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

Friday, October 12, 2012

Renovation Article

The following was just published in the "Queens Chronicle":

Reservoir revs up renovation effort

by Michael Gannon, Editor
Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2012 10:30 am

City officials still are not commenting as to whether they will pursue the construction of athletic fields on the site of the old Ridgewood Reservoir. But upgrades visible from the street appear to be progressing nicely.

Phase 1 consists of new fencing, new staircases and the installation of ramps to allow handicapped accessibility to the newly repaved walking trail around the old basins. New fencing is being added and a brand-new wiring and electrical system is being installed to accommodate new lights atop classic-style lampposts.

Phase 1 was scheduled to be completed this past spring, until work began and contractors discovered walls and paths that were structurally unstable.

But Gary Giordano, district manager for Community Board 5, was upbeat on Monday.

“It should be done sometime this coming spring, which is better than I was expecting,” he said.

Still at issue is whether or not the city will allow one of the three basins to be filled in for the construction of athletic fields.

Officials from the Department of Parks and Recreation did not respond to requests for comment this week.

But Giordano said members of Community Board 5 remain steadfastly opposed to any plan that does not turn the former reservoir into a nature preserve for passive recreation, academic and scientific uses.

“With all the bird species there, you certainly have a reason for that,” he said. “We’ve been opposed to any of those basins being developed for active recreation, and the thought of thousands and thousands of truckloads of fill having to be brought in to fill one of those basins. It would be damaging to the surrounding community.”

He said there are plenty of ballfields of all kinds both in Highland Park and surrounding areas in both Queens and Brooklyn that would only need to be refurbished to serve the needs of all athletes.

The reservoir was built in 1858, and served as a water supply for Brooklyn for 101 years until two of the basins were drained.

Basin 2 served as a backup water supply for Brooklyn from 1960 to 1989, and was decommissioned in 1990.

It was transferred to the custody of the Parks Department in 2004 with the intention of turning it into a public park.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mayor Might Support Protection

From the Times Newsweekly:

State Reviewing Ridgewood Park Site Again
by Sam Goldman

Plans for ballfields in the third basin of the Ridgewood Reservoir, long opposed by local residents and community groups, may be fading away, according to members of Community Board S's Parks Committee.

At a meeting held Monday, Sept. 24 at P.S. 68 in Glendale, Parks Committee Chairperson Steve Fiedler claimed that the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is reviewing the site, citing a conversation with staff members from State Sen. Joseph Addabbo's office.

Addabbo, in a phone interview with the Times Newsweekly, confirmed that the DEC, at his insistence, is going back to review a study of the site three years ago that stated that two out of the three basins that make up the reservoir meet state wetlands requirements. "Protecting two-thirds of the wetland really doesn't make sense," he stated. "That's exactly what the city wants." Fiedler stated at the Monday meeting, noting that the third basin is where the city had hoped to build ballfields. "I don't believe it"

"If it's a point or two under the qualification for a wetland, it still has to be a wetland," said Fiedler. In addition, according to Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office is beginning to listen to resident requests that all three basins are left untouched.

"I had a meeting with him and people from Ridgewood and Maspeth," he noted. "He said to me, "Gary, you still want that to be a nature preserve right?' I said, 'yes I do." He said 'okay.' So I think he is favorable toward that idea."

The current project "is moving along," Fiedler noted, with handicapped-accessible ramps, lighting and fencing being installed, but work on the staircases at Jamaica Avenue has yet to begin.

He also expressed concern that the 15-foot lights can be knocked out with a bat if someone were to climb the four-foot fence.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

PlaNYC Fantasy

The blog "A Walk in the Park" has a posting on the NYC department of parks and Mayor Bloomberg's mismanagement of the PlaNYC plans for Calvert Vaux Park:

Bloomberg PlaNYC Parks - Fantasy and P.R.

