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

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Arborcide in Inwood Hill Park

On March 16th the "New York Daily News" published an article about trees in Inwood Hill Park. Apparently, someone had gone into the forest with an axe and illegally, chopped down a stand of cedar trees. It was a despicable act that really made me angry, but like many people, 24 hours after reading the article, I had all but forgotten about the incident. When the following letter to the editor was posted, it gave me pause to think:

She speaks for the trees


Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe blames a "serial tree killer" for chopping down 30 cedars at Inwood Hill Park. Benepe is responsible for felling 11 mature trees in Washington Square Park as part of a redesign. He proposes to kill 14 trees in Union Square Park to make room for a restaurant. Thousands of trees are scheduled to die at Ridgewood Reservoir/Highland Park when the city puts in artificial turf. This makes me wonder: Who determines who is a "serial tree killer"?

Cathryn Swan

Ms. Swan's comments made me think about Commissioner Benepe's competence with regard to his legal obligations as commissioner of parks. The New York City Chart, Chapter 21 (Department of Parks and Recreation), Section 533, subdivision a-4 begins with, "to plant and maintain trees". In the same subdivision, under a-10, includes the sentence, "to plan, conduct, supervise, coordinate and promote conservation, environmental, and nature education programs and research and demonstration projects relating thereto and to plan, acquire, design, construct, improve, alter, maintain and manage areas and facilities for conservation and the preservation of natural beauty." The next section, a-11, begins, "to plan, plant and maintain trees and other plantings." In addition to these obvious responsibilities is the commissioner's oversight of The City of New York Parks & Recreation, Natural Resources Group. According the the city's website, "the Natural Resources Group is responsible for the acquisition, protection, restoration, and management of remnant and restored natural areas within the 28,000 acres of City parkland." I imagine that it must be very difficult to carry out that mission when it appears that your boss has little regard for trees in New York City.

More about this later.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Going Green Event

We quickly pooled our resources and, in just 3 days, put together a table for the "Going Green in Queens 2008" event. About a dozen Ridgewood Reservoir Education & Preservation Project members were in attendance to answers questions and network with city agencies and other associations. Some of our members were also there on behalf of other groups.

Dave, Gary and Heidi spoke with Queens Commissioner of Parks Lewandowski. When questioned about the current state of the parks department's plans for the reservoir, she told them that "the contract for the design of the reservoir has not yet been registered". She also said that they have not applied for any permits because there is no design and that she didn't know what is holding things up.

Dave and Heidi spoke to the Deputy Commissioner for Enforcement in NYC Parks, Kevin Jeffrey, about the ATV problem at the reservoir. Mr. Jeffrey explained that there are only 130 Parks Enforcement Officers for all of the city's parks. He said that they didn't have the man-power to have a car sitting there waiting for the ATVs. The ATVs show up every Saturday and Sunday at noon, so I guess that fact never made it back to his office. One would presume that by telling the information to the park's administrator, queens parks commissioner and commander of the 74th precinct, plus, printing it on this blog that it would make it's way to the enforcement patrols. There have also been regular calls from residences living near the park.

On a positive note, the DEC had information about Environmental Justice Community Impact Research Grants. There are lots of other grants that would be available to the group that we will be looking into.

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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Law Enforcement Follow-up

Ed K., one of our members, has been working closely with local law enforcement regarding issues at Highland Park and Ridgewood Reservoir. He sent me a recent follow-up.

In an email from Deputy Inspector Green (104th precinct) he reiterated that he is collaborating with the CO of the 75th precinct in Brooklyn regarding any offensive or criminal activity in the Ridgewood Reservoir & Highland Park area. He reported that, in addition to the February 2 incident I wrote about, when one ATV was seized and summonses were issued by the 75th Precinct, 2 ATV riders were arrested on February 16th at Highland Park by Parks Enforcement Patrol. It's about time. Good work by all those involved.

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Trees as a solution

Since this blog's inception, many of the postings have focused on the environmental benefits of the re-forested basins at Ridgewood Reservoir. After today, I will begin a series of entries on the historic significance of Highland Park and Ridgewood Reservoir. I welcome any information, family photographs, articles or links that you would like to share. Until then, here is an enlightening article from the Natural Resources Defense Council that was forwarded to me by a friend.

The Giving Trees
by Sharon Levy

February 29, 2008

For some people forests are measured in board-feet of lumber. For others they're a source of spiritual renewal. But scientists are finding that protecting ancient trees could also be an important new strategy in the fight against global warming.

I climb a long series of ladders that lead to nothing but sky. Wind hums in the struts of the metal tower around me, causing it to vibrate like a giant guitar string and carrying the scent of warm pinesap, which saturates the air of Oregon's East Cascades in late summer. As I move higher, I pass arrays of high-tech gear that swallow samples of air, then analyze the amount of carbon dioxide in each gulp.

You can read the article in its entirety here.

