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

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In the fall of 2011, the plan for the retail center was withdrawn.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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