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

Friday, July 24, 2009

More Deception

The "Queens Crap" blog has posted a piece that reveals more deception from the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, although, at this point, I can't say I'm surprised:

Friday, July 24, 2009
Parks caught lying about Highland Park again

From the Daily News:

In 2007, the agency issued 410 hours of permits for Highland Park's existing ballfields. That jumped to 753 hours last year, but included a two-week carnival that accounted for 195 hours.

Parks spokeswoman Patricia Bertuccio said the permit lists don't account for countless pickup games and practices on those fields that don't require prior approval from the agency.

The Parks Department's website displays this:

So, they are going to tear down a ready-made nature preserve to build ballfields for practices that are not supposed to be held on ballfields because there are too many people who want to play games on them, yet there was a documented lack of people playing games on the fields for the past few years. In Adrian's world, this makes sense.

These people are unbelievable. I just hope that the FBI and USDOJ is watching and looking into their activities like they did in New Jersey.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

More Political Support

Political hopeful, Albert Baldeo, has come out in favor of preserving the Ridgewood Reservoir as a unique nature sanctuary. The community advocate, who is running for Anthony Seminerio's vacated 38th District Assembly seat, was highlighted in an article in the Queens Chronicle. From the article:

"One neighborhood over, Baldeo has been trying to preserve the Ridgewood Reservoir. “There are so many species of birds and animals there. It’s a jewel in our district,” he said. “It could be made into a tourist attraction and we should preserve it, not turn it into baseball fields.”"

You can read the entire article here.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Queens Courier Article

The Queens Courier just published an article about the plight of the reservoir:

Athletic fields may replace defunct reservoir
By Alice Lok
Wednesday, July 22, 2009 11:56 AM EDT

The decommissioned Ridgewood Reservoir-turned-nature preserve lying on the border of Queens and Brooklyn may be torn down if plans to install athletic fields are put into motion.

In a statement from the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, it said the agency has held several public meetings, listening sessions, conducted surveys, met with elected officials and community groups to “get a broad sense of what users are interested in seeing at this park. All methods of input will help the Parks Department as we move forward in creating draft designs.”

As of now, contractors are in the process of developing three distinct master plans that take into account what was learned during the meetings. The three plans are stated to be released in October, and all of the plans are likely to include improvements to lighting and safety.

A chief concern of the Parks Department is installing more active recreational fields for baseball and soccer which would mean the preserve would be at least partially destroyed. The Parks Department has done surveys, which have shown a desire for more ball fields.

However, local protesters like David Quintana said they don’t want the natural habitat to be touched and instead of spending money to level the basins and install artificial turf, it would make more sense to fix up and maintain the baseball fields that already exist across the street in Highland Park.

Quintana said if the city were to fix up those fields then the necessity of tearing down all or part of the basin, “would be a moot point.”

In addition, local residents are casting doubt over the fairness of the survey. Quintana said he had obtained a copy and the questions were vague and some of the participants had never even visited the parks.

In another twist, the Parks Department announced a cut in the Ridgewood Reservoir budget plan from $48.8 million to $19.8 million in June.

In a study contracted by the Parks Department, the findings said “no less than 10 plant and animal species listed as Threatened, Endangered or Special Concern in New York State were found at the site.” In addition, the survey said 173 plant species and 127 bird species were observed at the Ridgewood Reservoir.

Quintana, who is focusing on educating the public about the importance of the preserve, said plans to alter the current state of the reservoir “makes absolutely no sense to me and many others in the community.”

Ridgewood Reservoir was active in 1848 to supply water to Brooklyn. The reservoir was then used as a back-up in 1959, after Brooklyn merged into New York City. Eventually, it was decommissioned and drained in 1989.

After it was decommissioned, Quintana said “the city basically neglected the property and Mother Nature has taken it back.”

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Going Wild In Queens

The Queens Tribune has a wonderful article about local naturalist David Burg. Dave and the late Al Ott helped guide the Highland Park-Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance when we were just getting started. If it wasn't for their honest advice and enthusiasm, I'm not certain we would have gotten off the ground:

Going Wild In Queens: Naturalist Works To Encourage Next Generation Of Enthusiasts

By Vladic Ravich

“Do you hear that?” said David Burg as he led two of his interns through a winding trail in Cunningham Park, red hedge clippers in hand. “That sounds like a Woodthrush, which was Thoreau’s favorite bird.” We stopped and listened, waiting for another call to punctuate the dull hum of the Long Island Expressway that carried through the century old trees.

We heard a distant flutelike trill and knew it was the right one when Burg’s eyes lit up with recognition. Then he turned his attention back to the underbrush, resuming his hunt for the invasive Multifloral Rose, Japanese Snotwood, Garlic Mustard and many other species that crowd out the young native plants that make up the ecosystem of these urban islands of wilderness.

