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

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

ATV & Precinct Info

I've posted all this information before, but given the current condition, thought it was time for a refresher.

First, riding an ATV anywhere in New York City, except on private property, is illegal. It violates a long list of city codes. You can download a PDF document that I put together with the specific sections of the city code here.

It was suggested to me by several people that the reason some police officers told the ATV riders not to ride in Lower Highland Park, but across the road was alright was because that puts them in a different precinct. Nice way to work together, officers. The 104th precinct is responsible for tackling the ATV abuses that occur either within the Ridgewood Reservoir boundaries or Upper Highland Park. The 75th precinct covers Lower Highland Park.

Here are the precinct maps and contact information:

Brooklyn 75th Precinct

Inspector Jeffrey B. Maddrey
Crime Statistics
1000 Sutter Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11208
(718) 827-3511

The 75th Precinct is located in the East New York section of Brooklyn. Included in this area are Cypress Hills, Starrett City and City Line. It is a residential and commercial community with eight major housing complexes. Shopping areas run along the east end of Fulton Street, Liberty Avenue and the south end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Contact Information:
Precinct: (718) 827-3511 / 3512
Community Affairs: (718) 827-3553
Community Policing: (718) 827-3329
Crime Prevention: (718) 827-3650
Domestic Violence: (718) 827-3502
Youth Officer: (718) 827-3519
Auxiliary Coordinator: (718) 827-3545
Detective Squad: (718) 827-3548 / 3549

Community Council:
President: Tony Forman
Vice President: Jennifer Fields
Recording Secretary: Evelina Rhodes
Treasurer: Jean Reynolds
Sergeant at Arms:Genes Thompson

Meetings: The precinct community council meeting is held the first Wednesday of the month at the precinct station house at 7:30 p.m.

Queens 104th Precinct

Deputy Inspector Keith E. Green
64-2 Catalpa Ave., Queens, NY, 11385
(718) 386-3004

The 104th Precinct is located in the northwest section of Queens, covering the areas of Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village and Maspeth. There are 60 Houses of Worship and 18 cemeteries, of all faiths located within this command.

Contact Information:
Precinct: (718) 386-3004
Community Affairs: (718) 386-2431/2446
Community Policing: (718) 386-4006
Crime Prevention: (718) 386-6223
Domestic Violence: (718) 386-3044
Youth Officer: (718) 386-2486
Auxiliary Coordinator: (718) 386-3674
Detective Squad: (718) 386-2735

Community Council:
President: Michael Hetzer
Vice President: Diane Cusimano-Timkin
Recording Secretary: Roseanne Rosado
Treasurer: Yetta Petronzi
Sergeant at Arms: Vincent Alberici

Meetings: Council meetings are combined with other civil groups on rotating schedule. For further information call Det. Kevin Weber at (718) 386-2446.


Send us an email if you observe ATV activity at the reservoir or park. Including the day of the week and time would be very helpful.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

NYPD Complicit in ATV Abuse

Today I had an experience at the Ridgewood Reservoir which made it very clear to me that the local precincts have no intention to address the ATV problem and, in fact, are complicit in the abuse and destruction of New York City Department of Parks & Recreation property.

At 12:15pm today there was a man riding his ATV at Highland Park/Ridgewood Reservoir. He was with three children. I looked around for a patrol car or parks department vehicle. Fifteen minutes later I tracked down an unmarked, dark blue NYPD van in the Upper Highland Park parking lot. I approached the two officers in the van and told them about the ATV riders in the park. They explained that it is "very difficult" for them to pursue the scofflaws "up there" with their van and that the ATV riders always take off. I wondered why they assumed that the ATV owner was in an upper portion of the Ridgewood Reservoir property. I explained that, in fact, they were in the lower park between Highland Boulevard and the National Cemetery. They seemed reluctant to do anything about it, but finally said they'd look into it. I followed them as they left the parking lot heading towards Highland Boulevard. At the intersection, instead of turning left, towards the ATV, they turned right, away from the location and out of the park. They never returned.

By 12:50pm the ATV group had moved their activities higher up into the park, to an area directly adjacent to the reservoir. I called 311. The operator took my information, then transferred me to a 911 operator. At 12:54pm the 911 operator assured me that an NYPD vehicle was being dispatched. By 1:20pm, the ATV party was still in progress and the police hadn't arrived. While waiting for the police I spoke with the only adult in the group, who appeared to be the father of the children and owner of the ATV. He didn't think what he was doing was illegal. I asked if the police ever stopped them from riding in the park. I was shocked by what I was told. They had been told by the police that it was alright for them to ride in that area and to just avoid riding on the running paths and walkways! They also said that all the local ATV riders were given the same information, which would explain the sudden upsurge of ATV usage in the park. I left Ridgewood Reservoir and Highland Park at around 2:30pm. Nobody from the local precinct ever responded to the 911 operator's call.

Here is a video from today.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Forum Article

"The Forum" just posted an article describing community questions for the Department of Parks & Recreation about their Phase 1 plans for the reservoir:

Questions Arise Over City's Plan for Ridgewood Reservoir
via Forum News by The Forum Newsgroup on 10/9/09

By Conor Greene

As the Parks Department prepares to begin the first phase of work at the Ridgewood Reservoir, local elected officials and community leaders have questioned aspects of the plan, and were not impressed with the response they received from the city on their input.

Parks is planning $7.7 million worth of improvements to Highland Park, which includes the Ridgewood Reservoir. Work will include replacing existing perimeter fencing around the reservoir’s three basins, upgrading the lighting and improving the pathways.

Phase one work will take place as the department and community continues to debate the overall future of the park and reservoir property. Many, including Community Board 5 members, want the city to preserve the reservoir in its natural state and upgrade existing ballfields in Highland Park, instead of filling in one of the basins and constructing fields there.

While the debate over the future of the property continues, CB 5 members and elected officials including State Senator Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) are asking Parks to reconsider aspects of the phase one plan.

In July, CB 5 informed Queens Borough Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski in a letter that the board had unanimously adopted several recommendations concern- ing phase one, including that perimeter fencing be six feet high, instead of four feet as planned; that the electrical service conduit be installed on the reservoir side of the pathway, where the lighting fixture will be installed and that an existing stone stairway not be removed.

In an August 24 response, Lewandowski informed the board that the fence is not meant as a security barrier, since public access to the basins is planned for the future. “The four foot proposal provides a clear view into the basins which will allow the public to better appreciate the interior as well as provide easier observation by the police and parks patrols.”

Regarding the electrical setup, Lewandowski said the decision to locate the light poles on the reservoir side “was made for both ecological and aesthetic reasons.” She argued that since the electrical conduit can’t be placed between the pathway and the basins due to a lack of soft surface, Parks “decided that spending an additional $90K now to locate the conduit in the grass area [on the other side of the path] is a price worth paying to make maintenance in future less complicated and less expensive.”

Parks did agree that facing the lamp post panels away from the path to help prevent vandalism and theft “is a very good idea” that has been incorporated into the design. In addition, Parks has accepted the board’s recommendation that the northeast stairway should be restored. This can be done within phase one “barring any costly surprises revealed in our ongoing structural investigations.” Either way, the stairs will not be removed as planned.

