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

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Queens Ledger Editorial

The following editorial was recently published in the Queens Ledger:

Wetlands designation right for Ridge Rez
Apr 27, 2010, Queens Ledger

We welcome the news that the state is considering protecting the Ridgewood Reservoir with a wetlands designation. It would be the right thing to do, for several reasons.

First, the reservoir- with its beautiful, lake-like second basin and winding pathways- is a gem of a natural habitat the likes of which can never be replaced. The site is home to over 100 species of birds, other animals and a rich variety of flora. It is a community resource, and by any measure more-than-deserving of environmental oversight and protection.

The issue of preservation hits roundly on the second- and perhaps most important- reason why the state plan makes sense. If the DEC classifies the site as a state-regulated wetlands, that could impede the city from pursuing a misguided redevelopment plan for the site, one that has been soundly rejected by the community board and neighborhood preservationists alike.

To be fair, the city isn't planning to raze the reservoir and replace it with high-rise apartment buildings or a large mall. But the city's vision for the reservoir- the final version of which has not been chosen, or made public- suggests a keen desire to build ball fields on the reservoir's third basin.

This makes no sense. It would disrupt the site's fragile ecosystem, and does not take into account Highland Park, which is adjacent to the reservoir and has plenty of recreational areas of its own. If the city, in these tough fiscal times, is committed to spending millions of dollars on a parks project on the border of Queens and Brooklyn, why not invest the money in improving Highland Park and leave the reservoir alone?

In that scenario, the entire site could be converted into a nature preserve with educational facilities, as many wish. The Bloomberg Administration, though, is not known for backing development compromises when it could instead spend more money, and build new projects.

So unless the state steps in, its very likely the city will proceed with its plans, regardless of any opposition to them. It is still unclear how a wetlands designation would impact the city's plans. And of course the DEC might decide not to follow through with the wetlands designation after all.

But if it does, that might be enough to protect the reservoir for generations of Queens and Brooklyn residents. And we might get an improved Highland Park in the bargain. How about that?
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

NYSDEC Wants to Protect Reservoir

The following breaking news was just published in the Queens Ledger:

State Eyeing Ridgewood Reservoir for Wetlands Protection
by Daniel Bush, Queens Ledger
Apr 22, 2010

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is considering classifying the Ridgewood Reservoir a state-regulated freshwater wetlands, this paper has learned.

The designation would subject the city's planned redevelopment of the reservoir to a state review, and would set the stage for a possible confrontation over the site with the Bloomberg Administration.

The city is planning a $26 million project that would convert part of the three-basin reservoir into a recreation area, despite objections from residents who want the site protected as a natural preserve.

Thomas Panzone, a DEC spokesperson, confirmed the state is eyeing the 160-year-old reservoir, which was decommissioned in 1989 and has reverted back into unkempt parkland.

“DEC is reviewing whether or not the Ridgewood Reservoir should be classified as a state-regulated freshwater wetland,” Panzone said in an email. If that happens any planned changes to the site would be subject to review by the state, and could require a permit under the state's Freshwater Wetland regulations, he said.

The Parks Department was not immediately available for comment.

The full implications of a wetlands designation on the city's plans for the reservoir remain unclear. But someone with knowledge of the negotiations between the city and state said the DEC's interest has complicated the city's efforts to remake the reservoir.

It appears likely the city could proceed easily with its phase one plans - to upgrade lights and fencing around the reservoir and rebuild a pathway between the second and third basins - regardless of any state involvement.

But the thought of complex wetlands regulations has raised concerns inside the Parks Department over its phase two plans to replace part of the third basin with an active recreation area. The work could prove difficult if the site were protected.

The phase two plan is deeply unpopular with local preservationists and Community Board 5, which recommended improving the existing ball fields in adjacent Highland Park instead of building new ones inside the reservoir.

“We'd like to see it be a nature preserve,” said Gary Giordano, CB5's district manager. If the wetlands designation allows for passive recreation on the reservoir's pathways “that's a lot more palatable than any kind of recreation development inside the reservoir,” he said.

Assemblyman Mike Miller said a state-regulated wetlands would provide important protection for wildlife within the reservoir, home to over 100 bird species. “It would curtail some of the changes the parks department wants to make,” Miller said, “but it would protect the basins the community wants protected.”

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Benefits of Open Space

The following article about the economic benefits of preserving open space was just published on the website for the New York League for Conservation Voters:

Report: Open Space Is Good For NY's Economy

Submitted by Elizabeth Mooney on Thu, 2010-04-01 11:05.

The benefits outweigh the costs of preserving open space, according to a new report by state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

Take farmland, which occupies a quarter of the total acreage in New York. It generates about $4.5 billion annually, with an additional multiplier effect from interrelated industries of approximately $31 billion. Forestry, tourism and outdoor recreation also provide substantial economic activity, the report concludes.

DiNapoli also noted that open space often requires fewer municipal services than lands in other use and tend to generate more in municipal tax revenue. Open space helps control storm water runoff, preserves surface water quality and stream flows, and aids in the infiltration of surface water to replenish aquifers. When lands are converted to other uses, the natural benefits provided by open space often must be replaced through the construction of water-treatment facilities and infrastructure to control storm water, all paid for through local tax revenue. A series of studies have found the preservation of open space to be a more economical way to address storm water requirements.

The comptroller’s report recommends that New York State consider: allowing municipalities to establish community preservation funds; evaluating the adequacy of protections for lands providing benefits for municipalities; improving state-level planning for open space to address long-term funding needs; improving the administration of funds for open space programs; encouraging private land conservation.

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