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

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Phase 1 Delayed

From the "Queens Chronicle":


Reservoir rehab deadline extended

by Michael Gannon, Associate Editor
Thursday, December 1, 2011 12:00 pm

Completion of the first phase of construction at the Ridgewood Reservoir is being pushed back to next summer based on safety hazards uncovered by the city’s Parks Department in recent months.

“After debris was removed from the site, several unfavorable conditions were uncovered, including structurally unstable paths and walls that will require extensive technical revision,” said a spokesman for the Parks Department in an e-mail on Wednesday.

“As always, safety is of paramount concern, and correcting these conditions will require that we postpone laying asphalt replacement until next spring,” the e-mail continued.

The changes mean completion of phase one, which included a resurfaced trail, new lights and fencing, will be pushed back slightly from its original spring 2012 date.

Many residents of Ridgewood and surrounding areas want to see the site of the former water basins kept as they are and allowed to return undisturbed to their natural state.

The aim would be to establish a nature preserve open to hikers, nature lovers and educational groups.

Others are calling for at least part of the site to be converted to public athletic fields.

The future of the site could depend largely on the results of hydrological and soil tests being conducted by the city.

Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5, told the board’s Parks Committee Monday that those test results were scheduled to be turned over to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation as of Nov. 30.

Wednesday’s e-mail said the hydrology report is being reviewed by city personnel, and will be shared with the state as soon as it is completed, and that the report must be completely analyzed before determining specifics for phase two.

Approximately $3 million is available in the city’s FY 2013 budget for a second phase.

The testing might or might not support the claims of those who want the state to declare the site a wetland. Such a designation would make it far more difficult to construct ballfields.

The reservoir sits in Highland Park on the border with Brooklyn. It was built as a reservoir in 1858 and continued to serve Brooklyn until 1959, when basins one and three were drained.

Basin 2 served as a backup supply for Brooklyn from 1960 to 1989, and was decommissioned in 1990. It was transferred to the Parks Department in 2004 with the intention of turning it into a public park.

The major point of contention between the city and CB 5 is the planed installation of a four-foot fence around the reservoir as opposed to the six-foot one CB 5 wanted.

“Four feet won’t protect people or the reservoir,” said Steven Fiedler, chairman of the Parks Committee. “But we’ve already lost that fight.”

In other business at the meeting, the Parks Department announced a $750,000 initiative to renovate and expand the bocce courts at Juniper Valley Park.

Jane Couch, a department landscape architect, told the committee that they will add metal-framed, shading canopies at the ends of both existing courts. Both existing courts may receive minor upgrades or repairs as deemed necessary during construction, and a third court will be constructed on the site of an existing shuffleboard court.

Andrew Penzi of the Parks Department said construction could start by next fall and would take about one year to finish.


I don't think that the Department of Parks and Recreation can be trusted to carry out an unbiased hydrology report.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Four Sparrow Marsh Project

Looks like this travesty has been cancelled ... for now:

Forest City Ratner project in Mill Basin, touched by corruption indictment, "has been withdrawn;" indicted developer had role in City Point, whose lead developer didn't pay bribes but made gifts to Markowitz charities

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The following just appeared in the publication "International Business Times":

Thursday, October 27, 2011 4:53 PM EDT
Ridgewood Reservoir Changes Met With Approval, Degree of Skepticism

By Cristina Merrill

Preservationists call the Ridgewood Reservoir an environmental gem in New York City.

However, development plans to spruce up the over 50-acre site have reservoir advocates concerned that planned changes might transform the lush wilderness into an unrecognizable landscape.

Located in Highland Park, which covers land in the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood and the Brooklyn neighborhood of Cypress Hills, the Ridgewood Reservoir is one of a handful of reservoirs remaining in New York City. Other reservoirs in the city are the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Manhattan's Central Park, the Jerome Park Reservoir in the Bronx, and the Silver Lake reservoir in Staten Island.

