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

Monday, December 3, 2007

Meeting at Oak Ridge

Last week, on November 28th, the department of parks had a meeting at their Forest Park headquarters. The breakfast meeting was attended by several people in our group, as well as, Jennifer Manley (Queens Director of the Community Affairs Unit for Mayor Bloomberg's office) and representatives from Senator Maltese office, Assemblyman Darryl Towns office, Queens Community Board 5, The New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, Juniper Park Civic Association, The Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association and Partnerships for Parks. There were a few people present that I didn't get to meet, so forgive me if I omitted any groups. The meeting was organized by Forest Park and Highland Park administrator Deborah Kuha and was motivated by parks perception of "miscommunication" regarding the Ridgewood Reservoir plans.

Representing the department of parks were Jonna Carmona-Graf (Capital Projects), Deborah Kuha (Administrator for Forest Park and Highland Park), Dorothy Lewandowski (Queens Commissioner of Parks), Kevin Quinn (Capital Projects) and Josephine Scalia (Landscape Coordinator, Forest Park).

The meeting began with Ms. Lewandowski making some opening remarks, which included pointing out that I was the person who created "the video". I'm not quite sure why that was necessary, but whatever. She asked that we go around the room and introduce ourselves and our affiliations. Kevin Quinn then gave a PowerPoint presentation that began with the history of the Ridgewood Reservoir and ended with the New York City Department of Parks ideas for the future of the 50 acres. It was a very thorough presentation that also gave preliminary information obtained from an ecological assessment report being prepared for the city by Round Mountain Ecological LLC. Included in that segment of the slideshow was the recognition that basin 1 and basin 3 contained several endangered species of plants.

The final slide of the presentation was divided into sections; an opening list of priorities followed by three columns - Option 1, Option 2 and Option 3. The options ranged from leaving the basins as nature preserves (Option 1) to Option 3, which would be the most disruptive to the reservoirs and include turning basin 3 into active recreational facilities.

Kevin Quinn opened with the aforementioned graphic by stating that certain items were "givens", things that would happen regardless of the option chosen. Included in the list of "givens" was the breaching of Basin 3, in a location opposite the parking lot, exactly where I had described in a previous posting. When I asked about the fact the basin 3 would be breached not matter what, I received explanations from both Ms. Lewandowski and Ms. Carmona-Graf that didn't make a lot of sense to me, but included the concept that they were just exploring ideas. I replied that if it was just something that was being explored, shouldn't it be moved from the top list to the options list. I didn't get a good feeling about the responses. It also didn't make a lot of sense to me that parks recognizes the existence of endangered plant species in sections of basin 3, but all drawings indicating possible recreational facilities in that basin have it butting right up against that section of forest. I'm not sure those plants would be around for very long once any construction began. I also addressed the use of the word "miscommunication". Commissioner Benepe used the word at a recent presentation for New York City Audubon in reference to this group's concerns and activities. I pointed out to Commissioner Lewandowski that we were merely responding to public statements and documents from the Department of Parks and Recreation. One such document is the department of parks "Open Space Report" for PlanNYC 2030. Regarding the Ridgewood Reservoir it states, "the largest will be transformed into a 60-acre active recreation center." I'm still not sure how they plan to do that considering the entire parcel is only 50 acres and the largest basin 26 acres.

Unfortunately, there were times during the presentation when questions from the audience became fervent and somewhat adversarial. For the most part, I think that the people who put together the meeting were sincere in their desire to have our group work with parks. Unfortunately, given the current Department of Parks and Recreation's reputation for misleading the public about capital projects, I think we should remain open minded but vigilant. At one point during the question and answer period, Ms. Carmona-Graf was asked if any development would occur in basins 1 and 2. Her response was, "I'm thinking that nothing will be happening with basins 1 and 2." How about a "yes" or "no".

Click here to watch a video on Washington Square Park.

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parnell said...
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parnell said...
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