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

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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