While the board’s push for a pedestrian bridge over Vermont Avenue “is an idea worth studying in-depth,” Parks has determined that it is “cost prohibitive at least in the initial phase of work at the reservoir.” However, the department has directed consultant Mark K. Morrison and Associates to ensure that the current plan would allow for a pedestrian bridge in the future.

Board members expressed displeasure at a meeting earlier this year after receiving Parks’ response to the suggestions. “We’re not dumb – we suggest things for a reason,” said CB 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri, vowing at the time to “fight this politically.”

In September letter to Lewandowski, Addbbo noted that he generally agreed with the board’s suggestions and said he also has “concerns” over the current plan. He agreed that the light fixtures and related electrical wiring should be on the same side of the path to save money, and also called for a six-foot high perimeter fence. “While six foot fencing might hinder some public access viewing, that issue is far outweighed by the greater issue the of public safety and security of people visiting the site,” wrote Addabbo.

“As you are aware, in these difficult fiscal times, the city needs to allocate funding efficiently,” the senator continued. “I am hopeful that prior to any work commencing on Phase I at the reservoir, your department conducts the necessary research and public input consideration to create a safe and accommodating venue.”

Crowley also wrote a letter to Lewandowski last month, calling the board’s proposals “a good set of improvements to the current plan.” She agreed with the board and Addabbo on the issues of the electrical wiring and fence height. She also noted that she continues to support “ a passive recreation option” at the site and wants a portion of the $19 million earmarked for phase two on renovations of the existing ballfields in Highland Park “before even considering the decon- struction of a basin.”

A Parks Department spokeswoman did not provide information regarding when phase one construction is slated to begin, or a response to Addabbo and Crowley’s letters.

On Wednesday, Arcuri called Parks’ response “foolish” and said that six-foot-high fences are used in other projects around the city, including the promenade along Flushing Bay without complaints of obstructed views. “I think they’re a little hard-nosed; their consultant came up with a design and they want to stick with it,” said Arcuri. “I think part of it is the ego of the designer, and the ego of the agency.”

Looking ahead to phase two, Arcuri agreed that some of the remaining $19 million should be used at the existing ballfields. “They can develop a program for the restoration of the upper ballfields and playground so the reservoir can stay a natural preserved area as every- one wants it,” he said. “There really isn’t a need for additional facilities; the need is for the facilities that exist to be restored.”

Arcuri charged that recent surveys of parks users con- ducted by the city “weren’t realistic” and didn’t reflect the desires of many to preserve the reservoir. “The results of that survey were contradictory to the results of all the public meetings, so we question that... We think that if we have enough political support we could get them to go along with the idea of a nature preserve [at the reservoir] and fixing the upper ballfields. I think we need the mayor to come out and side with the people who are familiar with the area.”

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Brooklyn Water Works and Sewers

Thanks to the efforts of Google Books I am able to embed the entire memoir of D. Van Nostrand, an engineer for the Brooklyn Water Works. You can scroll directly to page 25 and read his description of the creation of the Ridgewood Reservoir.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wasting Our Money

Phase I of the Department of Parks & Recreation's redevelopment of the Ridgewood Reservoir includes a huge waste of taxpayer's money. As I mentioned in a previous posting, some of the lighting, pathway and fencing plan call for the replacement of the existing 7' high perimeter fences with 4' fences. That brilliant design concept would, essentially, allow open season on the forested and wetland basins to anyone desiring to climb over the fence. A closer examination of the design reveals another money wasting element.

Between basins 1 & 2 and 2 & 3 are a pair of pathways that were designed as maintenance roads when the reservoirs were in active use. The edges of those paths are lined with wrought iron coping fences. The parks department design for Phase I calls for the clearing and development of a walking path with limited seating between basins 2 & 3. In general, this is a good idea. Unfortunately, rather than just clearing the vines off of the existing 1/2 mile of coping fences, they want to completely remove it and replace it with a modern steel fence.

Somehow, the original, historic 19th century wrought iron coping fences managed to survive, intact. There are several short sections that appear to be missing, however, on close inspection those pieces can be seen either covered by dirt on the path or on the stone retaining wall in the basin interior. How many places in New York City can one still find 19th century fences at a public works site? I'm guessing none.

During the two World Wars many of the old fences were melted down and used for artillery or other war-related needs. Somehow, the fences designed by the Brooklyn Water & Sewer Works over 150 years ago escaped that fate. Now Adrian Benepe wants to just cut them all down and toss them into a landfill. For what? I'd like to see the cost comparison between the current design, which calls for removal and replacement, with a plan which just removes the vegetation from the fences and restores the missing sections. I'd also like to know (as would most NYC taxpayers) why Mark Morrison and Associates made no attempt to save the historic fences and incorporate them into their design.

All too often in New York City, planners and developers see no need for preserving our city's history. Had it not been for the ambition plans of the Brooklyn Water & Sewer Works and their vision of a clean water supply for the City of Brooklyn, we would not have seen the rapid growth and expansion of, what was once considered, the largest city in the United States.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Parks Department Final Design

After nearly 2 years of community input, budget cuts and political wrangling, the Department of Parks & Recreation has submitted a final "Phase 1" design plan for the Ridgewood Reservoir to the Design Commission. Phase 1 only calls for improvements to the lighting and pathways surrounding the reservoir basins. It is clear from viewing the Powerpoint slideshow and listening to reaction from Queens Community Board 5 that the parks department pretty much ignored most of the community's input. I've converted the slideshow to a PDF file that can be downloaded here.

There are several areas of contention regarding the design, the most obvious being the height of the perimeter fences.

Since the start of the input process the parks department, namely Queens Commissioner Lewandowski and Park Administrator Kuha, have claimed that safety was their primary concern. Many of us commend them on their efforts to have openings in the existing 7' high chainlink fence repaired regularly and helping to increase patrols in the area. Homeless encampments in the basins, makeshift paintball areas and other illegal activities have been eliminated in the forested wetlands within the basins. In June, when the organization "World Science Festival" requested permission to host a bioblitz in the basins it was denied on grounds that it was too dangerous for people to scale down the basin embankments or walk around in the interiors. So why has Commission Lewandowski and Ms. Kuha given approval to a design that calls for removing the 7' high fence and replacing it with a 4' high fence? Was all their talk about safety just designed to keep people away from the reservoirs and create a negative image of the area? I suppose if you want to destroy "unique natural habitats" without any opposition the first thing you would want to do is make people think that it is a danger to the public. Does the parks department actually believe that people aren't going to jump over the fence to access the "dangerous" basins? And if anyone has difficulty climbing the fence, the proposed lighting design has the lampposts inline with the fences making for a convenient stepladder. Besides the obvious negative impact this will have on basins 1 and 3, there have been dozens of news articles posted over the decades about people drowning in the reservoir (basin 2 is a lake).

In Prospect Park an area call the Ravine was restored over an 8 year period. Tens of millions of dollars were spent on plantings, erosion control and other landscape repairs & improvements. When it was opened to the public, a 4' fence had been installed to prevent people from destroying the restored forest and waterway. Here is what happened; Fences were (and continue to be) climbed over or broken outright. In less than a year, much of the beautiful restoration was reversed. Understory plantings have been destroyed, the forest floor is badly eroded, compacted trails crisscross much of the forest, there are homeless encampments, parties, people having sex and the tons of trash. You can view some images of the destruction here. If Commissioner Lewandowski goes ahead with the plan for a low fence, she can expect the same or worse, since it is difficult for law enforcement to patrol the basin interiors.

