Northern Red Oak (US)
Quercus spp. 'Fastigiata' Fastigiata Oak
Styphnolobium japonicum Scholar Tree (Asia)
Taxodium distichum Baldcypress (US)
Tilia americana Basswood / American Linden (US)
Tilia cordata Littleleaf Linden (Europe)
Tilia x euchlora Crimean Linden (Cultivar)
Tilia tomentosa Silver Linden (Asia)
Zelkova serrata Japanese Zelkova (Japan)
Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata' European Hornbeam (Europe and Asia)
Carpinus caroliniana American Hornbeam (US)
Cercidiphyllum japonicum Katsura Tree (Japan and China)
Corylus colurna Turkish Filbert (southeastern Europe)
Ostrya virginiana American Hophornbeam (US)
Pyrus calleryana Callery Pear (Korea and Japan)
Quercus acutissima Sawtooth Oak (Japan, China, Korea)
Quercus robur English Oak (Europe, northern Africa and western Asia)
Amelanchier canadensis Serviceberry (US)
Cercis canadensis Eastern Redbud (US)
Crataegus spp. Hawthorn
Koelreuteria paniculata Goldenraintree (China and Japan)
Maackia amurensis Amur Maackia (Manchuria)
Malus spp. Crabapple (Most originate in Japan)
Prunus cerasifera Purpleleaf Plum (Asia)
Prunus 'Okame' Okame Cherry (Asia)
Prunus padus European Birdcherry (Eurasia)
Prunus sargentii Sargent Cherry (Japan)
Prunus serrulata 'Kwanzan' Japanese Flowering Cherry (Japan)
Prunus virginiana 'Schubert' Schubert Cherry
Prunus x yedoensis Yoshino Cherry (Japan)
Syringa reticulata Japanese Tree(Japan)
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Tuesday, May 20, 2008
The following terrible news about Union Square Park just came out on the Washington Square Park blog:
Union Square Park Healthy & Mature Trees Coming Down… by Order of NYC Parks Department
"Received word from another blogger, Jessica Alfieri (who took the picture above), that the fourteen to fifteen healthy, mature trees at Union Square Park are getting the ax. These amazing trees have been part of this park for many years. She writes that one of the “big ones” came down last week (one of the great Siberian Elms I presume) and “six or seven little ones” came down yesterday. Those trees were to the left of the Pavilion in the foreground of the photo. There are still a few standing (not for long tho’)."
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The following excerpts and plates are from a memoir written by an engineer who participated in the construction of the Ridgewood Reservoir. While this posting may seem longer than typical submissions, I believe that it helps illustrate the technical and historic significance of the site. The engineering feat was a spectacular achievement in Brooklyn and Queens history, yet there is no hesitancy on the part of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation designing a plan that would tear out a significant section of the largest basin's retaining wall.
The cover sheet of the publication with the entire title and publishing information is:
The Brooklyn Water Works and Sewers. A Descriptive Memoir.
Prepared and printed by order of the Board of Water Commissioners.
Illustrated By Fifty-Nine Lithographic Plates.
New York: D. Van Nostrand, 192 Broadway 1867.
I have also included a couple of photograph taken last year. The entire manuscript is available for viewing on the "Making of America" website. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the digital library is a collaborative effort to preserve primary source material related to the development of the United State's infrastructure. You can learn more about it here. As you read the descriptions, keep in mind that the original plan called for two basins, but a third was added soon after as they realized the population was growing at a faster rate than anticipated.
"The reservoir grounds include 48.4 acres of land. They are enclosed by a neat fence of wrought-iron, eight feet high, with a small gate on the south side of the grounds, and an elaborate gateway on the north side, upon the Cypress hill turnpike road. The reservoir occupies about two thirds of the grounds, the unoccupied part is available for similar use hereafter."
"The grounds are kept in neat order, but no trees were allowed to be planted there, because their leaves would be blown into the water, and besides, to some extent, detracting from its purity, might clog the gates and screens of the outlet-chamber. For similar reasons, it was judged best not to allow carriages or horses to use the banks of the reservoir as a driving-path, the dust from which, as well as the manure of the horses, would, in that ease, find its way into the reservoir."
"The reservoir is divided into two compartments the water area of the eastern division is 11.85 acres, and of the western division 13.73 acres in all 25.58 acres."
"The contract required that the reservoir should have a capacity of not less than 150,000,000 of New York gallons when full. Its capacity now, when full, amounts to 161,221,835 gallons, equal to 20,636,395 cubic feet." "The reservoir grounds are situated on the crest of the central, hilly range already mentioned the original surface was knobby and irregular with a piece of swamp touching the eastern boundary, not an unusual circumstance upon the heights of this range, wherever their very irregular surfaces produce hollows or cups retaining the summit-waters."