You can read the entire article here.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lies and Deception

We already know from a previous post that the Department of Parks & Recreation intentionally created a survey of park users that would produce skewed results. The results were designed to support their efforts to waste taxpayers dollars on a park that nobody wants, is not needed and would destroy natural habitats unique to New York City. I was also recently confronted by their feeble attempts at hiding the truth.

In 2007 the parks department held their first series of community listening sessions. After one of those sessions, Gary Comorau (the current president of the Highland Park-Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance) asked Kevin Quinn, of parks Capital Projects, for a copy of their Powerpoint slide presentation. Kevin quickly obliged and images from that presentation have been used in handout by HPRRA. Another set of community listening sessions were carried out this year. On June 19th I sent an email to Kevin Quinn asking for a copy of the Powerpoint presentation that was used for the meeting at Oak Ridge on March 16th. I never heard back from him and, at the final listening session held at the end of June, I spoke with park administrator Debby Kuha. A few people in attendance at that meeting asked if parks could post the slide presentation online. I told Ms. Kuha that I had requested it from Kevin but that he never responded. She told me that if I send him another note and copied her, she'd make sure I received a copy. That email was sent out on July 1st and I still have not received any response from either Ms. Kuha or Mr. Quinn.

Subsequent to my conversation with Debby, I learned that Conor Greene from the "Forum" also asked Ms. Kuha for a copy of the presentation. He wanted the presentation because it contains the results of the original survey, not the new, phony survey. He was told by Debby that the results were not part of that slide presentation. I attended the March 16th meeting and the survey results were, in fact, part of the presentation. The results were presented by Melissa Hicks. Either Ms. Kuha has a very bad memory or she outright lied to Conor, knowing that he would learn the truth about the two different surveys. I realize that Ms. Kuha and other employees of the Department of Parks & Recreation read this blog, so I will ask the question publicly and let you know if I receive a response:

Debby - Do you have any intention of sending me a copy of the requested presentation, as you promised, or will I have to use legal means to acquire this public document?

UPDATE (7/22):
Today I received an email from Debby Kuha. She assured me that she'd ask Kevin "again", plus, she is "not a liar". Just to be clear, I did not say that Ms. Kuha WAS a liar, only that her response to Conor was either the result of bad memory or intentionally misrepresenting the truth.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bloomberg "Green"? Think again

In a recent interview with the Queens Chronicle Mayor Bloomberg was asked about plans for the Ridgewood Reservoir. For the self-proclaimed environmental mayor, his answer was a bit more revealing about his real "conservation" agenda than his questionable rhetoric:

Queens Chronicle: Proposals to develop the Ridgewood Reservoir site into a recreational area have caused a commotion among many community advocates. The local councilwoman and community board have opposed the plan and prefer proposals to preserve the site while making it more accessible. Where do you stand? What do you say to those who claim there is a push within the administration toward replacing the basins with ballfields despite public resistance?

Mayor Bloomberg: We are trying to come to some compromise. There is some evidence that the ballfields in the neighborhood are adequate. Others say, ‘absolutely not; we don’t have enough.’ Certain groups you’ll never do enough for. You can never do enough for bicyclists. That’s just the real world. The political pressure for ballfields is always there.

How's that for a non-answer? You'd think that someone who has been touting the benefits of conservation in NYC would have more to say about protecting the only habitat of its kind left in the five boroughs.

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Toxic Fill

City Comptroller William Thompson has called on Mayor Bloomberg to reveal to the public the risks of dredged toxic materials that the administration wants to use in public parks:


View Letter

Citing possible health hazards, New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. today called on City Hall to disclose potential health risks associated with plans to dump dredged materials from New York Harbor as fill at various parks and development projects across the City.

“I am deeply concerned about the Administration’s embrace of processed dredged material in City parks and its plans to allow its use in both public and private development projects,”
Thompson said in a recent letter to Mayor Bloomberg. “At a minimum, the public must be provided with complete information and firm assurances that their families will be safe not only now, but in the years to come.”

The letter is available at

The City currently plans to use the dredged material as fill at a number of parks including Heritage Field - on the site of the former Yankee Stadium - and Brooklyn Bridge Park at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. However, Thompson said, about two-thirds of the material in the harbor resulting from dredging is too contaminated to be placed in the federally designated offshore site, according to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. This toxic contamination includes unacceptably high levels of PCBs, dioxin, mercury and various heavy metals. Therefore, it must be “processed” and stored at alternative locations.

Traditionally, processed dredged material has been used to fill mines in Pennsylvania and cap landfills and brownfields or sent to designated disposal locations out-of-state. In addition, some material has already been used at the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island. With appropriate safeguards, it also may have potential in commercial development projects.

