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

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Reservoir Bids Out

The following was just published in the Queens Ledger:

Bids go out on phase one Rez work
by Daniel Bush

The phase one redevelopment of Ridgewood Reservoir is moving forward, despite continued opposition from community leaders who want to see the plan tweaked.

The Parks Department will begin accepting bids for the $7.6 million project May 28, according to Steve Fiedler, chairman of Community Board Five's Parks Committee. He said construction is scheduled to begin in the fall, which gives the board a few more months to make its case.

“Hopefully we can get the Parks Department to realize the community doesn't like what's going on,” he said.

Phase one work includes new lighting, pathways, stairs, an ADA-compliant ramp, and a controversial four-foot fence around the three-basin reservoir on the Brooklyn-Queens border.

CB5, numerous elected officials, and community groups all support the creation of a taller six-foot perimeter fence to ward off vandals and an enclosed pedestrian bridge over Vermont Place, among other changes.

So far, the Parks Department has rejected the recommendations.

Parks told Fielder a taller fence would disturb views of the reservoir, but he pointed out that thick summer foliage does that anyway. “We don't believe the reason they gave holds any merit at all,” he said.

Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski caused a stir at a meeting last week when she announced that dozens of trees would be cut to accommodate phase one construction.

The work is part of a larger, $26 million redevelopment of the reservoir, which was decommissioned in 1989.

Read more: Queens Ledger - Bids go out on phase one Rez work

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reservoir Fencing

In a January 6th Daily News article, Kevin Quinn, director of Queens capital projects for the Parks Department, was quoted as saying that the historic fences at the reservoir needed to be removed because, the "spacing of the pickets no longer meets code as a guardrail." As far as I've been able to determine, the city's code requires that the spacing on railings be not more than 6".

There are two style of fences at the Ridgewood Reservoir. The first is a circa 1850s Hecla Ironworks fence that surrounds the central basin. In 2003, the department of parks had a replica of that fence created for the Central Park reservoir. The cost for the reproduction was $2 million. Here is a parks department 2003 press release about that installation. Welding Works, the company that built the fence received an industry award for the project.

The parks department was more than happy to spend $2 million to create a copy of the Ridgewood Reservoir fencing for Central Park. The same agency now wants to tear down the original, historic ones in Ridgewood for something that doesn't even try to look like a period piece. Why do you suppose they would do that?

Below is a series of photos which compare the replica fence around the Central Park Reservoir with the existing historic fence at the Ridgewood Reservoir.

Below are photos of a slightly newer design fence that was installed around basin #3 at the Ridgewood Reservoir. The parks department actually removed a section of the fencing to block off access to the path between basins 2 and 3. It's curious that they would go through so much trouble, yet leave a large opening at the left edge of the fence. I guess they didn't really want to stop people from entering the pathway.

These are photos that show the measurements of the new fence, including the space between the pickets. This fence also seems to fall within the 6" spacing requirement.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Forum West Article

The following just appeared in the "Forum West":

State Delays Reservoir Redevelopment
Parks Explains Need to Cut Down 65 Trees for Phase One
By Conor Greene

While the city Parks Department is prepared to move forward with its phase one redevelopment of Ridgewood Reservoir, it appears that the second phase - which will determine the future use of the property - is on hold as the state decides whether the land should be designated a wetland.

As has been reported, the state Department of Environmental Conservation is currently investigating whether to classify the property on the Queens-Brooklyn border, which contains three basins, as wetlands. Doing so would complicate the Parks Department’s proposed plans for the site, which range from keeping it entirely natural to building ball fields in one of the basins.

“The determination to regulate an area is based on its characteristics and functions as a wetland,” wrote DEC spokesman Thomas Panzone. “In the years since the reservoir was decommissioned, the basins, or part of the basins, have developed some wetland characteristics such as seasonally or permanently wet areas and wetland-dependant vegetation.”

Panzone added that the agency’s investigation comes as a result of a request to map the reservoir as a wetland. That request was made by the public through local elected officials, according to activists that have been lobbying for the site to be kept in its natural state.