There are also issues with the lighting plan. The design calls for nearly tripling the number of lampposts surrounding the basins. Another safety issue? Not likely as Highland Park and Ridgewood Reservoir have very low crime. In fact, according to NYPD statistics, it is much safer than Prospect Park. I don't think any other city park has lighting spaced so close. Another waste of money is the fact that the design calls for placing the lighting on the inside of the path and, rather than burying a single electrical line along the inside of the path, running it along the outside edge, with each lighting fixture then needing to have a separate lead splitting off from the outside of the path. Vincent Arcuri, the president of Queens Community Board 5, is a licensed electrician and pointed out this waste of money. Again, community voices were ignored.

The access path between basins 1 and 2 will not be available for public use. The path between basins 2 and 3, however, will be cleaned up and observation points created. This pathway will only be opened during specific hours and secured behind a short length of 7' fencing. There will be some seating added here. No additional seating or exercise stations (requested by the community) will be installed around the perimeter of the basins. Another design issue that was contested by the community board was the removal of a flight of stairs and access at the northeast corner of basin 1 near the Jackie Robinson Parkway service road. In this design feature anyone coming to the park from the area of Cypress Avenue and Cypress Hills Street wouldn't have an access point. It was in this area that many suggested Access-a-Ride vehicles or school buses pick-ups and drop offs. The department of parks wants, instead, to use this area only as an electronic card access point only for NYPD and park maintenance vehicles.

It is unclear to me whether the Department of Parks & Recreation had a design already in mind when they began the process of public input or if the parks commissioner just overruled any designs that included community recommendations. Either way, there is little question that the democratic process for this project has been seriously compromised. The community boards are preparing a joint statement and letter to the City Comptroller which I will post here shortly.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

HPRRA Meeting

The next meeting of the Highland Park-Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance will be tomorrow evening, September 10th, 2009 at 7pm. Steve Fiedler of Queens Community Board 5 will show the Department of Parks & Recreation's final design presentation for the first phase of construction around the reservoir.

The meeting will be held at:

Ridgewood Democratic Club
6070 Putnam Street

View Larger Map

Directions to The Ridgewood Democratic Club at 6070 Putnam Street. The
entrance is the first door on Stier Place

From Brooklyn:
Take Eastern Parkway until it ends at Bushwick Avenue.
Make a right turn onto Bushwick Avenue and move to the left lane.
Bear left onto the Jackie Robinson Parkway (formerly Interboro)
Exit at Cypress Hills Street (2nd exit)
At the top of the exit, make a left onto Cyrpress Hills Street
At the bottom of the hill make a left onto Cooper Avenue
Make a right at the 5th block (62nd Street)
62nd street ends in 2 blocks at Myrtle Ave
Make a left turn onto Myrtle and the make a right turn (about 50 feet) onto Fresh Pond Road (just at the end of the underpass; Fresh Pond starts at Myrtle and there is a carpet store on the right)
About 1/4 mile, 1 block after the M train station, Putnam Street is on the left.
It’s one block after the train station

From Manhattan:
Take the LIE
Exit to The Grand Central Parkway East (towards LI)
Stay in the right lane and exit onto the Jackie Robinson Parkway (formerly
Exit at Cypress Hills Street
At the top of the exit, make a right onto Cypress Hills Street
At the bottom of the hill make a left onto Cooper Avenue
Make a right at the 5th block (62nd Street)
62nd street ends in 2 blocks at Myrtle Ave
Make a left turn onto Myrtle and the make a right turn (about 50 feet) onto Fresh Pond Road (just at the end of the underpass; Fresh Pond starts at Myrtle and there is a carpet store on the right)
About 1/4 mile, 1 block after the M train station, Putnam Street is on the left.
It’s one block after the train station

From The Bronx:
Take the Triborough to the Grand Central Parkway and follow directions above
Parking can be sometimes be difficult in the area

By Subway:
Take the M train to the Fresh Pond Station or the L train to Myrtle Avenue and
then go upstairs and take the M to the Fresh Pond Station
Walk one block to Putnam and then left onto Putnam.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

New Parks Blog

A new blog called "A Walk in the Park" is a great information resource that helps keep communities up to date on the Department of Parks & Recreation's planning and other activities. Here is the description from their blog header:

"A news and information resource dedicated to transparency, accountability, community-based planning & consultation, and the health and public safety of visitors and employees in New York City's public park and recreation system."

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Support from Riverkeeper

The organization "Riverkeeper" supports our efforts to protect the reservoir basins as a nature sanctuary. From their website:

Ridgewood Reservoir in Highland Park, Queens

As noted in PlaNYC 2030, New York City is proposing to turn the largest of three basins in the 50-acre, Ridgewood Reservoir in Highland Park, Queens, which has become an urban forest and fresh water wetland, into a 60-acre recreation site. Riverkeeper opposes plans to alter these wetland areas for several reasons.

Ridgewood Reservoir absorbs stormwater that would otherwise enter the city’s already over burdened sewage system. Replacing woodlands with recreational fields will exacerbate flooding and the urban heat island effect, and destroy an important habitat for many bird and plant species. The additional fields and recreational areas at Ridgewood Reservoir would not be needed if resources were devoted to improving facilities at existing recreational areas, such as Highland Park.

Past efforts to fill in wetlands and turn them into ball fields, such as Strack Pond in Queens, have failed, raising the question of the overall feasibility of such an undertaking. Any proposed changes to the Ridgewood Reservoir should be subject to SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) and CEQR (City Environmental Quality Review) processes.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More about Artificial Turf

The New York Daily News has just published another article on the dangers of artificial recreational surfaces. Note how parks commissioner Benepe describes using a watering system to reduce the heat. Didn't he previously claim as a benefit to using artificial recreational surfaces the fact that you don't need to water it? I'm guessing that he also never smelled the burning tire-like odor that fills the air around these fields on hot days.

Macombs park turf too hot for them to handle! Critic's thermometer hits 150 degrees

By Bill Egbert
Tuesday, August 18th 2009, 5:50 AM

Think it's hot running on a 90-degree day? Try running on a 150-degree track.

That's what joggers at the new Macombs Dam Park have to contend with on the interim running track painted on the still-unfinished artificial turf field.

During last week's sweltering temps, the turf reached temperatures in excess of 150 degrees, according to an infrared thermometer wielded by Geoff Croft, head of NYC Park Advocates and a longtime critic of the city's efforts to replace the parkland given to the Yankees for their new stadium.

For comparison, Croft measured the temperature of a patch of natural grass near the park on the same day and found it to be only 84 degrees.

Temperatures don't have to get into the 90s for the turf to overheat. Croft recorded similar readings of higher than 147 degrees on cloudy days when the air temperature never got higher than the low 80s.

"We understand that this is the one drawback of these turf fields," said city Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, "and we're doing all we can to address it."

The city spent an extra $160,000 to use a green-colored crumb rubber fill, which stays cooler than cheaper fill made of recycled tires. The new park will also feature three misting devices designed to cool parkgoers at the push of a button.

Local residents who were used to running in the old Macombs Dam Park surrounded by tall shade trees can feel the difference.