Roughly 15,000 cubic yards of processed dredged material has already been placed at the Bronx Terminal Market Waterfront Park, and there are plans to place 200,000 cubic yards of dredged material at both Heritage Field and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

“While I am advised that the material will be tested by City contractors and its placement will be approved by the state, I must insist that the Administration provide appropriate details regarding the quality of this fill and the safeguards it intends to adopt before it continues to place this material in our City’s neighborhoods,” Thompson wrote.

“My office is awaiting additional information about the City’s Dredged Material Management Plan, but as of this moment has not received it,” Thompson said. “Given that this harbor sediment has already been placed in the Bronx Terminal Market Waterfront Park, and there is a question of the public’s safety, it is imperative that City Hall understand the urgency of providing the public with as much information as possible. The people of New York City deserve to know when and how this material was placed in their park and the potential for cross contamination.”

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Rigged Surveys

During the final community listening session parks department officials were frequently interrupted by shouts of outrage from members of the public. When the results of their "new, improved" survey and their methodology was revealed, it was clear that there was some serious rigging of the results. A reporter from the Queens Chronicle was present for the proceedings and filed the following story:

Did Parks rig reservoir survey?
by Michael Lanza, Assistant Editor


The skewed results of a public survey presented last Tuesday is leading many Ridgewood Reservoir advocates to ask: is the Parks Department stuffing the ballot box?

Parks’ announcement of the results of a 253-person survey — which indicated a strong preference for replacing the reservoir basins with active recreational facilities — came as the city agency simultaneously presented data from public hearings showing overwhelming community support for preserving the site in its natural state.

The sudden shift in support indicated by the survey sparked serious questions and outlandish charges among area preservationists.

“Parks used people that Parks felt were going to give them the answers that they wanted,” said Steven Fiedler, a Community Board 5 member and reservoir preservation advocate.

But a recent disclosure by the Parks Department suggests that allegations refuting the poll’s integrity may have merit.

Three out of four local groups enlisted to help distribute the survey — the Cypress Hills Local Development Corp., Brooklyn East Youth Sports and Recreation and East Brooklyn Congregations — are vocal advocates for replacing the basins with ballfields.

The fourth group, the George J. Walker Community Coalition, did not have a confirmed position as of press time.

At the center of the controversial survey is Bishop David Benke, the leader of East Brooklyn Congregations and a board member on the Cypress Hills Local Development Corp.

“Anybody with Benke is gonna go with ballfields,” Fiedler said. Benke has been among the most vocal advocates for ballfields — lobbying the City Council with a public presentation at City Hall earlier this year.

Representing his parish in Bushwick, the Lutheran minister argued that Highland Park is simply too far a trek for his followers. Artificial and natural barriers are forcing Bushwick residents around the reservoir to access Highland Park, which they say is already too crowded and poorly maintained. He argued that the third basin is filled with invasive plant species and that eight of the 51 acres at the reservoir could be set aside for community baseball fields.

“That 8 acres does not really need to be a nature reserve, there’s nothing in there that needs to be preserved,” Benke said “Let’s use that for some sort of active use.”

But even he acknowledged that Parks’ decision to solicit their groups undermined the survey’s integrity.

“They said, ‘we need some people to hand out these surveys,’” Benke said. “You could make your case. You could say there are questions about the validity of a survey handed out by people who have already taken a position.”

The minister — confident that another survey would show similar results — said he would support a new survey distributed by an independent group.

Parks officials did not respond to allegations of bias within the survey.

The reservoir’s declining condition has become the center of a battle between preservationists and developers in recent years.

City Comptroller Bill Thompson shot down proposals by Mayor Mike Bloomberg to convert the reservoir into a sports field last summer, citing the ecological importance of the space.

“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,” Thompson wrote, protesting the plan. “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.’”

Parks recently announced plans to slash development funds for the reservoir in its revised capital budget — cutting funds for Ridgewood Reservoir and Highland Park by more than half — from $48.8 million to $19.8 million. Approximately $7.7 million already allocated during phase one to restore lights and fencing around the reservoir will not be influenced by the cuts.

The cut was a mixed blessing for those who opposed razing the reservoir site to create ballfields — casting doubt on the most expensive of the propositions.

Three initial plans to develop the site included preserving the site as a natural habitat, filling in the reservoir basins and replacing them with baseball and soccer fields and a hybrid plan where only one of three basins — the largest one — would be converted into a recreational sporting area.

The reservoir, located on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, was created in 1848 to provide drinking water to Brooklyn. But it was converted to a back-up in 1959 and finally taken off-line in 1989. The site is now a natural haven for plants, turtles, fish, frogs and more than 137 bird species —including eight rare species on the National Audubon Society’s “Watch List.”

Parks department officials asserted that surveys were available at this year's listening sessions. Despite those claims, nobody from the Highland Park-Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance had ever been given the opportunity to fill one out ... and members of this group have been present at every meeting. Someone needs to ask the parks commissioner what was wrong with the original survey and why those results were discarded.

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