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

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summary of Wetland Delineation

Last year Micky Cohen, a Certified Wetlands Delineator, surveyed the Ridgewood Reservoir and surrounding environs. Here is a brief section of his final report. You can download and view his entire summary here.


The 50-acre reservoir complex consists essentially of three containment basins, generally referred to as the West, East and Central Basins, separated from one another by elevated levees, which serve as walking paths, and access routes to each of the basins. Although officially drained, the basins still contain water and support a variety of aquatic and emergent plants. The basin fringes support a mixed flora of herbs, shrubs and vines typical of wetland and wetland-adjacent uplands. At elevations of just two feet above the level of standing water, extending to and including the steep sides of the reservoir area, are developing woodlands at various stages of succession.


The West Basin is the largest of the three basins. The northern section is dominated by upland shrubs and trees, giving way to wetlands, confined mostly to the southern half of basin. It was pointed out in the Round Mountain report (2007) that at least three New York threatened and/or endangered herbaceous species had been found in this area (not observed during the February 2009 delineation)

The East Basin contains a significant wetland area confined to southern portion of the basin. Further north in the East Basin is a classic northern wetland and wetland-adjacent woodland, carpeted, to a large extent by Hair-cap moss, Polytrichum. The entire East Basin is unusual in its display of diverse native flora. There are, however, major patches of a variety of invasive species (including Mugwort, Phragmites, Ailanthus, Oriental Bittersweet), posing a threat to the continued development of the native forms. {see INVASIVE SPECIES, below.}

The Central Basin. Surrounded by Giant Reed, Phragmites australis, inhibiting further investigation and comment.

The special attributes of the Ridgewood Reservoir demand that after lying fallow since the basins were drained, over twenty years ago, the established wetlands, developing upland woodlands, and open grassy areas be given the protection they require for proper natural ecological succession. The removal of invasive species and replanting with appropriate native forms, while laborious, requires a greater level of commitment than skill and surely lends itself to the volunteer efforts of a cadre of neighborhood protectors and armies of volunteers from well known social and environmental groups.

Adaptive reuse, other than conservation, has been recommended for the area now occupied by the Ridgewood Reservoir. Athletic facilities, including ball fields covered by artificial turf, and stadia have been mentioned. It must be pointed out, however, that Highland Park, a New York City Park, contiguous with the Ridgewood Reservoir, is currently equipped with several ball fields, a grandstand, restroom facilities, a parking area and dressing rooms -- all underutilized and in a deplorable state of decay.


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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Appeal For Protection

Below is a letter from the President of the Ridgewood Reservoir/Highland Park Alliance. He is appealing to all those interested in protecting the habitats at the reservoir to write to the New York State Department of Conservation (click letter for full size):

Here are some important facts to include in your letter:

• Ridgewood Reservoir is the highest point in the Jamaica Bay watershed. The reservoir and its environmentally significant attributes should be incorporated into the ongoing planning for the Jamaica Bay Watershed plan.

• Ridgewood Reservoir is the highest point in the Newtown Creek sewershed and protects Newtown Creek from Combined Sewage Overflow.

• The site’s ponds and wetlands are key storm water filters.

• The site’s vegetation and wetlands help to mitigate Urban Heat Island Effect.

• New York City law 71 requires protection of the city’s wetlands

• The basins contain diverse ecologies: fresh water wetlands, mesic and wet forest and successional open fields. Three-quarters of the acreage is wetland or ecotonal habitat.

• The site is developing a mature canopy forest with some strong native plant presence. Plant species include three with a Conservation Status of either Endangered or Threatened in New York State.

• Bog-like open areas and forest fringes are unique within New York City. Large freshwater wetlands are uncommon in our region and provide critical habitat for native birds, mammals and amphibians.

• A stopover for migratory songbirds and seasonal shorebirds, it is also home to a variety of non-migratory and breeding birds.

• To date over 150 species of birds have been recorded. (See the Cornell eBird website here)

- The species list includes 7 birds with conservation status in New York State of Endangered, Threatened or Special Concern.

- An additional 7 species of birds were observed that are on the most recent Audubon Watchlist. All seven birds were listed in the yellow category, which designates species that are either declining or rare. These are typically species of national conservation concern.

• The habitat at the reservoir also provides important breeding habitat.
- 18 species have been confirmed to breed there.
- 17 are probable nesters.
- 3 additional species possibly nest at the reservoir.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

John Lui Supports Community

The following is a recent article from the Queens Tribune:

Reservoir Plan Foes Get Big Ally
Queens Tribune, 6/10/10

The Parks Departments planned renovation of the former Ridgewood Reservoir may be on life support after local activists opposed to the plan got a powerful ally, City Comptroller John Liu.