"It feels really hot on my feet," said Enrique Martinez, 16, who runs every day on the interim track.

"The worst part," Enrique said, "is that when you want to rest, you can't lie down in the grass or you'll overheat."

When the park is complete next April, however, it will feature several natural grass berms around the field and 166 shade trees planted around the park.

Two boys practicing soccer at one end of the unfinished field agreed with Enrique.

"It's burning hot," said Joseph Cardozo, taking a break to rest in the limited shade of a construction fence. "I can feel the heat on my legs."

"You get easily dehydrated," said Eduardo Yanez, 15. "You have to stop more often and get some shade."

They fondly recalled playing on the real-grass field of their old park, dug up for the Yankees' new $1.5 billion stadium nearby.

"The old park was cooler," said Jospeh, "and more crowded, too. There were more people to play with."

The final design includes a large shade structure over a grandstand, as well as a new Olympic-quality running track wrapping around the soccer field.

Commissioner Benepe needs to get with the program. Mayor Bloomberg is trying to reduce the "Urban Heat Island Effect" in New York City and by Benepe replacing grass fields with artificial recreational surfaces he is actually increasing the temperature in NYC. It also doesn't help that Mr. Benepe seems to enjoy cutting down trees.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Parks Department Presentation

On March 16, 2009, the Department of Parks & Recreation held the first of its second round of community meetings regarding the future of Ridgewood Reservoir. Queens Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski kindly provided us with a copy of the presentation. As you step through the slides pay special attention to the site hydrology, site ecology and survey results.

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The Selling of New York Parks

The following article appeared in New York Magazine last month:

The Selling of New York’s Parks
via Daily Intel by Erica Orden on 7/28/09

Just like condo developments and celebrity-chef restaurant empires, New York’s public-parks system expanded rapidly during the boom years. Prospect Park unleashed plans for a new $60 million complex, Washington Square Park began a thorough face-lift, and the High Line found the substantial funding it needed to transform from an abandoned railway into one of the city’s most hyped destinations. The catch is that the funding for these initiatives has become less public. And as the downturn continues, more compromises could be made to continue to pay for these privatized parks.

When New York began relying on public-private parks partnerships following the fiscal crisis of the seventies, the idea was that private philanthropic groups would pick up the slack. And they did. Groups like the Central Park Conservancy, the Prospect Park Alliance, and the Bryant Park Corporation rose to respond to that crisis. But the city’s newest parks, paid for and operated largely by nonpublic dollars, are girded tightly by their private patrons.

The High Line was invented as a park by Friends of the High Line, which raised $44 million in donations and helped select the design. Celebrity endorsements (Edward Norton, Diane Von Furstenberg), caps on visitor attendance, adjacent real-estate development, and a dense police presence compared to other parks have all contributed to the appearance of something less than fully public. Elsewhere, the Parks Department has met with a local interest group called Coalition for a Better Washington Square Park, which offered to hire its own security and maintenance forces for the newly renovated green. Parks turned them down but did “discuss the designs of the next phase of renovation.” And in order to build the $350 million Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, a public agency, is using the private developers of luxury condos like One Brooklyn Bridge Park to pay for the maintenance of its public front yard (never mind what’ll happen if the condos don’t sell).

Expect more of the same. “What’s happening on a basic level is that the city does not feel that parks are its responsibility anymore,” says Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates. “But every community deserves to have healthy parks, not just ones that have wealthy benefactors.”

Earlier this month, the city awarded a no-bid contract to Friends of the High Line to run all concession stands on and below the park for the next ten years. The Prospect Park Alliance plans to sell naming rights to two new rinks to be built as part of its Lakeside Center development, and the sale of such rights has been proposed for McCarren Park Pool. The Tisch family marked its name on the Washington Square Park fountain after donating $2.5 million for its renovation. In coming months, the Parks Department is considering selling ten-year naming rights to existing ballparks and skating rinks, with the money going to the city’s general fund.

“Even with the budget cuts, the Parks Department is in decent shape, but you never know what might happen in the future,” says Parks commissioner Adrian Benepe. “In the past, there have been times when, in very bad fiscal times, the Parks Department was badly cut. And so if we can lock in some funding to make sure that things stay whole, that might not be a bad thing.”

But more and more private control — you can purchase time in a “public” basketball court for a fashion show, as happened in May with designer Joseph Abboud in Greenwich Village, or pay to park a branded exhibition in Central Park, as Chanel did last fall — has become the norm. The question is how much more that means. “While privatization has brought some very good management techniques, like at Bryant Park, the nice thing about it so far is that we don’t have ‘Exxon Bryant Park,’ ” says Christian DiPalermo, the executive director of New Yorkers for Parks. Well, not yet.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Another Parks Department Debacle

The following exposé just appeared in the NY Post. Just imagine how much money the city could waste at the Ridgewood Reservoir:

Sky 'High' Costs
Tax-Seeking New Park Already NY'S Priciest

By Rich Calder

Operators of High Line Park are spending money like drunken sailors to maintain the brand-new hot spot -- even while trying to push a controversial new tax on neighborhood property owners so the managers can spend even more, a Post investigation found.

Park officials say the former Manhattan railway-turned-aerial-esplanade will now cost up to $4.5 million a year to maintain -- surpassing Midtown's Bryant Park as the city's most expensive green space per acre to operate, records show.

The 6.7-acre park - a huge economic boost for the Meatpacking District since partially opening in June - is expected to get $522,388 to $671,641 an acre for yearly maintenance and operations, based on its preliminary spending plan.

That's even more than Bryant Park, which spends $479,166 per acre. The average city park gets $9,555 an acre.

With the city already kicking in nearly $1 million in taxpayer funds for the new park's annual operations, the nonprofit group Friends of the High Line was supposed to fork over the rest of the money.

Instead, the group --whose daily operations are run by politically connected officials padding their pockets with six-figure salaries -- is pitching a 37-block "High Line Improvement District."

Its board of directors includes boldface names like actors Ed Norton and Kevin Bacon, designer Diane von Furstenberg and her media mogul husband Barry Diller, and actress Kyra Sedgwick.

The plan, endorsed by the Bloomberg administration last week, would levy local businesses and residents to raise another $1 million of the $4.5 million needed.

"It's a pay-for-play deal that sets a terrible precedent," said Geoffrey Croft of the watchdog group New York City Park Advocates, adding the park's budget is already "inflated with fat."

The city has 11 parks enforcement patrol officers working the High Line's 2.8 acres now open.

In comparison, only five PEP officers are assigned to cover all 6,970 acres of Bronx parkland and eight handle Queens' 7,300 acres, the city parks employee union says.

The High Line also has 20 laborers paid through its nonprofit group - including nine gardeners - and another 10 workers will be hired once the park is completed in 2011, officials said. Bryant Park, a much larger crown jewel in the city parks system at 9.6 acres, only uses five gardeners among its staff.

Meanwhile, Friends of the High Line's management staff features four people earning more than $100,000, including its co-founder Robert Hammond, who earned $280,000 last year and was the college roommate of former Council Speaker Gifford Miller.

Hammond defended the new tax proposal, saying the extra funds are needed to keep the park looking magnificent because crowds "are much larger than anticipated," and the park has quickly become of "one of the" most densely visited public spaces citywide.

More than a half million people have visited the park its first two months.