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Red-tailed Hawk letter

My friend Bruce maintains a weblog about urban Red-tailed Hawks. He received the following letter and photo through his blog and forwarded it to me. I just had to post it. Note her comment at the end about the increase in birds at the reservoir. It shows that even someone who isn't a trained biologist or birdwatcher is able to notice and appreciate the benefits of an urban forest:

From: Miss----
Date: February 23, 2008

Subject: Redtail Hawk In Highland Park Brooklyn


I really wanted to share this with someone but I didn't know with who...

I was trying to find a website in which people can go to when they see any song birds or birds of prey. I lived next to Highland park for approximately twenty-five years. The
past two years I've seen some hawks flying high. But, this past week I've seen a hawk twice. Last Saturday, one was perched high on a tree located on Atlantic Ave. and Rockaway.

Then today, I was sitting in my room with my cockatiel sitting on the window sill. I left the room momentarily and my bird was screaming.... literally screaming. I rushed into the room to see a large bird swooping away from the window towards the telephone pole in the yard. I was just amazed how beautiful and large this bird staring at me.
Here's a pic.

Sorry it's blurred but I took it through a double pane window.

There's been an increase of different species of birds in Highland Park since the Ridgewood Reservoir has become a forest in the past twenty years.

Thank You for listening,

Miss C

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Some recent updates

Here are a few updates regarding the Ridgewood Reservoir/Highland Park and related subjects:

Last Wednesday, February 27th, I was invited to give a presentation at the Jamaica Bay Task Force meeting at the refuge's visitors center. Lou Widerka and David Quintana were also present. Our group was asked to speak because it was recognized that Ridgewood Reservoir was an important factor in the effort to mitigate stormwater runoff into the bay, as well as, combined sewage overflow. Both contribute to the decline of marine life in Jamaica Bay's watershed and a host of other complex problems. Ida Sanoff deserves a big "Thank You" for getting us on the agenda.

The turnout for the meeting was great. When they ran out of chairs, people stood along the back of the room and in the doorways. I would estimate that there were 75 - 100 people present. I was the first presenter and gave a brief introduction then played the 7 minute DVD. The response was extremely positive. I think people applauded, but it's all a blur now. When I opened the floor for any questions, Ida asked for a show of hands for anyone who thinks that the reservoir should be preserved. Everyone had their hands up.

Mike Feller from the city's Natural Resources Group said some very nice thing about the video and pointed out a key issue using the words of Uli Lorimer (from the video) - "With plenty of time, good management and patience, the Ridgewood Reservoir could still achieve the magnificence and splendor of our native eastern forests." I believe that his point was, that we can't just leave it as is and expect it to return to a native forest, that it needs our help. He also stated that the Department of Parks & Recreation was only looking at the north half of the largest basin, the area with the most non-native species of plants, to create active recreational facilities. David Quintana joined the question and answer session for a few minutes and the discussion may have gotten a little heated...but in a good way.

Other presenters at the meeting were Lenny Houston from the US Army Corp of Engineers. He spoke on marsh restoration projects in Jamaica Bay. Dan Mundy, Jr., of Jamaica Bay EcoWatchers, gave an excellent slideshow and talk on proposed oyster restoration in the bay. Finally, Lisa Eckert, superintendent of Gateway National Recreation Area, spoke about the new GNRA Resource Management Plan in development. At the end of the meeting I spoke briefly with several people. I introduced myself to Bill Tai, who is Director of park's Natural Resources Group. It was late so, unfortunately, I had to keep our conversation short. One thing that I did mention was that the general consensus of those who participated in the two "Listening Sessions" was that they did not want active recreation built in the basins. I also suggested that, like I have done, he should walk around the Ridgewood Reservoir and Highland Park a few times. Randomly ask people what they think about the city's plan to spend $50 million on the reservoir and very little on the park. Also ask them about cutting down the trees in any of the basins. I said that I hadn't come across anyone who thought positively about the plan.

Here are some recent news articles that are relevant:

Forest pros don't grow on trees, city laments

In an article published in the New York Daily News, it is revealed that the city hasn't been able to hire enough specialists to care for the 1 million trees in the mayor's PlanNYC program. I couldn't say exactly why they are having a problem, but the last line in the article could be a big issue:

"The salary range is on a par with government forestry jobs across the country, but, as Garvin notes, the money goes a lot further in Missoula, Mont., than Manhattan."

Groups Urge a Moratorium on City Use of Artificial Turf

People are finally opening their eyes to the problems of artificial turf. An article in Friday's New York Times opens with:
"Several environmental and civic groups are calling for a moratorium on the use of artificial turf in new sports fields in the city, and question the seriousness with which the Bloomberg administration is investigating the turf’s potential hazards."

And, just in case the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation state of affairs isn't complicated enough, there's also this Albatross:

City Agrees to Settlement in Parks Dept. Bias Case

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