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

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

HPRRA Newsletter

The Highland Park-Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance has just published their first newsletter. Download a copy in PDF format here.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

New Wetlands Initiative

The following quote if from Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030:

"Many New Yorkers don't realize there are thousands of acres of wetlands in the five boroughs," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Wetlands are robust ecosystems that perform crucial environmental functions like trapping pollutants, capturing stormwater runoff, sequestering carbon dioxide, and moderating storm surges. In PlaNYC, we promised to study wetlands and build on wetland successes like the impressive Staten Island Bluebelt stormwater project managed by the Department of Environmental Protection, as well as the thousands of acres of wetlands managed by the Parks Department." The mapping efforts and policy evaluation called for in the report complement ongoing City efforts that protect wetlands, including: - Acquiring additional wetlands as part of the Bluebelt network, Parks system, and upstate watershed land; - Implementing the comprehensive Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan for the restoration of tidal marshes and other aspects of the Jamaica Bay ecosystem; - Implementing the Sustainable Stormwater Management Plan to reduce point and non-point source water pollution; and - Revising the City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) Technical Manual that guides the process that City agencies use to identify the effect their actions may have on the environment.

If the mayor thinks that New Yorkers will take his "green" mandate seriously, perhaps he should start by reversing his plans to develop the Ridgewood Reservoir's important natural habitats. Below is a video with excerpts from the 2004 news conference about the reservoir's acquisition:

Note how flippant the commissioner of parks is with regards to the idea of protecting the wetlands.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Bloomberg to Waste Millions of our Dollars

Dreier-Offerman Park, also known as Calvert Vaux Park, is about to undergo millions of dollars in renovations. A major part of the Department of Parks & Recreation's plan calls for replacing the natural turf with artificial turf. What's wrong with this picture?

Remember that this is at a time when the city is tearing up toxic artificial turf fields in the Bronx and the City Council is considering banning certain artificial recreational surfaces. In addition, Mayor Bloomberg recently called for strengthening the city's wetland protection laws. Can someone please call the mayor and let him know that part of Dreier-Offerman Park IS wetland and ALL of it drains into wetlands? Installing artificial turf where there once was grass does nothing to protect wetlands, in fact, it degrades it. His honor also just sent out a press release about his concerns for higher temperatures and rising sea levels. It appears that he also missed the most important message regarding the Urban Heat Island Effect. That is, replacing living vegetation with plastic will actually ADD to the heat effect.

New York City residents should be outraged. At the same time Mayor Bloomberg is talking about cutting back on essential services and raising the cost of a subway & bus ride, he will be spending millions on a plastic field that will benefit very few and perpetuate our selfish assault on the environment. It appears as though his last two press releases were as phony as those turf fields, designed to give the impression that he actually cares about the environment. Send an email to Mayor Bloomberg to let him know what you think about spending millions of taxpayers dollars on artificial turf fields while cutting back on the things New Yorkers really need.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Reservoir Plans

The Daily News just published an article about new plans for the Ridgewood Reservoir:

Ridgewood Reservoir plan on tap
By Lisa L. Colangelo

Daily News Staff Writer

Thursday, February 19th 2009, 1:48 AM

City Controller William Thompson has signed off on the first phase of work at the Ridgewood Reservoir.

The Parks Department can move ahead on a design contract for benches, lighting, fences and steps on the perimeter of the site, Thompson said Wednesday.

The revamped agreement also calls for three conceptual plans for the reservoir area. One of those must be dedicated to passive recreation. And all work must be reviewed by community members and advocates.

"Under this new agreement, we have ensured that the public will have a say in the ongoing design and construction process of the rest of the reservoir each step of the way," Thompson said.

Some advocates want the 50-acre reservoir site, now filled with dense shrubs, trees and wetlands, to remain a natural site. They balked at one Parks Department plan that would include filling in one of the basins and clearing some brush for fields.

But other community groups have lobbied for more aggressive renovations, saying the area - located next to Highland Park on the border of Brooklyn and Queens - desperately needs ballfields.

I should point out two recent developments from Mayor Bloomberg that run counter to any plans that call for the development of the reservoir basins. First, on January 29th his PlaNYC 2030 office sent out a press release regarding local wetlands protection laws. It is entitled:

Mayor Bloomberg Releases PlaNYC Report On Protecting New York City Wetlands

The Report - New York City Wetlands: Regulatory Gaps and Other Threats - Fulfills a Commitment made in PlaNYC

One would get the impression that the Mayor truly wants to strengthen the protection of all our wetlands above and beyond the state and federal laws. Unfortunately, we have discovered that the city had ALREADY designated the Ridgewood Reservoir as an inland wetland, yet they are still willing to ignore that protection in the name of baseball fields.

Second, the Mayor also just sent out another press release on the effects that climate change will have on NYC. That report is entitled:

Mayor Bloomberg Releases New York City Panel On Climate Change Report That Predicts Higher Temperatures And Rising Sea Levels For New York City

The following is from the report:

"“There is a growing recognition of the need for adaptation to climate change in urban areas, and this initiative of Mayor Bloomberg’s puts New York City in the forefront of this global effort.” said Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies/ Columbia University Earth Institute and co-chair of the NPCC.""

Dr. Rosenzweig has been mentioned on this blog in the past regarding the heat problems associated with artificial turf, as well as, a study with Stuart Gaffin on the "Urban Heat Island Effect" in NYC. In its current state, LANDSAT images show that the vegetation in and around the Ridgewood Reservoir basins make in the coolest inland location within the five boroughs. Past recommendations to the mayor by Doctors Rosenzweig and Gaffin rely on the cooling effect of trees and other vegetation to mitigate increasing heat issues throughout New York City.

