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

Friday, January 22, 2010

History Slideshow

Below is a slideshow presented to the Queens County Farm Museum by Christina Wilkinson, President of the Newtown Historical Society:

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Another Parks Dept. Screw-up

This is from the New York Post:

Bronx field now city's $14M blunder land
Last Updated: 3:51 PM, January 19, 2010
Posted: 2:31 AM, January 19, 2010

A city plan to rebuild one of The Bronx's biggest sports fields has morphed into a money pit for taxpayers.

Workers renovating Harris Field in Bedford Park recently uncovered contaminated soil under the playing surfaces, helping push the anticipated cost to nearly $14 million, city officials told The Post.

The price tag for the renovation had already gone from the $6.6 million announced in 2007 to $8.7 million, records show.

Now the Parks Department is confirming that it has to add another $5.2 million for cleanup because of the high levels of lead unearthed while workers were preparing to install drainage-system tanks needed to restore the popular park's six playing fields.

Harris Field used to be part of a reservoir before the city acquired the 15-acre site in 1917.

Department spokeswoman Vickie Karp said it is believed that the park was created with "the use of incinerator ash as fill, which would explain the presence of lead."

The original playing fields at the park were grass, but the city plans to cover two with synthetic turf.

A Parks Department official wishing to remain anonymous said that contamination wouldn't be an issue if all the fields were going to be grass but that replacing two with turf requires digging deeper to install the drainage tanks. Karp says this is untrue.

A fiscal 2008 mayoral report showed the Parks Department topped city agencies in cost overruns with projects costing an average of 50 percent more than the original contract price. The city average was 17 percent.

Harris Field is in line to rise by more than 110 percent.

"The project shows just how poorly the city does its due diligence on parks projects," said Geoffrey Croft, of the nonprofit group New York City Park Advocates, when told of the costs.

The project's long delays are crippling a popular Little League that plays there.

"The Parks Department only cares about construction, not children," said Don Bluestone, executive director of the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center.

Bluestone said the nonprofit group's youth baseball league has gone from 1,000 players to 500 since construction began. He ripped the department for closing the entire park and relocating the league miles away to parks filled with drug dealers and plagued by flooding.

The city's Web site says construction will be complete by the spring, but Bluestone was preparing to have his league play elsewhere this season.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

More Parks Department Dissatisfaction

The following article was just published in the Times Ledger:

CB 5, city clash over reservoir plans
Board to see proposals for revamp of Ridgewood site this month, Parks Dept. says
By Jeremy Walsh, Times Ledger

Thursday, January 7, 2010 11:13 AM EST

The city Parks Department is planning to unveil three potential plans to revamp Ridgewood Reservoir at a meeting this month. After a two-month delay, plans for the future of Ridgewood Reservoir will finally be unveiled to Community Board 5 probably later this month, officials told a Borough Board meeting Monday night.

But the selection or implementation of any of these plans could still be years away as CB 5 and the city Parks Department continue to spar over details of the first phase of the plan, which will repair crumbling concrete stairs, widen turns in the perimeter path and build an observation path on a causeway between two of the three reservoir basins.

CB 5 wanted several concessions from the Parks Department, including a pedestrian bridge over Vermont Place between the parking lot and the park, eliminating a ramp for the physically disabled because it would be redundant with the proposed bridge and raising the height of fences from 4 to 6 feet.

“I could step over a 4-foot fence,” CB 5 Parks Committee Chairman Steve Fiedler said. “At least a 6-foot fence is going to deter somebody.”

But Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski has turned down most of the board’s requests. Kevin Quinn, director of Queens capital projects for the Parks Department, defended the agency’s firm stance at Monday’s meeting.

A pedestrian bridge would cost between $2 million and $3 million, eating up a substantial chunk of the $7.6 million allocated for the first phase of construction, he said.

“We’re really tight on funds here and we want to get this going as soon as possible,” he said.

CB 9 Chairwoman Andrea Crawford also slammed the current state of the crossing.

“If I’m in a wheelchair and I drive my wheelchair-accessible van [to the parking lot] ... then I have to play ‘Frogger’ to get across Vermont,” she said, referring to the classic video game depicting a frog attempting to cross a traffic-choked highway.

The fences will remain 4 feet tall in most locations because the Parks Department does not want to restrict parkgoers’ views of the reservoir basins, Quinn said. Quinn also said the Parks Department had petitioned the city Department of Transportation for a traffic signal and pedestrian crossing at the parking lot, but the DOT turned them down.

Planners have put forward three possible directions for developing the reservoir as a city park: making it a nature preserve with minimal facilities, turning it into an active recreation site with numerous ballfields and a combination of the first two plans. CB 5 favors the nature preserve course.

The community boards in both Brooklyn and Queens have faced pressure to support the active recreation model because Highland Park’s existing ballfields are overused and in poor condition.

CB 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri said little money had been spent to maintain the Upper Highland Park athletic fields.

“That’s partly our fault,” he said. We haven’t been paying much attention to it over the years.”

But he and Fiedler also warned that the reservoir project essentially doubles the size of parkland that Forest Park is responsible for maintaining and both questioned where the funds would come from.

Quinn also pointed out that the city Public Design Committee had approved the Phase 1 plan, which made it complicated and time-consuming to alter.