He blamed the massive maintenance costs on this "high volume combined with the challenges of operating an intensely planted public space on an elevated structure with limited access" while also having to enforce occupancy/public safety codes other parks don't have to deal with.

Friends of the High Line, which designed and operates the city-owned park, says it has raised $44 million, with $12.5 million already offsetting the project's construction costs, which are expected to exceed $172 million.

The group has no plans to use the rest of the money raised to supplement the funds it wants from the community. Instead, it says it wants to put some of the money into an endowment like Central Park does so the funds can be invested on behalf of the High Line.

Hammond said his group would only look to submit a formal application to the city for the improvement district if it believes the community is behind the tax following a public review process.

The annual fee for the owner of a 1,000-square-foot property would range anywhere from $30 to $90.

While Hammond says he believes most of the 5,000 or so property owners affected will support the idea because the park has already helped boost local property values in a slumping economy, some peeved residents last week kicked off a petition drive to collect signatures in opposition.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

More Deception

The "Queens Crap" blog has posted a piece that reveals more deception from the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, although, at this point, I can't say I'm surprised:

Friday, July 24, 2009
Parks caught lying about Highland Park again

From the Daily News:

In 2007, the agency issued 410 hours of permits for Highland Park's existing ballfields. That jumped to 753 hours last year, but included a two-week carnival that accounted for 195 hours.

Parks spokeswoman Patricia Bertuccio said the permit lists don't account for countless pickup games and practices on those fields that don't require prior approval from the agency.

The Parks Department's website displays this:

So, they are going to tear down a ready-made nature preserve to build ballfields for practices that are not supposed to be held on ballfields because there are too many people who want to play games on them, yet there was a documented lack of people playing games on the fields for the past few years. In Adrian's world, this makes sense.

These people are unbelievable. I just hope that the FBI and USDOJ is watching and looking into their activities like they did in New Jersey.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

More Political Support

Political hopeful, Albert Baldeo, has come out in favor of preserving the Ridgewood Reservoir as a unique nature sanctuary. The community advocate, who is running for Anthony Seminerio's vacated 38th District Assembly seat, was highlighted in an article in the Queens Chronicle. From the article:

"One neighborhood over, Baldeo has been trying to preserve the Ridgewood Reservoir. “There are so many species of birds and animals there. It’s a jewel in our district,” he said. “It could be made into a tourist attraction and we should preserve it, not turn it into baseball fields.”"

You can read the entire article here.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Queens Courier Article

The Queens Courier just published an article about the plight of the reservoir:

Athletic fields may replace defunct reservoir
By Alice Lok
Wednesday, July 22, 2009 11:56 AM EDT

The decommissioned Ridgewood Reservoir-turned-nature preserve lying on the border of Queens and Brooklyn may be torn down if plans to install athletic fields are put into motion.

In a statement from the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, it said the agency has held several public meetings, listening sessions, conducted surveys, met with elected officials and community groups to “get a broad sense of what users are interested in seeing at this park. All methods of input will help the Parks Department as we move forward in creating draft designs.”

As of now, contractors are in the process of developing three distinct master plans that take into account what was learned during the meetings. The three plans are stated to be released in October, and all of the plans are likely to include improvements to lighting and safety.

A chief concern of the Parks Department is installing more active recreational fields for baseball and soccer which would mean the preserve would be at least partially destroyed. The Parks Department has done surveys, which have shown a desire for more ball fields.

However, local protesters like David Quintana said they don’t want the natural habitat to be touched and instead of spending money to level the basins and install artificial turf, it would make more sense to fix up and maintain the baseball fields that already exist across the street in Highland Park.

Quintana said if the city were to fix up those fields then the necessity of tearing down all or part of the basin, “would be a moot point.”

In addition, local residents are casting doubt over the fairness of the survey. Quintana said he had obtained a copy and the questions were vague and some of the participants had never even visited the parks.

In another twist, the Parks Department announced a cut in the Ridgewood Reservoir budget plan from $48.8 million to $19.8 million in June.

In a study contracted by the Parks Department, the findings said “no less than 10 plant and animal species listed as Threatened, Endangered or Special Concern in New York State were found at the site.” In addition, the survey said 173 plant species and 127 bird species were observed at the Ridgewood Reservoir.

Quintana, who is focusing on educating the public about the importance of the preserve, said plans to alter the current state of the reservoir “makes absolutely no sense to me and many others in the community.”

Ridgewood Reservoir was active in 1848 to supply water to Brooklyn. The reservoir was then used as a back-up in 1959, after Brooklyn merged into New York City. Eventually, it was decommissioned and drained in 1989.

After it was decommissioned, Quintana said “the city basically neglected the property and Mother Nature has taken it back.”

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Going Wild In Queens

The Queens Tribune has a wonderful article about local naturalist David Burg. Dave and the late Al Ott helped guide the Highland Park-Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance when we were just getting started. If it wasn't for their honest advice and enthusiasm, I'm not certain we would have gotten off the ground:

Going Wild In Queens: Naturalist Works To Encourage Next Generation Of Enthusiasts

By Vladic Ravich

“Do you hear that?” said David Burg as he led two of his interns through a winding trail in Cunningham Park, red hedge clippers in hand. “That sounds like a Woodthrush, which was Thoreau’s favorite bird.” We stopped and listened, waiting for another call to punctuate the dull hum of the Long Island Expressway that carried through the century old trees.

We heard a distant flutelike trill and knew it was the right one when Burg’s eyes lit up with recognition. Then he turned his attention back to the underbrush, resuming his hunt for the invasive Multifloral Rose, Japanese Snotwood, Garlic Mustard and many other species that crowd out the young native plants that make up the ecosystem of these urban islands of wilderness.

You can read the entire article here.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lies and Deception

We already know from a previous post that the Department of Parks & Recreation intentionally created a survey of park users that would produce skewed results. The results were designed to support their efforts to waste taxpayers dollars on a park that nobody wants, is not needed and would destroy natural habitats unique to New York City. I was also recently confronted by their feeble attempts at hiding the truth.

In 2007 the parks department held their first series of community listening sessions. After one of those sessions, Gary Comorau (the current president of the Highland Park-Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance) asked Kevin Quinn, of parks Capital Projects, for a copy of their Powerpoint slide presentation. Kevin quickly obliged and images from that presentation have been used in handout by HPRRA. Another set of community listening sessions were carried out this year. On June 19th I sent an email to Kevin Quinn asking for a copy of the Powerpoint presentation that was used for the meeting at Oak Ridge on March 16th. I never heard back from him and, at the final listening session held at the end of June, I spoke with park administrator Debby Kuha. A few people in attendance at that meeting asked if parks could post the slide presentation online. I told Ms. Kuha that I had requested it from Kevin but that he never responded. She told me that if I send him another note and copied her, she'd make sure I received a copy. That email was sent out on July 1st and I still have not received any response from either Ms. Kuha or Mr. Quinn.