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More Parks Mismanagement

The following story about the huge failure of Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC  "legacy" parks just appeared in the New York Post:

Parks and wrecks for Mike
Hizzoner’s fields of dreams coming up short
By Mary Kay Linge

Posted: 11:45 PM, June 23, 2012

Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy parks are coming — but they’re mired in hefty price tags and design problems.

The city has over-promised and under-delivered on $291 million in park projects that are being rushed to seal the mayor’s place in history, critics say.

The eight regional parks were announced with great fanfare in April 2007 as part of Hizzoner’s ambitious PlaNYC program.

Five years later, the push to get them completed — or at least under way — before the end of the mayor’s term in 2013 has led to downsized plans, engineering issues and delays.

“There was no planning, no realistic cost estimates. It was fantasy mixed with p.r.,” said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Parks Advocates.

Troubles emerged soon after the mayor’s goals were passed to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and his strapped Parks Department. Benepe announced his resignation last week.

Among the problems:

* Ocean Breeze Park in Staten Island saw work on a $69.7 million indoor track stopped over concerns the site’s concrete pilings wouldn’t hold up in the marshy soil. Outdoor soccer and baseball fields were cut. The track lacks air conditioning, making it unusable for big meets.

* At Highland Park, Queens [the Ridgewood Reservoir], the administration abandoned its plan to build a 60-acre sports center when environmentalists proved the site was an irreplaceable habitat. The revised project, a $19.3 million installation of paths, lights and fences, has been delayed by construction woes.

* Calvert Vaux Park in Brooklyn was to get sports fields, kayak launches and playgrounds, but amenities were cut after the discovery of contaminated soil. Much of the $20.1 million budget had to be spent on a cleanup.

* At Brooklyn’s McCarren Park Pool, set to reopen June 28 after a $50 million renovation and a year’s delay, a promised rooftop cafe has not been built.

* $29.3 million was budgeted to update Rockaway Park in Queens, but the plan’s second phase, renovation of the Beach Ninth Street portion, has still not been designed.

* Manhattan’s Fort Washington Park was promised a soccer and volleyball facility, renovations to baseball and soccer fields and upgrades to its beach area, but the major sports and recreation elements of the $25.1 million plan were deferred.

* Contamination at Soundview Park in The Bronx caused delays in its $15.3 million renovation. The amphitheater and performance lawn remain unscheduled.

* The city will spend $61.9 million to turn the High Bridge linking The Bronx and Manhattan into a passage for pedestrians and bikes. The design phase, delayed from 2008, was just finished and work hasn’t begun.

In its rush to build, the city skipped crucial steps like site reviews, park activists say.

At Highland Park, for example, the environmental assessment began months too late. And the city seemed unaware the soil under Calvert Vaux Park is a stew of Fort Lafayette munitions and dredge mud from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge’s construction.

“Mercury, munitions, petroleum, maybe even unexploded bombs from World War I — we don’t know what’s in that soil,” said Ida Sanoff of the Natural Resources Protective Association.

Once the eight projects are finished, finding funds to maintain them will be an annual headache.

“Future maintenance is our biggest concern,” said Francisco Gonzalez of The Bronx’s Community Board 9. “When there are budget cutbacks, the parks face the worst cuts.”

NEW YORK POST is a registered trademark of NYP Holdings, Inc.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Highland Park Problems

As it has been pointed out numerous times in the past, the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation's ability to maintain existing recreational facilities at Highland Park is dubious, at best. I can't imagine the mess they would make if they razed the forests and wetlands in the reservoir basins to build their proposed facilities. From the New York Daily News:

Cypress Hills softball players say city needs to replace lights and cut grass on field
Burnt-out lights lights at Highland Park are ruining games, players say
Wednesday, June 6, 2012, 5:52 PM

This field of dreams in Cypress Hills Dozens has become an endless nightmare for a group of softball players.

Members of the Hermanos Unidos softball league say burnt -out spotlights are ruining games at Highland Park on Jamaica Ave. - just like it did two years ago.

After the city fixed electrical issues that caused the field to be poorly-lit in June 2010, players are once again running the bases in the dark because the burnt-out bulbs haven’t been replaced.