“This is only the beginning of our process trying to get the Parks Department to listen to the community,” Fiedler said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.


Note the link to the posting on ACTUAL ballfield usage. I guess the parks department is hoping that residents forgot that we exposed their lies about how many permits are given out for field usage.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Queens Ledger Article

The following article was just published in the Queens Ledger:

Community boards not happy with Ridgewood Reservoir plans
by Holly Tsang, Queens Ledger

On Monday, members of Queens and Brooklyn Community Boards 5 and Queens Community Board 9 were presented with the Parks Department’s plans for phase one of a new park at the Ridgewood Reservoir, which straddles Queens and Brooklyn, and they were not happy.

CB5Q submitted its recommendations in July consisting of seven points that needed to be addressed, including the construction of a six-foot wrought iron fence with spikes at the top to deter trespassers and the construction of a pedestrian bridge that goes over high-traffic Vermont Place to the reservoir.

Much to the dismay of CB5Q, the Queens Borough [Parks] Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski wrote back in August that the Parks Department would likely take a different direction on most of the points; to name a few, the wrought iron fence in question would be four feet tall and instead of a “cost-prohibitive” pedestrian bridge over Vermont Place, an ADA-approved ramp would be constructed at Vermont Place, where a stop sign would also be installed.

And while both parties agreed that they wanted as little light as possible spilling into the reservoir basins, which house many species of birds and plants and serve as an East Coast fly-by for birds heading south, they couldn’t agree on where to place the electrical service conduit and lighting fixtures.

The Parks Department’s lighting plan costs an extra $90,000. According to Kevin Quinn, Capitol Projects Team Leader for Queens under the Parks Department, the construction budget for phase one is $7.6 million.

“We always try to give the community what they want, but we need to operate the parks, so there are certain operational concerns we need to look at,” said Quinn.

Steven Fiedler, Co-Chair of CB5Q’s Parks Committee, disagreed. He said the Parks Department rejected CB5Q’s proposal just days after it was submitted, ignoring the suggestions made in the public listening sessions on the Ridgewood Reservoir that have been going on for the last two years.

“My objective here is to make sure the Parks Department realizes, one, they’re not listening to the community and, two, phase one has to enhance phases two and three,” said Fiedler, emphasizing the need for a high fence around the perimeter of the basins to ensure that the reservoir remains wild.

He said that, for example, a higher fence would protect the reservoir’s wildlife for the implementation of phases two and three, which may include something like a boardwalk down in the basins for exploratory and educational purposes.

The master plans for the next phase will be unveiled at the end of the month. Fiedler said the community boards are advocating for a plan that will leave the reservoir natural as it is now. Other options include the construction of on-site sports fields or mixed-use.

CB5Q enlisted the written and voiced support of over a dozen elected officials and community groups including Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez, State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Assemblyman Mike Miller, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, Queens Coalition for Parks and Green Spaces.

“They’re not listening to us. They’re designing in a box like they always do and they’re wasting money,” said Fiedler. “It’s a terrible waste of money.”


You can click the above links to send emails to Congresswoman Velasquez, Senator Addabbo, Assemblyman Miller and Councilwoman Crowley.

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Phase I Article

The following article in the New York Daily News describes the first phase of the reservoir renovation:

With some back and forth, Queens park will get upgrade

by Lisa L. Colangelo
Daily News Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 6th 2010, 4:00 AM

Crumbling staircases, poorly lit pathways and missing fencing will finally get fixed during the first phase of renovations to the Ridgewood Reservoir-Highland Park site, a city official said.

But the devil is in some of those details, according to members of several local community boards who got a chance to comment on the plan at the Queens Borough Board meeting on Monday.

The site, which straddles the Queens-Brooklyn border, has been slated for a multi-year, $26 million upgrade.

However, it's still unclear whether that includes the addition of ballfields and recreational facilities in some areas. Community members and elected officials have lobbied the city to the keep it a natural green space.

The project's first phase, which has not yet gone out to bid, includes infrastructure improvements such as paving, lighting and fencing. It's expected to cost about $7.6 million, a Parks Department official said.

But Steve Fiedler, chairman of Community Board 5's parks committee, said the 4-foot fences planned for certain portions of the reservoir will be inadequate to stop vandals.

"I can step over a 4-foot fence," he said. "At least a 6-foot fence will deter someone."

Local residents would also like to see a wheelchair-accessible ramp near one of the parking lots, he said. In addition, board members asked the Parks Department to keep some of the 19th-century gates that date back to the early days of the now-decommissioned reservoir.

"They don't make this design in heavy wrought-iron gates anymore," Fiedler said.

But Kevin Quinn, a Parks Department representative, said the old fencing isn't up to snuff.

"We fell in love with it also," Quinn told the Borough Board, which cconsists of community board leaders and the borough president. "But the spacing of the pickets no longer meets code as a guardrail."

The fencing will rise as high as 6 feet in some sections, he said, but it will stay lower in other areas to provide better sight lines.

"Why spoil the view?" Quinn asked. "If someone wants to get down there, they will get down there. This size works for Central Park."

The Parks Department is expected to release three preliminary plans in the coming weeks for the second phase. One will focus on using the site for passive recreation, another for active recreation and a third for a combination of the two.

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