Finally, the assertion that the area needs more ballfields is without basis. Our group monitored the use of the existing fields during the course of the baseball season and they were frequently unused on beautiful Spring mornings. Below are two Google Earth map with the ballfields highlighted. One is the Highland Park area, the other is Prospect Park and surroundings. The satellite images are the same altitude and cover the exact same area. The neighborhoods surrounding Highland Park and the Ridgewood Reservoir show 18 ballfields. Prospect Park and the surrounding area show 13 ballfields. The next closest area to Prospect Park with ballfields is 2 miles away in Red Hook. Maybe the parks department should drain Prospect Lake to turn that into ballfields.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Monthly Meeting

There will be a meeting of the Highland Park/Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance this Friday, Feb, 13th starting at 7PM. The meeting will be held at the Ridgewood Democratic Club at 6070 Putnam Ave.
All are welcome.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

More Toxic Turf News

I've been posting news articles related to the heat and toxins associated with artificial turf fields because it directly relates to the NYC Department of Parks plans for the reservoir. Several new articles were published within the last 24 hours and, as many expected, it doesn't look good for the parks commissioner. This is from "Metro NY":

Toxic turf troubles park
by Patrick Arden / Metro New York

Feb 9, 2009

Lead levels at an artificial-turf soccer field shut down in December were much higher than the city reported, exceeding EPA safety limits by as much as five times. The Parks Department now wants $40 million in federal stimulus aid to “reconstruct deteriorated and potentially hazardous” fields.

The city’s put 111 fields in parks since 1997, nearly all during the Bloomberg years. Health concerns have haunted the rubber fields, made from recycled tires, which have been found to contain not only lead but chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects. The City Council holds a hearing on a turf moratorium today.

The city began testing turf in late 2008. Last week, Parks said new tests of 94 fields “found no further evidence of elevated lead levels.” It refused Metro’s request for results.

Dr. David Brown, former epidemiologist for the Conn. Dept. of Public Health, reviewed city tests of the closed field. Of 31 samples, 16 had elevated lead, but Parks averaged its results, lowering the final number. “All of the numbers have to be under regulatory limits, not half of them,” said Brown. “Why they’re doing it is beyond me. It almost is like, ‘Let’s make this problem go away.’”

(Photo: © Joel R. Kupferman/NYELJP/NYC Park Advocates)

New York City's Commissioner of Park & Recreation, Adrian Benepe, has some interesting logic in his varying responses to the findings:

The WINS 1010 story reports, "...the Parks Department says new tests found no further evidence of elevated lead levels and rejected the call for a moratorium. "The contaminated field at Thomas Jefferson Park is promptly being removed and replaced," said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. "Thankfully, this appears to be an isolated finding.""

Fox-NY writes, "City officials said none of the 88 other fields they tested had unsafe amounts of lead."

In the New York Daily News are the commissioner's curious claims that, "Because it's light-colored, Benepe said he hopes the sand won't heat up the way crumb rubber does. "For high-impact sports, grass isn't practical," he said."" He probably doesn't understand that one of the reason grass fields are so cool is due to the natural process of transpiration by plants. Also, for impact-related injuries, it has been shown that natural fields are safer.

In an article in the New York Times, Mr. Benepe, "challenged the notion that artificial turf runs counter to the mayor’s vision of a leafier, greener New York, noting that a field made of recycled materials could be more environmentally friendly than grass, which requires pesticides, herbicides, aeration and millions of gallons of water. “The so-called natural field leaves a large carbon footprint,” Mr. Benepe said. “You won’t find a lawn in nature.” [...] The beach gets hot too,” Mr. Benepe said."" But aren't beaches made out of sand, the material that he told the Daily News will, hopefully, make the turf cooler? FYI, Mr. Benepe, grassy habitats are referred to as "grasslands" and they exist in nature in lots of places. I'd like to see an evaluation of how much pesticide and herbicide is used on city-owned sports fields. Knowing the deplorable condition many of the fields are in, I'm guessing not very much. Besides, there are many less harmful alternatives to what he implied is being used.

Regarding the conservation aspects of artificial turf and the mayor's plans, below is an excerpt from a 2006 letter sent to Mayor Bloomberg's Long-Range Sustainability Planning Office. Written by Urban Heat Island Effect experts Dr. Stuart Gaffin and Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig it identifies four physical reasons why artificial turf gets extremely hot:

1. In trying to simulate grass coloring, the manufacturers employ dark pigments. Using an approximate albedo meter we recorded albedos of only 7%, meaning only 7% of incident sunlight radiation is reflected from the surfaces. Such low albedos are comparable to freshly laid pitch asphalt.

2. There is a filamentous structure to the turf surface, simulating grass blades again, we assume. These filaments however also lower the albedo by creating micro light traps.

3. The surfaces are impervious so that no water vapor from the soil can evaporate. And since they are non-living there is obviously no transpiration of water either. This also means that turf may be contributing to the urban runoff problem and combined sewer overflows, depending on where the runoff flows.

4. The surfaces are low mass and "cushion-y", for obvious reasons. The low mass means that they heat up very rapidly in sunlight, as compared to dense surfaces.

You can find many links to artificial turf articles and studies here.

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Nature Presentation

Photographer Steve Nanz will be speaking at the Queens County Bird Club at the Environmental Center in Alley Pond on Wednesday, Feb 18. The meeting starts at 8:00PM. His presentation will be on wildlife in Queens with the first half focusing on the Ridgewood Reservoir. Directions can be found here.

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