“It’s frustrating,” said league organizer Yordi Olivo. “There are players who miss balls. They can’t see it because it gets dark after 8pm.”

Players counted as many as 14 bulbs that have been out since last August. The unkempt outfield has also been a problem for players who said they finally broke down and started paying a local contractor $100 a week out of their own pockets to mow the grass.

After the News inquired about the situation, city Parks Department officials said it would cost too much to replace each individual bulb on the light towers right away but said both issues would be fixed next week.

“The recent unseasonably warm weather and heavy rains have caused the grass to grow at an unusually rapid rate, and we are unable to mow the grass after rainstorms without damaging the field,” said Park Dept. spokesman Zachary Feder.

“These ballfields are scheduled to be mowed again by the end of the week and the burnt-out lights replaced by early next week.”

Players and organizers said the Parks Department can’t fix the field soon enough.

League president Jose Claudio said he’s left several messages to members of the Parks Department asking them to replace the lights but never heard back.

“Whenever the sky is cloudy, no one can see the ball,” said Claudio. “When we get to the playoffs this is going to be a big problem.”

Gabby Borges, 45, was playing catcher on Tuesday when he lost a routine pop fly in the dark sky because of the poor lighting. The ball bounced between him and the pitcher and three runs scored.

“If there was enough light I would have seen it,” said Borges. “You feel bad but there’s nothing we can do. It’s not like we can climb up the pole and fix the lights ourselves.”

Salvador Valera, who owns the permit to play on the field six days a week, wants results for the $6,000 he paid for the permit.

“They are killing us. We can’t afford to pay all that money but we do it,” said Valera. “We have no other choice but to come up with the money but we don’t get the service that we pay for.”

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Four Sparrow Marsh Meeting

Community Board 18 will present the NEW PLANS for the Four Sparrow Marsh area -
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18 @ 8 PM, Kings Plaza Community Room (enter near the garage on Flatbush Ave., the community room is to your right)

Four Sparrow Marsh is located on southbound Flatbush Ave, just past Toys R Us but before Floyd Bennet Field. It bears the NYC Parks Dept's  "Forever Wild" logo. The NYC Parks Dept. website says:

"Named by naturalists Ron and Jean Bourque, Four Sparrow Marsh Preserve is home to four native species which require undisturbed marshland for nesting: Sharptailed, Seaside, Swamp, and Song Sparrows. Because of its relative isolation from residential areas in Brooklyn, Four Sparrow Marsh Preserve has been allowed to remain in a fairly natural condition. This makes it ideal for many permanently nesting species, including several types of ducks, gulls, and wading and woodland birds, as well as for the common seashore mollusks and crustaceans which feed those birds. It is an important part of the Jamaica Bay estuary system. "

Note the final sentence: "It is an important part of the Jamaica Bay estuary system".

Last winter, the NYC Economic Development Corp. announced plans to turn a sizable portion of the marsh into a shopping mall. Although the site was marked by Parks Dept. signs, it turned out that the land had never been officially turned over to the Parks Dept.!!!

A number of us went to the Feb. 2011 Scoping Meeting. We've been to a lot of these meetings, but there was something really off kilter about this one. I remember turning to my colleagues & saying "something isn't right here". Several weeks later, we learned that State Senator Carl Kruger had been indicted, for among other things, being in cahoots with the developer. That was why things didn't feel right.

In the fall of 2011, the plan for the retail center was withdrawn. However, there are still plans in the works which may impact a small portion of the area that everyone thought was parkland. The new plans for development on the Toys R Us site are similar to what was previously announced (a car dealership & renovation/expansion of the existing marina). This will be built on the existing parking lot, etc. of Toys R Us. But there is an additional strip of land south of Toys R Us that is also included in the development. We need to see if this will intrude on the parkland of Four Sparrow Marsh.

We also need to insist that the remaining 60+ acres of land is OFFICIALLY turned over to the Parks Dept. Otherwise, there is a good possibility that sooner or later this site will be turned over to developers.