Those activists, including David Quintana of Ozone Park, were surprised to learn this week that Parks plans to cut down 65 trees as part of phase one. That aspect of the project, estimated at $7.6 million, includes new lighting and fencing along the perimeter of the basins and better handicap accessibility.

Parks says that, of the 65 trees, nine are dead and the remaining 56 are invasive species, have weak root systems or are compromising existing infrastructure. Three are being removed to create the ADA path. A parks spokeswoman added that “all of our plans for phase one were approved by all the appropriate agencies, and we will continue working with them as we move forward to develop this site.”

Quintana and others who attended a recent Queens Civic Congress meeting on parks say they were also surprised by comments made by borough Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski regarding the potential wetlands designation. According to several in attendance, she suggested the site might not qualify for wetland designation because the basins are not large enough individually, and would have to be connected to meet the size standards.

The DEC said that while wetland designation is normally based on size, “under certain circumstances other factors can be considered.”

There was also talk the DEC might instead classify the site a dam, which could require stripping the basins of vegetation, according to several attendees. The DEC noted that, while the Ridgewood Reservoir system contains a dam, it “can be managed in a number of reasonable ways.” Panzone added, “DEC is not aware of any proposal for stripping the basins and has not issued any such order.”

When asked about Lewandowski’s comments that the DEC is looking at it as a dam, the Parks spokeswoman responded, “That is not what the commissioner said and there is no discussion or plans of stripping the basins. As mentioned in the [prior] statement, the conditions on the site are being reviewed.”

Parks had been set to present three options for phase two to local community boards earlier this year, but that was delayed by the possible DEC intervention and wetland classification. Those pushing for the site to remain natural say they are hopeful the state’s involvement will prevent the city from building ball fields on the property.

“I think DEC is going to stall them, and that should be a long process,” said Quintana.

Steven Fiedler, who attended the meeting as a member of the Juniper Park Civic Association, said there is another complicating factor aside from the potential wetland investigation. He says there are two 46-inch pipes on Seneca Avenue and Vermont Place that the DEC wants sealed before any phase two work moves forward.

“That’s a huge undertaking that sets phase two back,” said Fiedler, who also chairs Community Board 5’s Parks Committee. “In my opinion, you are not going to see it for five years.”

Gary Giordano, district manager of CB 5, echoed the sentiment that state involvement is a good thing. “Whatever the technicalities of classification are, speaking for myself, and I think for some board members too, I’m hopeful that with the state DEC being involved, there is more of a likelihood that the reservoir basins will remain in very much a natural state,” he said.

Giordano added that he doesn’t expect to see any phase two plans in the near future. “I don’t think they are going to show anything, even to the community boards, until [the DEC investigation is complete] because one of the options may be an issue with DEC if it is to put ball fields in one of the basins,” he said. “I would think that certainly would be an issue with DEC. Sometimes more is less, and I don’t think anyone on our board wants to see those ball fields in the basins.”

A number of elected officials have thrown their support behind keeping the site dedicated for passive recreation, including Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven).

“It’s a positive thing to keep the basin as wetlands,” he said in a statement. “My colleagues and I are doing our part to prevent development of the reservoir. Here in Queens, unpaved and undeveloped land is becoming increasingly hard to find, which is why it is important to protect these beautiful areas we still have left.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Queens Parks Commissioner Bombshell

The following report was sent to me by a member of Queens Community Board 5:

Tonight the Queens Civic Congress held a civic roundtable about Parks. Queens Parks Commissioner [Dorothy] Lewandowski and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito were to attend. [Dorothy] made it but Melissa "had business to attend to in Atlanta." Queens Coalition for Parks and Green Space Chair Fred Kress was also a panelist.

David Quintana, Henry Euler and Steve Fiedler from the Ridgewood Reservoir group were in the audience. A number of park questions were posed to Commissioner Lewandowski by the moderator, Kim O'Hanion, but none were about the future of the reservoir. Then she opened it up to questions from the audience.

David Quintana was called on and asked Ms. Lewandowski why she was not being straightforward about the Parks Dept's plan to cut down about 100 mature trees during phase 1 which is scheduled to start this Fall. That's right - 65 trees will be removed around the edge of the basins and 35 near the Jackie Robinson Parkway to allow for a handicapped entrance. [Dorothy] replied that the trees being cut down were more like weeds that had implanted themselves in the walls of the basins and would have to be removed anyway. She said that a forester was consulted and approved the removal of each tree.