"The position of the reservoir on the grounds, and the position of its bottom, as regards height above tide, were determined solely by economical considerations, the object being so to place it as that the earthwork of forming it should be a minimum. The contract required it to have a "surface elevation of not less than one hundred and fifty feet above mean tide ;" a provision which could be satisfied by any arrangement of the work which the ground admitted of. The surface-water of the reservoir as built, when full, stands one hundred and seventy feet above the tidal base referred to."
"The irregularity in the shape of the original surface produced a corresponding irregularity in the depths of the embankments forming the earthen boundary of the reservoir, which vary from thirty feet in height on the east side to four and five feet in height on portions of the west side. The inner slopes of the reservoir rest consequently, partly on artificial embankment and partly on the natural earth of the position, excavated to the necessary form, as will be seen by inspection of the cross sections of these banks (plate 38)." "The first step in the construction consisted in the removal from the entire site of the reservoir, and its banks, of all vegetable soil or vegetable matter of any kind, which was laid aside to be afterwards replaced on the outer slopes of the finished embankments."
"The material excavated from the ground in the process of shaping each compartment of the reservoir was used in the construction of its embankments. This material consisted of a still', coarse earth, of excellent quality for such work, but full of small stones and boulders. The boulders were broken up and laid aside for paving. The small stones were also carefully removed-no stone exceeding four inches in diameter being allowed to remain in the earth which was applied to the construction of the embankments."
"The outer embankments are twenty feet in width at top, which is situated four feet above the high water level of the reservoir; the division embankment is fifteen feet in width at top, which is situated three feet above the same water level ;
"The puddle consisted of a mixture of the earth of the excavations (selected and freed from stones for that purpose), and of a stiff, white clay found in the neighborhood. The amount of clay required to form reliable puddle will vary with the nature of the earth mixed with it, and can only be ascertained by trial and practice. Too much clay is as objectionable as too little. The puddling material used here was very excellent, and the workmen who applied it were of the best description, having had a previous experience and training in this kind of work."
"The clay was first well broken up, and thoroughly mixed with the right proportion of earth; it was then carried to its place, whether on the bottom, on the slope, or in the centre of the embankment, and laid in horizontal layers of six inches in thickness; water was then applied to each layer, and the gang of puddlers proceeded to work it with their spades and feet into a stiff, heavy paste, which, when sufficiently worked, was allowed to set before the application of another layer. If exposed too long to the sun, it will over dry and crack, and will then require to be re-worked before the addition of another layer. When the workmen are not well practised in its application it may sometimes be advisable to mix it with water into the proper consistency before depositing it in place, but in that case it should be well re-worked in position."
"The entire bottom of each division of the reservoir, after having been graded to the proper lines, was covered with two feet of puddle in the manner already described. The surface of this puddle, when finished, was covered with a thin layer of gravelly earth. The bottom in each case has a fall of eight inches from the south side towards the drainage-pipes of the effluent chamber, to admit of the entire water of either compartment being drawn off when so required for cleaning or repairs."
"On the completion of the banks, their slopes were dressed off to the required inclination. The outer slopes were then covered with the reserved soil, and seeded. The inner slopes were paved with dry stone paving, the stone being derived from the boulders of trap-rock found in the excavations and in the vicinity. This pavement was specified to be twelve inches in thickness, laid upon a bed of gravel or small stones and well packed and pinned."
"The water began to flow into the reservoir in November, 1858, and continued to rise in it slowly through March and April."
"While the gales referred to lasted, the paving was merely watched and driven home as it settled, and well pinned up with chips. After the stormy weather had subsided, we proceeded to repair what was amiss, and to render the whole work of paving secure against any similar contingency, in the following manner."
"One of the compartments of the reservoir having been emptied, gangs of men were set to work to drive home the paving, to bring up any pieces, that had settled irregularly, to the correct
"After our experience of the action of the wind on this reservoir, and my examinations since of dry stone paving upon other reservoirs, both here and in Europe, I should make the thickness of dry paving not less than eighteen inches, and lay it with stones capable of close work, upon any reservoir as much exposed to the action of wind as is the Ridgewood reservoir."
"The influent chamber is in length, twenty-eight feet, width, nineteen feet the bottom is situated six feet below high water of the reservoir, and four and a half feet below the centre of the mouth of the delivering pipes. From this pool, or chamber of water, an open passage communicates with the western division of the reservoir, and another with the eastern division. Either of these passages can be shut off by flash-boards, and the whole delivery, in that ease, thrown into the opposite division. The water, flowing through these passages, falls, when the
"The masonry of the work consists of granite, carried up in courses, the face-stones being cut in bed and build, and dressed to the lines of the work. The whole is laid in hydraulic mortar, composed as already described. The drawings will give the details of the foundations, &c. (See plate 39.)"
"The influent chamber is large enough to receive the terminal pipes of four force mains, being the number necessary to deliver the waters of four engines, each of ten millions gallons daily capacity, covering, therefore, the forty millions of supply contemplated in the design of these works, half of which supply is provided for now, as previously mentioned."