Subsequent to my conversation with Debby, I learned that Conor Greene from the "Forum" also asked Ms. Kuha for a copy of the presentation. He wanted the presentation because it contains the results of the original survey, not the new, phony survey. He was told by Debby that the results were not part of that slide presentation. I attended the March 16th meeting and the survey results were, in fact, part of the presentation. The results were presented by Melissa Hicks. Either Ms. Kuha has a very bad memory or she outright lied to Conor, knowing that he would learn the truth about the two different surveys. I realize that Ms. Kuha and other employees of the Department of Parks & Recreation read this blog, so I will ask the question publicly and let you know if I receive a response:

Debby - Do you have any intention of sending me a copy of the requested presentation, as you promised, or will I have to use legal means to acquire this public document?

UPDATE (7/22):
Today I received an email from Debby Kuha. She assured me that she'd ask Kevin "again", plus, she is "not a liar". Just to be clear, I did not say that Ms. Kuha WAS a liar, only that her response to Conor was either the result of bad memory or intentionally misrepresenting the truth.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bloomberg "Green"? Think again

In a recent interview with the Queens Chronicle Mayor Bloomberg was asked about plans for the Ridgewood Reservoir. For the self-proclaimed environmental mayor, his answer was a bit more revealing about his real "conservation" agenda than his questionable rhetoric:

Queens Chronicle: Proposals to develop the Ridgewood Reservoir site into a recreational area have caused a commotion among many community advocates. The local councilwoman and community board have opposed the plan and prefer proposals to preserve the site while making it more accessible. Where do you stand? What do you say to those who claim there is a push within the administration toward replacing the basins with ballfields despite public resistance?

Mayor Bloomberg: We are trying to come to some compromise. There is some evidence that the ballfields in the neighborhood are adequate. Others say, ‘absolutely not; we don’t have enough.’ Certain groups you’ll never do enough for. You can never do enough for bicyclists. That’s just the real world. The political pressure for ballfields is always there.

How's that for a non-answer? You'd think that someone who has been touting the benefits of conservation in NYC would have more to say about protecting the only habitat of its kind left in the five boroughs.

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Toxic Fill

City Comptroller William Thompson has called on Mayor Bloomberg to reveal to the public the risks of dredged toxic materials that the administration wants to use in public parks:


View Letter

Citing possible health hazards, New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. today called on City Hall to disclose potential health risks associated with plans to dump dredged materials from New York Harbor as fill at various parks and development projects across the City.

“I am deeply concerned about the Administration’s embrace of processed dredged material in City parks and its plans to allow its use in both public and private development projects,”
Thompson said in a recent letter to Mayor Bloomberg. “At a minimum, the public must be provided with complete information and firm assurances that their families will be safe not only now, but in the years to come.”

The letter is available at

The City currently plans to use the dredged material as fill at a number of parks including Heritage Field - on the site of the former Yankee Stadium - and Brooklyn Bridge Park at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. However, Thompson said, about two-thirds of the material in the harbor resulting from dredging is too contaminated to be placed in the federally designated offshore site, according to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. This toxic contamination includes unacceptably high levels of PCBs, dioxin, mercury and various heavy metals. Therefore, it must be “processed” and stored at alternative locations.

Traditionally, processed dredged material has been used to fill mines in Pennsylvania and cap landfills and brownfields or sent to designated disposal locations out-of-state. In addition, some material has already been used at the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island. With appropriate safeguards, it also may have potential in commercial development projects.

Roughly 15,000 cubic yards of processed dredged material has already been placed at the Bronx Terminal Market Waterfront Park, and there are plans to place 200,000 cubic yards of dredged material at both Heritage Field and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

“While I am advised that the material will be tested by City contractors and its placement will be approved by the state, I must insist that the Administration provide appropriate details regarding the quality of this fill and the safeguards it intends to adopt before it continues to place this material in our City’s neighborhoods,” Thompson wrote.

“My office is awaiting additional information about the City’s Dredged Material Management Plan, but as of this moment has not received it,” Thompson said. “Given that this harbor sediment has already been placed in the Bronx Terminal Market Waterfront Park, and there is a question of the public’s safety, it is imperative that City Hall understand the urgency of providing the public with as much information as possible. The people of New York City deserve to know when and how this material was placed in their park and the potential for cross contamination.”

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Rigged Surveys

During the final community listening session parks department officials were frequently interrupted by shouts of outrage from members of the public. When the results of their "new, improved" survey and their methodology was revealed, it was clear that there was some serious rigging of the results. A reporter from the Queens Chronicle was present for the proceedings and filed the following story:

Did Parks rig reservoir survey?
by Michael Lanza, Assistant Editor


The skewed results of a public survey presented last Tuesday is leading many Ridgewood Reservoir advocates to ask: is the Parks Department stuffing the ballot box?

Parks’ announcement of the results of a 253-person survey — which indicated a strong preference for replacing the reservoir basins with active recreational facilities — came as the city agency simultaneously presented data from public hearings showing overwhelming community support for preserving the site in its natural state.

The sudden shift in support indicated by the survey sparked serious questions and outlandish charges among area preservationists.

“Parks used people that Parks felt were going to give them the answers that they wanted,” said Steven Fiedler, a Community Board 5 member and reservoir preservation advocate.

But a recent disclosure by the Parks Department suggests that allegations refuting the poll’s integrity may have merit.

Three out of four local groups enlisted to help distribute the survey — the Cypress Hills Local Development Corp., Brooklyn East Youth Sports and Recreation and East Brooklyn Congregations — are vocal advocates for replacing the basins with ballfields.

The fourth group, the George J. Walker Community Coalition, did not have a confirmed position as of press time.

At the center of the controversial survey is Bishop David Benke, the leader of East Brooklyn Congregations and a board member on the Cypress Hills Local Development Corp.

“Anybody with Benke is gonna go with ballfields,” Fiedler said. Benke has been among the most vocal advocates for ballfields — lobbying the City Council with a public presentation at City Hall earlier this year.

Representing his parish in Bushwick, the Lutheran minister argued that Highland Park is simply too far a trek for his followers. Artificial and natural barriers are forcing Bushwick residents around the reservoir to access Highland Park, which they say is already too crowded and poorly maintained. He argued that the third basin is filled with invasive plant species and that eight of the 51 acres at the reservoir could be set aside for community baseball fields.

“That 8 acres does not really need to be a nature reserve, there’s nothing in there that needs to be preserved,” Benke said “Let’s use that for some sort of active use.”

But even he acknowledged that Parks’ decision to solicit their groups undermined the survey’s integrity.

“They said, ‘we need some people to hand out these surveys,’” Benke said. “You could make your case. You could say there are questions about the validity of a survey handed out by people who have already taken a position.”

The minister — confident that another survey would show similar results — said he would support a new survey distributed by an independent group.

Parks officials did not respond to allegations of bias within the survey.

The reservoir’s declining condition has become the center of a battle between preservationists and developers in recent years.

City Comptroller Bill Thompson shot down proposals by Mayor Mike Bloomberg to convert the reservoir into a sports field last summer, citing the ecological importance of the space.

“This plan flies in the face of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s widely hailed environmental blueprint, which bemoans the loss of the city’s natural areas,” Thompson wrote, protesting the plan. “The Parks Department’s own scientific consultants have warned against disturbing the reservoir, an area they call ‘highly significant for the biodiversity of New York City and the region.’”

Parks recently announced plans to slash development funds for the reservoir in its revised capital budget — cutting funds for Ridgewood Reservoir and Highland Park by more than half — from $48.8 million to $19.8 million. Approximately $7.7 million already allocated during phase one to restore lights and fencing around the reservoir will not be influenced by the cuts.