"You feel like you're not in New York City," said Gary Comorau, president of the Highland Park Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance, an advocacy group that promotes the reservoir.

The area has been left alone in recent years, but that changed in April when the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation started developing the land. The first phase of the project will cost taxpayers $7.6 million and is expected to be completed in the spring of 2012, according to department spokeswoman Patricia Bertuccio and the department Web site.

The initial changes are meant to spruce up the area and make it more accessible to the public. This includes fixing surrounding pathways and installing a ramp.

"Invasive species that are compromising the infrastructure and threatening the delicate biodiversity of the Reservoir basins will be removed," Bertuccio wrote in an email.

While these changes are welcome, others have been met with criticism.

One point of contention is a new perimeter four-foot tall steel bar fence, shorter than the current chain link fence. Some residents believe the new fence will not be enough to protect the area.

"There have been times in the past where people have jumped the fence and were up to no good or cut the fence and were up to no good," Queens Community Board 5 Parks Committee chairperson Gary Giordano told IB Times. "I mean, I'm over 50 and I could do it no problem," he said of going over the new fence. "You make an investment of that size and you want to protect it."

Comorau echoed this sentiment, noting that two of the three basins have already made for popular paintball locations.

"That's very destructive to the environment," he said.

The Future

Reservoir advocates expressed concern about what will happen after the first phase. The next phase of the project remains in the design stage, according to Bertuccio, as the Parks department is working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the city's Department of Environmental Protection. She noted that because of post-Hurricane Katrina regulations, further hydrology studies are required.

"Future development of the basins will be based on the findings and interpretation of the hydrologic studies," Bertuccio wrote.

Locals worry that plant life in the basins will be wiped out during future developments.

Christina Wilkinson, president of the Newtown Historical Society in Ridgewood, remembers hearing about the Ridgewood Reservoir from older locals. The New York native saw the reservoir for the first time in 2007 when she participated in a breeding bird survey with other volunteers.

"We descended into the third basin and walked around fields and forest," Wilkinson told IB Times in an email. "I saw fascinating plants and insects that I have never seen before and I knew at that moment that it needed to be preserved."

Like other reservoir enthusiasts, she wants the area to be accessible to the public, but believes that changes should only go so far.

"The Ridgewood Reservoir has evolved into three distinct ecosystems that should be accessible to the public but be left in their natural states," Wilkinson said. "There is no need to remove the flora and fauna that have found a home in the reservoir basins."

Keeping it Natural

Reservoir advocates recently sent a proposal that suggested two sections of the Ridgewood Reservoir be classified as wetlands, which would incur stricter regulations for development. Comorau noted that the Highland Park Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance sent the request to the Department of Environmental Conservation.

"The question from day one has been 'are these basins, in fact, wetlands?'" Comorau said, adding "We think they should be classified as wetlands." If the Ridgewood Reservoir does qualify, he said, that should limit what the city can do to the basins.

According to a 2010 NYC Department of City Planning land use chart, Brooklyn has 13,182 acres of open space, the most of the NYC boroughs. This acreage makes up 34.5 percent of the borough. Queens has 10,968 acres of open space, according to the Planning chart, making up for 20.6 percent of the borough.

Reservoir supporters also see the reservoir as an educational opportunity to teach New Yorkers a thing or two about nature.

"The reservoir is a site that can be used to teach urban residents about the natural world as well as the history of the Brooklyn Water Works," Wilkinson said in an email.

The Parks department seems to be on board with this. Bertuccio wrote that other developments in the area "may include interpretive and educational signage to relay the Reservoir's rich natural history, wildlife and plant life."

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Waterworks Tour

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Upcoming Event

The Newtown Historical Society presents:

History of the Flushing River
Water body separates Newtown and Flushing

Sergey Kadinsky

The Newtown Historical Society is proud to present "The History of the Flushing River" slideshow and lecture by journalist historian and licensed tour guide, Sergey Kadinsky.