Quintana pressed on about the DEC possibly declaring the area as a wetland. Lewandowski replied that the DEC has not declared it a wetland because they would have to consider each basin individually and that each basin is not large enough to be designated. She claimed those are the rules and expressed confidence that the reservoir will not be declared a wetland for that reason showing no concern whatsoever about the diverse life found within the basins.

Later on, Henry Euler asked about whether budget cuts would affect the plans for phase 1. She responded that the money was still there for phase 1 and again said that the Parks Dept planned to move ahead with it in coming months. She said they were also ready to present their 3 plans for phase 2 to the Community Boards, but that the DEC stepped in and said they were investigating whether the reservoir could be classified as a dam and not a wetland. She claimed that if the DEC does classify the reservoir as a dam, then all three basins would have to be denuded of vegetation in order to prepare them to receive water again. She claimed that Parks is working hard to ensure that doesn't happen.

Her entire explanation made no sense and does not jibe with the statements that DEC released to the press when asked about the issue. Two attendees sitting in front of me turned around and suggested that she had been making these things up as she went along.

Note that this was a public meeting and although there were no members of the press there, everyone was taking notes and she will have a hard time denying what she said should a reporter question her about this.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Another Wetlands Story

The "Leader/Observer" just published the following story about possible wetlands designation for the reservoir:

State's wetlands investigation comes after years of rapid change
by Matthew Bultman
May 11, 2010

The Ridgewood Reservoir was only decommissioned in 1989. So how is it possible that just two decades later the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is considering the site for potential wetlands status?

The answer says as much about the changing nature of New York City's landscape as it does about the possible struggle between the Bloomberg Administration and the state over control of the reservoir, where a wetlands designation could impinge on city plans for a $26 million upgrade.

The reservoir could be ripe for wetlands designation today precisely because of its rapid transformation over the past 20 years, said DEC spokesman Thomas Panzone.

“In the years since the reservoir was decommissioned, the basins, or parts of the basins, have developed some wetland characteristics such as seasonally or permanently wet areas and wetland-dependent vegetation,” Panzone said in an email.

There are currently 21 designated wetlands in Queens consisting of a total of 260 acres, or less than one percent of the total land in the borough. The DEC defines a wetland as a transition area between uplands and aquatic habitats. While standing water is often a sign of a wetland, it doesn’t have to be present in order for a wetland to exist.

Wetlands are valuable in the sense they provide the community with a variety of services, including flood and storm control, as well as a productive wildlife habitat. The reservoir is currently home to over 100 species of birds, many of which may be in danger if the wetland were altered.

Panzone said the final decision of whether or not to label the area as a wetland will rest upon the basic characteristics of the reservoir's basins and whether or not they match the criteria set by the DEC for qualification as a wetland.

The DEC is continuing to gather information on the basins to determine whether or not it meets that criteria.

The city's $26 million upgrade would involve building a recreation area over a portion of the reservoir's third basin, a move that is unpopular with local residents and preservationists.

But Panzone said the city’s plan was not the reason for the DEC’s wetland designation investigation. “The DEC has received letters of concern about the Ridgewood Reservoir over the past couple years,” Panzone said. “This included a request to designate the area as a wetland.”

Panzone said a wetlands designation might not interfere with the city's plans, depending on what the city intends to do with the site.

“The Freshwater Wetlands Act and regulations are designed to ensure that activities within a 100-foot ‘adjacent area’ around a wetland do not result in harm to wetland functions and values,” Panzone said. “Public park-related activities can often be designed carefully enough to be compatible with these legal standards.”

He said that a specific timetable for a decision by the DEC has not been made.

“In the meantime, however,” he said, “the DEC has communicated to the Department of Parks and Recreations its interest in the area and the advisability of considering designs that will protect the natural resources in the area.”

The 50-acre Ridgewood Reservoir on the Brooklyn-Queens border was an active water source until 1959. It served as a backup reservoir for Queens and Brooklyn until it was decommissioned three decades later.