The cut was a mixed blessing for those who opposed razing the reservoir site to create ballfields — casting doubt on the most expensive of the propositions.

Three initial plans to develop the site included preserving the site as a natural habitat, filling in the reservoir basins and replacing them with baseball and soccer fields and a hybrid plan where only one of three basins — the largest one — would be converted into a recreational sporting area.

The reservoir, located on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, was created in 1848 to provide drinking water to Brooklyn. But it was converted to a back-up in 1959 and finally taken off-line in 1989. The site is now a natural haven for plants, turtles, fish, frogs and more than 137 bird species —including eight rare species on the National Audubon Society’s “Watch List.”

Parks department officials asserted that surveys were available at this year's listening sessions. Despite those claims, nobody from the Highland Park-Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance had ever been given the opportunity to fill one out ... and members of this group have been present at every meeting. Someone needs to ask the parks commissioner what was wrong with the original survey and why those results were discarded.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Bishop, Parks & Corruption

"Queens Crap" just posted a stunning report on the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation's "interesting" relationship with the East Brooklyn Congregation's head bishop. Many people have wondered why this allegedly honest man did a complete 180 degree shift from his original position on not developing the reservoirs to cutting down the forest. Now we know:

"When the city sells you lots o'land for $1 (upon which you construct vast quantities of Brooklyn Crap) and then they call in a favor, you do what they ask, otherwise, you might get cut off..."

Read the entire exposé here.

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NY Daily News Article Follow-up

Denis Hamill just wrote a follow-up article to his piece blasting the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation for disgraceful conditions at park baseball fields. From the new article:

"Help is on the way.

Or so says Dorothy Lewandowski, Parks Department Queens borough commissioner, and Philip Sparacio, department chief of operations in the borough.

They have already responded to some of the issues raised in my recent column detailing the deplorable conditions of the Little League fields in Queens."

You can read the entire article here. Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski is quoted in the article:

"In Queens, we have under 500 full-time maintenance, recreation, administrative and forestry workers to service 7,000 acres in 400 parks and playgrounds, plus 350,000 street trees, and 800 planted triangles and 168 baseball fields"

This begs the question,; If there aren't enough workers to take care of the existing parks, why destroy the unique habitats at Ridgewood Reservoir to create another one?

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ridgewood Reservoir hearing in Oak Ridge

The following was posted in the Queens Chronicle:

The final public hearing for plans to develop Ridgewood Reservoir has been scheduled for June 30 at Oak Ridge in Forest Park.

The Parks Department will present three development plans: preserving the site as a natural habitat; filling in the reservoir basins and replacing them with baseball and soccer fields; and a hybrid plan in which only one of three basins, the largest one, would be converted into a recreational sporting area.

The plans have been called into question in recent weeks after Parks officials cut funding for the project from $48.8 million to $19.8 million.

“If the reduction in funding is not restored or supplemented by another funding source, a new phasing strategy will be implemented,” Parks officials said in a statement.

Plans to raze the reservoir site and replace it with ballfields have sparked an ongoing battle between the city and preservationists.

Deactivated in 1989, the site has become a natural haven for plants, turtles, fish, frogs and more than 137 bird species — including eight rare species on the National Audubon Society’s “Watch List.”

The meeting is opened to the general public.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Highland Park Children's Garden

I just received a copy of the Highland Park Children's Garden newsletter for early summer:

Highland Park Children's Garden Reader - Early Summer 2009

Overall spring was cooler than normal but most of our experienced gardeners realized you must plant as soon as possible for an early harvest. By mid-May almost all the plots were planted. We had sufficient rain - only had to use the hose once to fill the barrels. But by the end of spring we had one of the wettest!

Remember gardeners we need your cooperation and commitment. Please continue to care for your plots and the path. Keep the shed tidy and neat by putting tools and other items where they belong. Please do not allow children in the sheds. We have a total of 28 registered families. Please welcome our newcomers: Sam & Laura Franqui and 5 children, Doug & Theresa Cohn and 2 sons, Sabrina Hartzler and Melanie Peters.

WE HAVE A NEW COMPOST BENCH - thanks to Miguel, Domingo, & Frank Belizario. You can see it next to the compost tumbler.


The Secret Garden on Tues, April 14, was a big success and we hope it will return next year. What made this terriffic was the activities focused on gardening and nature.
The 3rd Annual Hoe Down was a success on Sat. April 18, where we had Boy Scouts from Troop 96, Cub Scouts from Packs 67 & 224 and Girl Scouts Troop 2503 as well as their parents to help divide plants and work on the compost. We are greatful for the gardeners who came out to clean the garden.
The Junior Garden Club held their 3rd season from May 2 - June 6 with an average of 15 children. This year we had 2 other gardening families participate besides the Moores. Among the participants were 3 homeschooling families from our homeschooling support group: LEAH - Loving Education At Home. We will have a fall session in Sept. & Oct. And yes, we will enter vegetables from the garden for the Queens County Farm Fair Contest. Our sponsor is the Independence Community Foundation. Register on Sat. Sept. 5, 10 -12. Starts Sat. Sept. 12, 10 -12.
Plant Giveaways from the Green Guerillas in early May were given to our new gardeners. Domingo Belizario went to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden/GreenBridge giveaway. Dennis and Lucienne went on 6/6 to the GreenThumb spring supplies pickup. They were stuck in a big line but received a hose, hoe, bags, pruner and gloves. They brought daylilies and irises which were happily received by the gardeners.
It's My Park Day and Weed & Feed #1 on 5/16 was well attended and the path looked great. Begonia and geranium cuttings were given out as well as tomato and celosia seedlings: 45 adults & kids attended. No Rain!
The 3rd Annual Strawberry Festival on 6/13 was a success. The garden looked pretty and clean. The strawberry patch had more flowers and berries. It was not as large and sprawling as the first two years and there were less exhibits. But was much cozier and was as fun as ever. Plenty of entertainment and things to do. As in previous years, the garden received a donation of flowers from the greenhouse which was distributed among the plots and other areas. We are grateful for these beauties.

The Children's Garden is participating for a 2nd year in the Garden to Cafeteria Program with P.S. 89. The students will be growing and harvesting in their plots as well as the Junior Garden plots. Again, we ask the gardeners participation in harvesting and placing in a box for them in Sept. Many gardeners have surplus in Sept. and this a worthy cause to show children a healthy diet.

The Children's Garden is an official site of the Great Pollinator Project which is sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History. Ms. Josephine Scalia asked Joshua Moore if he will be an official Bee Watcher and he said yes. All the Moores went to the Bee Watcher workshop at the Alley Pond Environmental Center. We received native plants for the Great Pollinator Project which are planted in the Bird and Butterfly section. However, the milkweed plants are in the milkweed section and the mountain mint is in the mint section. Our first watching session was on June 25th. Thank you Nayda for helping set up the project site.

The Urban Park Rangers will host several nature workshops in the garden starting on Tues. July 21. Further details to be announced.

Our next Weed & Feed is Sat. July 4th, 10 -2. Weeding the path is first. If time permits we can weed in other areas. Please bring something to share at the BBQ. Nayda will have a cooking demo.