He will discuss its geologic history, tributaries, development, the plans of the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs and its future.

Date: Sunday, August 28th
Time: 2pm
Location: 1883 Stockholm Street, Ridgewood, Queens (in the Stockholm Street Historic District)
Cost: $10 for non-members, $5 for members

Space is limited!  Please RSVP to newtownhistory [AT] to reserve your spot.

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Friday, July 8, 2011

Inept Parks Department Begins Work

Despite the local community board's outrage over a poorly thought-out fencing and lighting design for the Ridgewood Reservoir's perimeter, the Department of Parks and Recreation is proceeding with their plans.

Crime is up in parks citywide, yet NYC Park Commissioner Benepe and Queens Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski think that leaving the 50 acre basins essentially wide open to anyone who wants to jump the fence and disappear into the forests below is a really good idea. Anyone with half a brain can figure out what is going to occur once all the 8 foot fences are removed. This blog has been documenting the travesties involved with the "community input" process and the parks department has been summarily ignoring the people from the surrounding neighborhoods. The removal of the protective fences marks the beginning of the end of the most unique habitat in all of New York City and a historically important landmark. When the first dead bodies are found in the basin and the city decides it would be best to raze the evolving forests and bogs, remember the name Dorothy Lewandowski as she is the city official who should be held responsible.

The following was just published in the Astoria Times:

Construction begins at Ridgewood Reservoir

By Joe Anuta
Thursday, July 7, 2011 10:57 AM EDT

A worker grinds down a stump along the path surrounding the Ridgewood Reservoir.
Photo by Joe Anuta

Construction on the Ridgewood Reservoir is in full swing, which pleased some park-goers but continued to enrage community activists.

Nearly half of the path that winds around the parcel of wilderness is closed to the public as construction crews tear out sections of fence and cut down trees along the edge.

“It’s going to be beautiful, we’re very happy to be working on it,” said one of the construction workers from a Maspeth construction company, who won the contract bid to revamp the green space.

The company will be replacing some of the stone slabs on the edge of the reservoir, installing new lights around the inner circumference of the path and placing benches near especially scenic views. A path that cuts down the middle of the reservoir between two of the large basins was previously off limits, but will also be open to the public under the new plan.

The company will also be installing a ramp to allow disabled residents access to the reservoir.

But one contentious change will be the new fence that is set to replace the chain link barrier that currently surrounds the reservoir.

The new fence will be about 4 feet tall instead of the nearly 8-foot version and has generated friction between the city Parks Department and Community Board 5. Representatives from the board believe the fence is too short and would allow curious explorers unencumbered access to the nature preserve.

“I can step over a 4-foot fence,” said Steve Fiedler, chairman of the board’s Parks Committee. “We want a deterrent.”

People already slip into the reservoir through the dilapidated, porous fence to sleep, consume alcohol, do drugs or even stage paintball matches, he said.

“There is no security there, no cops,” Fiedler said. “It’s a free-for-all.”

But Parks said the shorter fence will allow visitors to actually see the foliage.

Residents were split on whether the shorter fence would be an improvement.

“I think a smaller one is better,” said resident Jose Estebec. “You can actually see everything.”

Kamesha Scott disagreed, saying a taller fence is needed to keep out adventurous kids.

“If you have the kids who want to explore, they’re better off keeping it higher,” she said.