"The bottom of this chamber as well as of the effluent chamber proper, is paved with hard-burnt brick, set on edge, and laid in cement mortar. The masonry is of blue stone, finished with coursed granite, except the heavy foundations, which are of rubble work. The whole work is laid in hydraulic cement mortar, of the character elsewhere described. The earthwork of the division embankments, where it connects with the masonry was carefully rammed, and the puddle wall of the embankment was widened there, so as to cover the whole space between the buttresses. The puddle was enlarged in the same manner behind the walls of the influent chamber."
"The apparatus for moving the sluices is protected by a small house built over each passage."
"The paving of the reservoir slopes, where they meet the top lines of the banks is finished by a dwarf wall, and blue stone coping, upon which there is placed a low iron fence to keep visitors and children off the water slopes."
necessary to describe."
It is deeply disturbing that the City of New York would ever considering erasing, what is clearly, a very important piece of New York's history. The Ridgewood Reservoir in Highland Park should be celebrated, not turned into artificial turf recreational fields.
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Monday, May 12, 2008
Here's a link to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation "Environmental Notice Bulletin" (ENB) webpage. It lists weekly notices of proposals and actions. In theory, we should be able to find out from this website when the Department of Parks and Recreation files for their permits to destroy the Ridgewood Reservoir.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Hands off Ridgewood Reservoir: Civic
Thursday, May 1, 2008
New York City Department of Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe has been quoted frequently as claiming that replacing the forests at Ridgewood Reservoir with recreational fields would help stop childhood obesity. Recent data indicates that, if practical, removing fast food restaurants instead of trees would be more effective. Some research has shown that diet plays a much greater role in reducing obesity and diabetes:
Study links easy access to fast food to diabetes, obesity
05:27 PM CDT on Tuesday, April 29, 2008
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – It's often said, "You are what you eat," but new research suggests that where you eat may have a lot to do with it, as well.
In communities with an abundance of fast-food outlets and convenience stores, researchers have found, obesity and diabetes rates are much higher than in areas where fresh fruit and vegetable markets and full-service grocery stores are easily accessible.
"The implications are really dramatic," said Harold Goldstein, a study author and executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, based in Davis. "We are living in a junk-food jungle, and not surprisingly, we are seeing rising rates of obesity and diabetes."
The new study builds on research released a year ago that found California has four times as many fast-food restaurants and convenience stores as grocery stores and produce vendors.
For the new project, Goldstein teamed with UCLA's Center for Public Health Policy Research and PolicyLink to explore possible links between the kinds of food Californians can easily access and the prevalence of obesity and diabetes in their communities.
The outcome: "We found a very strong link," Goldstein said. "It was true for people living in both high-income and low-income communities, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender or level of physical activity."
For the 2007 study, researchers used commercial data sources and geographic information system software to construct a "retail food environment index," or RFEI, by adding the number of convenience stores and fast-food outlets and dividing that sum by the number of supermarkets and produce vendors, including farmers markets.
The average RFEI for California adults is 4.5, meaning the average California adult has more than four times as many fast-food restaurants and convenience stores near their home as grocery stores and produce vendors.
Read the entire article here.
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Last night I was walking through Lower Highland Park, towards the stairs that lead to the upper park. It was approximately 6:15PM. An ATV was speeding along the walking path, traveling from east to west. The vehicle owner was driving well over 60MPH and I had to run to get out of his way. Once in Upper Highland Park, I met Charles Monaco and we walked across Vermont Place and up the stairs to the running path that borders the reservoir. From the top of the stairs we noticed 4 ATVs riding in Upper Highland Park, near the parking lot. Charles called the local precinct as we watched the 4 vehicles doing wheelies and riding along Vermont Place.
Approximately 45 minutes later, we had circled the running path and were approaching the stairway next to Jackie Robinson Parkway that leads from Vermont Place onto the running path. Another ATV was driving up the stairs and onto the path, which had been busy with joggers and cyclists. When we arrived at the main stairway (across from the Upper Highland Park parking lot), two more ATVs were driving along Vermont Place, rode up the slope adjacent to the stairway and onto the running path. Charles stopped them, introduced himself and explained the issue with the ATV and motorcycles. They said that they understood and were just "cutting through". As they drove off, I turned towards the parking lot and noticed that an NYPD van had been parked in the lot the entire time. I took a photograph of the van as it was backing up to leave the park. I wasn't close enough to get the license plate of the officers on duty, but the local precinct's commanders should have no problem finding out who was on duty.
I walked back to the area of woods that I described last week as recently having all its underbrush, inexplicably removed. Apparently, this area is now the "cutting through" path for the local ATVs owners. Was this an intentional arrangement or just coincidental? Removing all the shrubs, vines, grass and other plants of the understory on a steep hillside, invasive or not, only creates a terrible erosion problem. Throwing down wood chips and allowing ATVs to drive along that path will just accelerate that process.
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