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

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Troubling signs

The Department of Parks & Recreation has created and installed new "park rules" signs at the corners of the fence surrounding the reservoir basins. They are large, easy to read, but problematic signs.

First, is the issue of the designated "unleashed" areas. There aren't any designations, at least that I could find, posted anywhere in Highland Park. It's also nice that they allow the unleashed hours between "9pm-9am when the park is open." Unfortunately, the park "Closes at 9AM."

A much more serious issue that was observed this morning was that a significant amount of vegetation - seedling, vines, saplings, wildflowers, grasses, etc., has been removed from an area adjacent to the reservoir running path.

During September of last year we posted photos of several dozen trees around the reservoir's perimeter (and, subsequently, some inside) that had been marked with pink spray paint. We were assured by the park's administrator, Debbie Kuha, and Queens Commissioner Lewandowski, that the marks were merely surveyor's marks and that the trees were not going to be removed. In fact, many of those trees appear to still be present, unfortunately, as of today the entire understory surrounding the trees in one section has been wiped out.

Here is a map of the south end of the reservoir property, adjacent to Highland Boulevard. The Pink rectangle outlines the area of the photographs. The stretch of woods contains a remnant section of roadway the rises up from near Highland Blvd., then opens onto a grassy area parallel to the road, up to the intersection of Vermont Place. The rectangular outline is approximately 30 yards by 100 yards. Below are photos taken in September and November of last year, matched with photos that were taken today at the same stretch of remnant roadway.

Is this the same kind of heavy-handed approach that we can expect from the Department of Parks within the reservoir basins? Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe sent our group a letter in March and wrote, "A portion of the third basin is composed almost entirely of exotic vegetation that has limited value as wildlife habitat." Is that how he will justify leveling the reservoir's forests and other habitats?

The New York Daily News published a story about an ecological assessment report prepared for the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and acquired by their reporter. The report states, with regard to Mr. Benepe's "limited value" habitat:

"West Basin

The West Basin had the high species richness and abundance, supporting species from the widest variety of guilds, due to the increased compositional and structural diversity of habitats at the site relative to other areas. Five species of sparrows were seen actively feeding on the ground of the open grassy meadow bordered by birch trees, for example. Indigo Buntings were seen along the edge of the meadow, and nearly 13 species of warbler were observed foraging in the canopy trees, while several warblers tended to utilize scattered low shrubs or stands of reed grass (Common Yellowthroat specifically, but also Ovenbird). Flocks of Kinglets, both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned foraged extensively in the birch and poplar stands, as did mixed flocks of Northern Parulas, Black-throated Green Warblers, Black-capped Chickadees, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. The Southeast quadrant of the west basin, which was more uniformly in habitat, supported mainly warblers and the mixed feeding flocks previously described. The black locust/mugwort forest to the north supported Black- and-white, Northern Parula, Black-throated Green, and Nashville Warblers, as well as numerous woodpeckers including Downy, Red-bellied and Northern Flicker. Both Coopers Hawks (Special Concern) and Sharp-shinned Hawks (Special Concern) were observed hunting in the entire west basin. Where understory shrubs existed in the north section, various sparrows could be found, including good numbers of White-throated, Swamp and a single Lincoln’s. The eastern edge of the west basin was more diverse with fruiting shrubs and attracted many Gray Catbirds, American Robins, and two species of Catharus trush (Swainson’s and Gray-cheeked)."

Other news:

Debby Kuha, Forest Park and Highland Park Administrator told our group that the parks department would be starting construction very shortly on a soccer field in Lower Highland Park. It will be located between the children’s garden and the tennis courts. She also said that $2.5M has been allocated by Councilman Dilan to upgrade the performance area/spray shower in the lower park. It has not been made clear whether the soccer field will be natural turf or artificial turf. Given all the health concerns surrounding crumb rubber-based products and its proximity to the children's garden, one would presume that Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe has decided to use natural turf.

To express your concern about the use of artificial turf for the Highland Park soccer field, please contact the NYC Commissioner of Parks & Recreation, as well as, the park's administrator and the Queens Commissioner of Parks:

Adrian Benepe (Commissioner of Parks)
phone: 212-360-1305

Dorothy Lewandowski (Queens Parks Commissioner)
phone: 718-520-5905

Deborah Kuha (Administrator, Forest Park & Highland Park):
phone: 718-520-5905

Send us an email

1 comment:

Ridgewood said...

Individuals close to the project have indicated that it will be an artificial turf field. Confirmation of that information will be posted when it is acquired.