The construction is set to be complete in next spring.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More on St. Savior's "Park"

The following video from WPIX is just another chapter in the travesty at St. Savior's in Maspeth:

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Monday, June 20, 2011

More Four Sparrow Marsh Documentation

Two justifications that the parks department has been using for possibly destroying part of an important wetland that is owned by the city are:

- Four Sparrow Marsh is not parkland
- The acreage that they want to give to developers is not part of Four Sparrow Marsh

Fortunately there is plenty of public documentation that contradicts their public statements. Below is a list of links to New York City Department of Parks and Recreation webpages and downloads with information relevant to Four Sparrow Marsh. The list also includes a few links from other city agencies. If the any of those links mysteriously disappear, let us know as we've saved all the downloads and created PDF files of the webpages:

List of Parks by Total Acreage

Explore Your Park, Find A Park, List of Parks

Explore Your Park - Four Sparrow Marsh

Explore Your Park - Four Sparrow Marsh Highlights

Explore Your Park - Four Sparrow Marsh Highlights 2

Explore Your Park - Four Sparrow Marsh Trip Planner

Natural Resource Group, Forever Wild, Four Sparrow Marsh Preserve

Explore Your Park - Four Sparrow Marsh Highlights, Invasive Phragmites

Explore Your Park - Four Sparrow Marsh Highlights, Salt Marshes in New York City Parks

Four Sparrow Marsh Forever Wild Map

About Parks - Divisions > Natural Resources Group, Forever Wild & Nature Preserve Sites

Natural Area Mapping and Inventory of Four Sparrow Marsh

Explore Your Park - Four Sparrow Marsh, Capital Projects

About Parks Divisions - Natural Resources Group & Natural Resources Group Publications

About Parks Divisions - Natural Resources Group & Restoration Sites, Brooklyn Restoration Sites

Explore Your Park - Four Sparrow Marsh & News, NRG Restoration and Avian Monitoring

Explore Your Park - Marine Park & News, NRG Restoration and Avian Monitoring

Natural Resources Group Forest Restoration Team 2000 Annual Report

Natural Resources Group Forest Restoration Team Spring 2002 Summary

2002 Annual Report City of New York Parks & Recreation Natural Resources Group Forest Restoration Team

2003 Annual Report Natural Resources Group Forest Restoration Team

Natural Resources Group Forest Restoration Team Spring 2003 Summary

Natural Resources Group Forest Restoration Team Spring 2004 Summary

Natural Resources Group Forest Restoration Team Fall 2007 Summary

Natural Resources Group Forest Restoration Team Planting Report Spring 2009

Overview Map NYC Parklands Open Spaces NWI Wetlands

Parks  & Recreation 2002-2003 Biennial Report Eight Seasons of Progress

Recommendations for the Transfer of City-Owned Properties Containing Wetlands


Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan

New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan

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Four Sparrow Marsh tour

NYC Wildflower Week
Botanical Tour of Four Sparrow Marsh
Sunday, June 26, 2011, 10 – 11:30 am
Location: Meet at the parking lot of the Toys R Us, 2875 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn
Guide: Matthew Wills, Naturalist and Blogger
Register for this event
Description: Four Sparrow Marsh in Mill Basin, Brooklyn is one of the last remaining salt marshes on the north shore of Jamaica Bay. The marsh provides critical filtration services for the bay and is habitat for numerous nesting and migratory bird species. Consisting of mudflat, salt marsh, upland meadow, and a sprinkling of deciduous trees, the Four Sparrow landscape hosts a mixture of native and invasive plant species. The marsh’s meadow is currently the site of a proposed retail center which threatens to degrade if not destroy this nearly unique corner of the city.


Here is a short video that clearly illustrates how the parks department would be complicate in the theft of public lands for the use of a private developer. Note how the parks departments own documentation shows the ecological significance of Four Sparrow Marsh.

Four Sparrow Marsh Preserve Key
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Monday, May 16, 2011

Queens Park Rally

The following is from our friends at the Newtown Historical Society:


Dear all,

The last time we held a rally at the St. Saviour's site, it was 2008, and the historic church building was about to be razed. Our elected officials were not interested in supporting our effort to create a park there and neither was the Parks Department. Things were looking grim.

My, how things have changed in 3 years!