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Friday, May 7, 2010

More About Wetlands Protection

The following just appeared in the New York Daily News:

Debate over wetlands stalls Ridgewood Reservoir fixup

By Lisa L. Colangelo
Friday, May 7th 2010, 4:00 AM

William C. Thompson walks through the Ridgewood Reservoir with preservation community member Rob Jett, talking about the importance of preserving and maintain the area.

Koester for News

Plans to redevelop the Ridgewood Reservoir site are on hold while state officials decide whether it should be designated a wetlands area.

The city Parks Department had been poised to unveil three potential redesigns for the site. But officials said that won't happen until the state Department of Environmental Conservation makes its decision.

"The DEC has received letters of concern about the Ridgewood Reservoir over the past couple of years, including a request to designate the area as a wetland," said DEC spokeswoman Maureen Wren.

"More information is being gathered to determine whether or not it meets criteria for state mapping as a wetland," she said.

The decommissioned reservoir, which straddles the Brooklyn-Queens border, is made up of three basins on 50 acres of land.

Nature has reclaimed the site and the basins are filled with various trees, mosses and wetland plants.

The city has been mulling plans to transform the area into a park and possibly place much-needed sports fields on the grounds.

But local residents and elected officials have been lobbying to keep the reservoir a wild nature preserve.

"The community has said all along that this is wetlands and it should be protected," said David Quintana, a local activist. "The money they are wasting on designs and other things should go toward renovating the fields that exist at Highland Park."

Parks officials said this week they are pushing ahead with plans to fix perimeter paths and lighting around the reservoir.

"We're working closely with the city Department of Environmental Protection and state Department of Environmental Conservation to investigate conditions on the site," the Parks Department said in a statement. "The environmental considerations at this site have been taken into account since the start of the project."

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

New Page

Save Ridgewood Reservoir is now on Facebook.

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Times Newsweekly Article

The following article appeared in Times Newsweekly:

State Agency Eyes Ridgewood Reservoir As Possible Wetland
First Phase Of Project Moves Forward
by Robert Pozarycki

Though the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is considering instituting wetland status to the Ridgewood Reservoir on the Brooklyn/Queens border, the New York City Parks Department maintains that the first phase of improvements to the site will be moving as scheduled.

According to a DEC statement sent to the Times Newsweekly, the agency is currently reviewing the 55- acre site adjacent to the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Vermont Place as a possible “state-regulated freshwater wetland.” If the site is given that designation, the state DEC would have the authority to review any potential activities at the reservoir and require permits for any specific improvements.

In a statement, the Parks Department indicated that the agency has been working closely with the DEC and the city Department of Environmental Protection “to investigate conditions on the site,” adding that “[t]he environmental conditions at this site have been taken into account since the start of the project.”

Even with the DEC review underway, the Parks Department noted that it intends to start the first phase of improvements to the Ridgewood Reservoir beginning this fall. The work includes the installation of new fenc- ing around the former basins as well, new lighting as improvements to the pathway around the perimeter of the site.

The agency’s review has become a cause of concern for those close to the project. Gary Giordano, district manager of Queens Community Board 5, told the Times Newsweekly that he would contact state and city officials in the weeks ahead to ascertain further information regarding the DEC’s concerns and how the Parks Department will move forward with improvements.

Plans for the redevelopment of the Ridgewood Reservoir as a public park have been the subject of much controversy since 2004, the year when Mayor Michael Bloomberg transferred control of the property from the DEP to the Parks Department.

Defunct since 1989, the reservoir has naturally evolved over the last two decades to become a habitat for various plant and wildlife. The center basin of the reservoir’s three chambers remains filled with water and resembles a natural lake.

As part of its PlaNYC 2030 master plan, the city announced in 2007 that it would redevelop the Ridgewood Reservoir as well as the adjacent Highland Park, making it one of eight “regional parks” around the city. Initial plans called for one of the reservoir’s three basins to be cleared and developed with new ball fields and play areas.

Community activists voiced opposition to the plans, observing that the reservoir should remain at a nature preserve and that ball fields at Highland Park should be improved instead. Numerous community meetings were held by the Parks Department over the last several years, gathering opinions from residents in both Brooklyn and Queens.

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