Some activists, including members of Community Board 5, have come out against a plan to renovate the site of the defunct reservoir. Though no plans have been finalized, the renovations could include athletic fields and new parkland. The reservoir, which became inactive in 1989, has since become a natural swampland and many locals want to keep it that way. They met with Liu last week, asking him to freeze contracts awarded in relation to the renovation of the site, which Liu hinted he might do.

"We"re working to figure out a way to make sure the project addresses the concerns, and meets the needs of the community, Liu said. Even in a city like New York, there are many opportunities to preserve natural environments."

The Parks Department renovations would include the removal of dozens of decades-old trees and a century old fence, according to Community Board 5's Parks Committee.

The Ridgewood Reservoir sits between Ridgewood, Glendale and Cypress Hills, Brooklyn right on the border of Queens and Brooklyn just south of the Jackie Robinson Parkway. It was constructed in 1856 and was used for 133 years as a location to store the back-up water supply for Brooklyn and Queens.

Since closing, the 58-acre site has become a natural marshland teeming with wildlife.

Reach Reporter Domenick Rafter at or (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125.
--Domenick Rafter

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Monday, June 14, 2010

New Quick Link

You can now download our most recent handout from the "Quick Links" sections to the right.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Stop Work Order?

The following was just published in the Times Newsweekly:

A Red Light on Park Project?
Stop Work Order Sought For Ridgewood Reservoir Rehab
by Ralph Mancini

The co-chair of Community Board 5’s Parks Committee announced during the panel’s May 24 meeting at Principe Park in Maspeth that he would seek a stop work order barring the start of the first phase of the renovations to the Ridgewood Reservoir.

Steven Fiedler told attendees that the panel would seek to halt plans by the Parks Department to install new lighting and fencing around the perimeter of the 55-acre site on the Brooklyn/Queens border, which the city plans to transform along with adjacent Highland Park into a new regional park.

According to Fiedler, the main point of contention centers around the proposed installation of a 4’-high fence surrounding the site, which he charged would not be tall enough to keep potential vandals and other trespassers out of the basins. Reportedly, the work would also require the removal of several trees.

Concerns about the height of the fencing were brought to the attention of Queens Borough Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, but Fiedler charged that his opinions were not well received.

“She won’t listen and she catches an attitude,” he claimed regarding his past attempts to reach out to Lewandowski about his gripes with the project, which is scheduled to commence in the fall.

The Parks Department is reportedly in the process of receiving bids for phase one work, which would include the installation of stairs and an ADA-compliant ramp.

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State Senator Support

The following article just appeared in the Glendale Register:

For Addabbo, No Town Hall is Too Small
by Daniel Bush, Queens Ledger

All politics is local all the time for State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who held another yet another town hall-style meeting, this one at I.S. 93 in Ridgewood.

Only three dozen residents braved the heat to hear Addabbo speak June 3, but the longtime elected official, who clearly relishes such meetings, appeared unmoved by the low turnout.

After losing his suit jacket (the tie stayed on), Addabbo jumped into a host of issues, from the Ridgewood Reservoir to the census to the elections this fall.

Community residents are battling the city over its plan to redevelop part of the Ridgewood Reservoir, the slice of overgrown wilderness on the Brooklyn-Queens border. Without referencing the Parks Department specifically, Addabbo said he opposes plans to build in the area.

I am not in favor of any construction being done at the Ridgewood Reservoir,” he said.

A group of opponents recently met with Comptroller John Liu's office in a bid to block the city's plan, which Liu could do by freezing the Parks contract for the project.

Phase one work would upgrade pathways, fencing, and lighting around the three-basin reservoir, which is also being eyed by the state for possible protection. More controversial still is a proposed phase two plan that could include recreational fields for the reservoir's third basin.

Residents say the city should improve the ball fields at Highland Park, just steps from the reservoir, and leave the space as a nature preserve. Addabbo echoed that feeling.

“I love parkland and playgrounds, but I'm not going to destroy nature for another playground” when Highland Park is right nearby, he said.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Times Ledger Article

The following article just appeared in the Times Ledger:

Reservoir Plans in Limbo
Ridgewood project delayed more than a year by city Parks Dept.
By Chauncey Alcorn
Thursday, June 3, 2010 9:11 AM EDT

Queens park officials last year were scheduled to begin phase one of renovating the former Ridgewood Reservoir, but more than a year later no construction has begun and those same officials Tuesday said that is not going to change anytime soon.