Today, the church is in storage, awaiting its new home. The Parks Department is in negotiations with the property owner in the hopes of coming to a purchase agreement. Our elected officials at every level of government are all on board with obtaining the site and converting it into a public park. They have secured enough funding for the City to start the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) required to take possession of the property. The only problem is that the City has been dragging its feet on starting this, and it may take up to 2 1/2 years for the City to obtain permission to purchase the property. We fear the developer will not wait that long and may either sell or develop the property in the meantime.

We will be therefore be hosting a rally calling on the City to initiate the ULURP process ASAP. We ask that you join us.

What: St. Saviour's park rally
Date: Saturday, May 21st, 2011
Time: 1pm
Place: 57th Road and 58th Street, Maspeth, Queens
Who: Local residents, elected officials and community groups

Please see attached flier.

(Fliers in Spanish and Polish may be accessed here.)

Thank you for your past support and I hope to see you next Saturday.

Christina Wilkinson
Newtown Historical Society

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Reservoir Construction Might Begin

The following was just published in the "YourNabe":

Reservoir due for makeover
CB 5 questions wisdom of new lights, fences at Ridgewood water body

By Joe Anuta
Thursday, April 28, 2011 12:12 PM EDT

Construction could begin soon on new fencing surrounding the Ridgewood Reservoir despite objections from members of the community and borough lawmakers.

The contract has been awarded to a Maspeth construction company for $6.4 million, according to the city comptroller’s database, and the work is set to be complete by the end of the year.

But several members of Community Board 5 criticized the city’s plan for the renovation, citing unnecessary spending and inadequate protection of wildlife.

“I’m trying to fight them, but the contract is already awarded and registered in the comptroller’s office,” said Steve Fiedler, chairman of CB 5’s Parks Committee. “Nobody wants to listen.”

One of Fiedler’s objections shared by the rest of the board is that the proposed fence, at 4 feet tall, is too short and would invite trespassers into the natural enclave.

“Right now there is an 8-foot fence and they can’t keep [people] out of there,” Fiedler said.

There are innumerable holes cut into the current chain link fence that surrounds the three basins of the reservoirs. Some have been patched, but many still allow unencumbered access to the basins.

Fiedler said people also dump garbage and have been known to play paint ball in the wooded areas of the reservoir.

A representative from the city Parks Department said the new fencing will allow visitors to see the basins.

“New steel bar fencing around the perimeter and fencing of historical reference near seating areas between basins will allow visitors visual access to the natural environments in the basins,” said the representative, who asked not to be identified.

Currently, the 8-foot tall fence allows park-goers to see the park only through the wires and is overgrown with vines in many places.

The city will also combat invasive species like phragmites, a reed that takes over in watery soil, which have plagued the park over the years.

Fiedler and the board also took issue with the type of fencing.

The park currently has more than 4,000 feet of historic, wrought-iron fencing in and around the basins, Fiedler said. In fact, the fencing was so elaborately crafted that the city made a model of it to use in Central Park in Manhattan.

“You cannot get fencing like that anymore,” Fiedler said, lamenting the fact that the vintage metal will likely be thrown away or melted down.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) also had objections to the department’s plan to install new lighting.

The city plans on installing lights along the path at 15-foot intervals. There are currently dilapidated lampposts located on the outside of the path, but the city’s plan would move them to the inside and install a shade that would shield the animal and plant life from the lights at night.

“We could save money by building on the existing side,” Addabbo said. “I’m not an engineer, but ... I’d like to respectively disagree with the Parks Department.”

The contract is currently under review by city Comptroller John Liu.

In 2008, former city Comptroller William Thompson rejected a plan to turn the reservoir into sports fields.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.


You have to wonder what kind of political system we have in New York City when community boards and nearly an entire community can reject an expensive capital project, but the parks department is under no obligation to respond to those objections.

To contact the office of Comptroller John C. Liu, click here or mail your letters here:

Office of the Comptroller
City of New York
One Centre Street, New York, NY 10007
Phone: (212) 669-3916

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