We lost the Vandalia Dunes to the Gateway Mall. Let's make sure that Four Sparrow Marsh does not suffer the same fate."


Read more about the Four Sparrow Marsh land grab here.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Phase 1 Delayed

The following was just published in the Times Newsweekly:

Renovations Delayed By Structural Instability
by Robert Pozarycki

Improvements to the perimeter of the Ridgewood Reservoir on the Brooklyn/Queens border have hit a snag after contractors working for the Parks Department found defects in retaining walls within one of the basins.

The Parks Department began work last year on the $7.2 million first phase of renovations, which include the installation of new lighting, fencing and a pathway around the 55- acre site adjacent to Highland Park. The project also involves the creation of a pedestrian ramp leading to the elevated reservoir from Vermont Place.

But in completing the scheduled work, crews found debris inside one of the basins. In the process of cleaning it up, “several unfavorable conditions were uncovered,” according to a statement from the Parks Department, “including structurally unstable paths and walls that will require extensive technical revision.”

Though workers were preparing to resurface the 1 1/4-mile pathway around the reservoir just before the damage was discovered, the repairs to the defective basin walls “require that we postpone laying asphalt until this spring,” the statement noted. As a result, the first phase of the project will likely be completed by the summer of 2012; originally, it was projected that work would be finished by the spring.

Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5, told the Times Newsweekly in a phone interview that he is trying to arrange a meeting with the Parks Department to discuss the emergency repairs as well as other aspects of the project. The meeting would also focus on planning the second phase of the reservoir’s renovations, which remain unplanned.


“We’d like to talk with the Parks Department with regard to what could be done based on the amount of money that may be available,” Giordano said. He hoped that the first phase of the renovations to the reservoir would “attract more people and hopefully a lot of nature lovers.”

Defunct since 1989, the reservoir has naturally evolved over the last two decades to become a habitat for various plant and wildlife. The center basin of the reservoir’s three chambers remains filled with water and resembles a natural lake.

The city’s Parks Department took control of the site in 2004 and in the years that followed, set out a plan to redevelop the site and Highland Park as one of eight “regional parks” around the city. Initial plans, conceived through the PlaNYC 2030 master plan, called for one of the reservoir’s three basins to be cleared and developed with new ball fields and play areas.

Community activists voiced opposition to the plans, observing that the reservoir should remain at a nature preserve and that ball fields at Highland Park should be improved instead. Numerous community meetings were held by the Parks Department over the last several years, gathering opinions from residents in both Brooklyn and Queens.

Though the city had planned to spend up to $50 million to renovate the reservoir for park use, recent fiscal constraints forced the city to scale back its improvements.

Giordano reiterated his belief that the Ridgewood Reservoir should be maintained as a nature preserve and opposed any ideas to transform one of its basins into athletic fields.

“To me, it’s senseless, but there have been people who have been advocating for ballfields,” he said. “Well, there’s got to be a better place to put ballfields other than the Ridgewood Reservoir site.”

He hoped that the second phase of the reservoir’s renovation would include improvements to maintain the “natural habitat” while also transforming one of the former pump houses on the site into an environmental center to educate visitors young and old.

“Some of us envision it as a place where students could go on school trips or not-for-profit organizations could take a trip there,” he said.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is also considering declaring the reservoir as a “state-regulated freshwater wetland.” If the site is given that designation, the state DEC would have the authority to review any potential activities at the reservoir and require permits for any specific improvements.

Giordano noted that the DEC recently completed hydrology tests at the site and has sent the results to the Parks Department for review. The Parks Department statement indicated that the agency is “currently reviewing the hydrology report and will share with DEC once our review is completed.”


The final paragraph is confusing. Why would the city be reviewing hydrology tests that the DEC performed then submitting them to the DEC? Besides that bit of weirdness, shouldn't the DEC be doing the wetlands mapping not the city agency who has a vested interest in preventing the area from having wetlands protection?

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