Remaining Weed & Feed #3 is Mon. Sept. 7 and #4 is Sat. Oct. 24, 10 -2. The last one will focus on getting the garden ready for winter. Pre-register for 2010 in Oct.


Co-ed Sports Clinics for ages 7 -14: Soccer, 10 - 12, Mon, Wed, Fri; Basketball, 10 -12, Tues, Thurs; Flag Football, 1-3, Tues, Thurs.
City Parks Foundation Tennis to age 17: 9 - 11, Tues, Thurs.
Yoga: Tues. 11 - 12 for Seniors; 12 - 1 for Teens. Ashford St & Jamaica Ave.
July & August Thursday evenings @7:30 Family entertainment sponsored by Councilman Dilan. Please check bulletin board. Wading/Performance area.
Aug. 29, Sat. 5:30 - Family Fun Night - activities plus a movie
Sept. 5, Sat. 10 -12 - Register for Junior Garden Club. 1st session on Sept. 12, 10 -12.
Sept. 27, Sun. 2 - Fall Bird Migration with the Urban Park Rangers. Elton St & Jamaica Ave.
Oct. 17, Sat. 12 - 3, Harvest Festival, Wading/Performance area.


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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Channel 12 Story

Here's a report from Channel 12 News about Ridgewood Reservoir:

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Budget Cut Article

The Queens Chronicle has an article about the recent budget cut to the Ridgewood Reservoir plan. City Comptroller Bill Thompson is quoted in the article. Unlike the mayor and parks commissioner, Comptroller Thompson views the 2030 plan as it should be seen - a complete waste of taxpayer's dollars:

"City Comptroller Bill Thompson shot down proposals by Mayor Mike Bloomberg to convert the reservoir into a sports field last June, citing the ecological importance of the space.

“This plan flies in the face of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s widely hailed environmental blueprint, which bemoans the loss of the city’s natural areas,” Thompson wrote, protesting the plan. “The Parks Department’s own scientific consultants have warned against disturbing the reservoir, an area they call ‘highly significant for the biodiversity of New York City and the region.

You can read the entire article here.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Final Listening Session

This note from the parks department just arrived:

Parks is pleased to announce a fourth community meeting to discuss community ideas and concerns for the Ridgewood Reservoir PlaNYC Project. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 30th at 7:00PM at Oak Ridge in Forest Park.

The meeting is intended to summarize what we have learned at the previous meetings, and to relay the results of the paper surveys that have been distributed over the past weeks.

Here is a map to Oak Ridge:

View Oak Ridge in a larger map

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

NYC Park Advocate article

Crain's New York Business just published an article on park advocate Geoffrey Croft. Geoffrey is a really important voice for New York City's residents and gave our group much needed advice when we first began organizing:

An army of one
By Daniel Massey

Published: June 14, 2009 - 5:59 am

Geoffrey Croft wolfed down a plate of rice and beans last week and hustled to City Hall, where he told a NY1 reporter that the new High Line elevated park in trendy Chelsea was getting more than its fair share of security guards. The camera had barely stopped rolling when he dashed around the corner to a press conference on the city's plan to allow private schools to pay for special access to ball fields on Randall's Island. “This is outrageous,” he said, echoing one of his signature refrains. “We need to stop this.”

You can read the article in its entirety here.

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Mayor's Wacky Priorities

Patrice O'Shaughnessy wrote a revealing piece about Mayor Bloomberg's bizarre priorities. His idea for the Ridgewood Reservoir's future is just one more example of his ridiculous vision for NYC:

Mayor Bloomberg's priorities out of whack
Tuesday, June 16th 2009, 4:02 AM

Years from now, people will look back in awe at the Alice's Wonderland that New York is becoming before our very eyes.

To build a billion-dollar major league ballpark, they took away Bronx parkland from kids.

Randalls Island is not for people in upper Manhattan and the South Bronx, but for elite private schools to use, because they pay for the privilege.

Ten years and $172 million went into building an elevated strip of park - the Highline - in Chelsea, which consists mostly of weeds poking through the ruins of railroad tracks. There are more dedicated park enforcement officers assigned there than to all of the Bronx, according to an advocacy group.

They shut down blocks of a major traffic artery in the heart of Manhattan so people can lounge in beach chairs on Broadway.

More and more, it feels like "Alice in Wonderland," but underlying the absurdity, it's like a tale of two cities, a story of the haves and the have-nots.

Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, had another literary reference.

"The Emperor's New Clothes," he said of elected officials' unquestioning acquiescence to the Bloomberg administration steamroller.

"They are destroying much of our parks system," Croft said. "It's out of control."

Consider the parks that the city gave to the Yankees so it could erect the new stadium and massive parking garages.

Three years after construction of the new ballpark began, none of the permanent parks that the city promised to replace Macombs and Mullaly are there.

The Department of Parks and Recreation had promised that seven of the eight replacement parks would be done in time for opening day. The schedule was pushed back, and a report by the Independent Budget Office revealed that costs had ballooned from $116 million to close to $200 million.

But Croft predicted, "Taxpayers will pay close to $400 million to replace parks that the city should never have taken."

And Heritage Field, a public park with baseball and softball fields, to be built on the site of the old stadium's diamond, isn't expected to be ready until the autumn of 2011. The old stadium hasn't been torn down yet.

"It troubled me that they could knock Shea down before the first pitch at the new Stadium," said Sean Sullivan, principal and assistant baseball coach of All Hallows High School on 164th St.

"And here, we still have two stadia on 161st St."

His baseball team ended the season with a 2-16 record (most games were lost by one or two runs), due to the youth of the team, but it didn't help that there wasn't enough practice time, due to lack of a field.

The diamond they had always played on vanished with the rise of the new Yankee Stadium.

"It was difficult to play home games in Staten Island," said Sullivan. "It was bizarre.

"We had an interim park for practice at 161st St. and Jerome Ave., but everyone was there. People were driving golf balls," said Sullivan.

"But now, that's been ripped up," he added.

Croft said he watched two weeks ago as that park was destroyed to make way for a five-story parking garage.

"Seventy percent of the mature trees in Macombs and Mullaly parks were destroyed," Croft lamented.

Maybe the kids in the Bronx should head on down to Times Square with balls and bats and play right there in the street.

Broadway is now closed for five blocks running through the Crossroads of the World.

The reasoning was to ease midtown traffic congestion. (It took me just 25 minutes to get from 12th Ave. to Sixth during the first week of the plan!)

But the real reason is to keep the tourists happy.

It's great that people from across the nation and the globe want to visit New York.

But do we really need to inconvenience people who live and work in the city?

Yes, the out-of-towners need to plop down and sprawl out after all the stress of seeing "Mamma Mia!" They are exhausted from all the New York things they've experienced, like visiting the Hard Rock Café, and shopping at The Gap.

They need a place to relax.

How about Central Park? Or the Highline? Or any of the other green gems throughout the city?

But don't look for a shady place to stop near 161st St. You can go to the new mall at the ballpark, though, with Applebee's, Babies R Us and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Yes, 10 years from now, we'll be looking back at former Mayor Bloomberg's absurd remaking of a city of unique character to one big homogenized mall, where the tourists feel right at home because it is exactly the same as their hometown.

Oh, wait. Bloomberg will probably still be in office, trying to close off E. Tremont Ave. to all but tourists in horse-drawn carriages.

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