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

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Daily News Article

The following article just appeared in the New York Daily News. It appears that, from the parks department's comments, that they have considerably tempered their publicly declared plans for the reservoir. You can leave your comments on the Daily News website.

As you read the article keep in mind that Highland Park, which encloses the Ridgewood Reservoir, already has the following, poorly maintained facilities:

2 playgrounds
2 comfort stations
6 ballfields
2 bocce courts
4 horseshoe pits
8 handball courts
13 tennis courts
8 basketball courts
1 children's garden.

In addition, there is a 1 1/4 mile running path around the outside of the reservoir. Note that all of the 60 street lights for illuminating the path are broken and have been for many years.

Parks Dept. floats $500M [sic] restoration proposal, but critics want it left alone

By John Lauinger
Daily News Staff Writer

Sunday, January 13th 2008, 4:00 AM

The Ridgewood Reservoir could one day feature a lighted bicycle loop, an environmental learning center and "meandering meadows," much like Central Park, a top Parks Department official said last week.

Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said those options are being considered as part of a potential $50 million restoration of the heavily wooded former reservoir that straddles the Brooklyn-Queens border.

Yet even as Lewandowski said Parks planners are trying to balance passive and active forms of recreation into "a model that doesn't in any way damage the environment," the agency's own hired consultants warned against any "major disturbances" of what is one of the city's last remaining swaths of untamed woodland.

"Most important to maintaining and enhancing the biotic integrity of the Ridgewood Reservoir is preventing any major disturbances of the otherwise intact forest and other ecosystems," concluded a draft environmental report prepared for the Parks Department by Round Mountain Ecological LLC of New Jersey.

The report - a copy of which was obtained by the Daily News - calls the reservoir "highly significant for the biodiversity of New York City and the region," and said it is home to at least seven endangered bird species and three endangered plant species.

"Why would New York City, which is now taking this green approach to everything, want to destroy that?" asked Christina Wilkinson, president of the Newtown Historical Society, which formed the Ridgewood Reservoir Education and Preservation Project. "It doesn't make any sense."

The 50-acre site served the city as an active water source until 1959, and as a backup water source for Queens and Brooklyn until 1989. In the two decades since it was closed, it has regenerated into a rare urban forest.

City Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) agreed the city should not "alter what nature has created over the years."

"We really cannot re-create what nature has done at the reservoir," he said.

Addabbo, who serves on the Council's parks committee, said money would be better spent upgrading adjacent Highland Park.

Lewandowski acknowledged "there is not a defined plan at this point," and said public comment could take place at community board meetings in Queens and Brooklyn this spring.

While the topography and ecology of two of the three reservoir basins makes them unsuitable for development, she said, an 11-acre portion of the West Basin could be developed for active recreation.

"Think of it in terms of Central Park or Prospect Park, where you have these beautiful, naturalistic locations that are tucked in within an [Frederick Law] Olmsted landscape," she said. "So you have these meandering meadows that people can walk on, you can bring a blanket, you can sun, you can play ball informally or formally."

She would not say what type of active recreation is being considered.

Ron Bourque, a member of the conservation committee of the New York City Audubon Society, said breaching the basin's thick perimeter wall to allow for development would be expensive.

"Preserving the natural areas and doing things based on that would be more economical and would make a lot more sense," he said.

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