The city Parks Department and Ridgewood residents have battled for years over what to do with the former reservoir, located in Highland Park, which was built in 1856 and used until 1989 to store a back-up water supply for Brooklyn and Queens.

Presently, the site, three wooded basins totaling at least 58 acres, is filled with wildlife, including 100 bird species, according to Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5, which wants the city to leave the reservoir alone.

“Why take a natural place and make it into ballfields when you have ballfields that aren’t being taken care of right nearby in the same park?” he asked. “Thankfully, the mayor had a vision five years ago for a nature preserve and got this project funded with millions of dollars .... If the mayor didn’t have the vision environmentally to do something with the reservoir, that project would never have gotten done.”

But the project has not been completed. Years later, in fact, it has not even begun.

The Queens Parks Department last year hosted a series of meetings with community residents in Ridgewood and Glendale to find out what they want to happen with the reservoir and it became apparent the communities were divided over whether to make it into park space, a natural reserve or a combination of the two.

“None of that stuff has been decided yet,” Queens Parks spokeswoman Trish Bertuccio said.

But the department did decide to move forward with phase one of the project, improving safety measures, which includes repairing concrete stairs in the reservoir, widening turns in the perimeter path, installing or repairing lighting along the path and building an observation path on a causeway between two of the three basins.

Phase one also included building a perimeter fence around the basin, but city officials and the community board disagree on how tall the fence should be.

“We’ve had issues as far as phase one of the project goes with regards to the Parks Department only wanting a 4-foot fence for a good portion of the reservoir perimeter,” Giordano said. “We don’t think a 4-foot fence is tall enough to keep out the vandals.”

Indecision aside, a Parks official said the phase one proposal first must be approved by city Comptroller John Liu before the project can move forward and that has not happened yet.

“I think it’s safe to say a minimum of six months before anything actually gets on the ground, but that all depends on if the comptroller actually signs off on it and other things,” the official said Tuesday.

After the plan is signed, it must go up for a construction bid.

“Usually the bid cycle lasts about three months. Then we will approve them and that might take another three months,” the official said.

That means the project proposed no later than 2005 is not likely to begin until around December or later, but Giordano said that is not a problem.

“Sometimes it’s worth waiting a little longer to do a better job as opposed to doing something wrong and having to redo it,” he said. “It’s usually better to have it done the first time.”

Reach Reporter Chauncey Alcorn by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Daily News Article

The following just appeared in the New York Daily News:

Locals want new Ridgewood Reservoir plan
By Lisa L. Colangelo

Tuesday, June 1st 2010, 9:33 AM

LOCAL ACTIVISTS unhappy with a Parks Department plan to fix up the area surrounding the Ridgewood Reservoir are hoping city Controller John Liu will champion their cause.

They met with members of Liu's staff last week and asked them to freeze a Parks contract on the project unless changes are made.

"We're working to figure out a way to make sure the project addresses the concerns, and meets the needs of the community," Liu said in a statement. "Even in a city like New York, there are many opportunities to preserve natural environments."

Parks officials are still deciding how to turn the decommissioned reservoir - which has naturally devolved into a swampy oasis of green on the Brooklyn-Queens border - into a park. Many community activists and elected officials have said they want the spot to remain wild while others said some of the space should be used for recreational fields.

During his tenure as controller, William Thompson held up contracts until the city agreed to reconsider plans for the site.

The first phase of the project includes fixing up walkways, fencing and lighting, along with a new handicapped-accessible ramp.

But Steve Fiedler, chairman of Community Board 5's parks committee, said that plan would require the removal of dozens of trees and discard 100-year-old historic fencing.

And instead of creating a new ramp near busy Vermont Place, Fiedler and others said the city should fix up an existing ramp on the other side of the reservoir or build an overhead ramp.

"Look at how hard it is to get across," Fiedler said as he tried to cross the street during a recent visit to the site with other supporters.

"It also doesn't make sense to place a 4-foot fence around this," he said. "You really need a 6-foot fence."

Parks officials pointed out only three trees would be removed to create the ramp.

"The first phase of the Ridgewood Reservoir enhancements were extensively discussed with the community and vetted by Queens Community Board 5 in July 2009," said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. "This phase is essential because it will address security, lighting and improve access to the park."

She also said that only "invasive species that are compromising the infrastructure and threatening the delicate biodiversity of the reservoir" will be removed.

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