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

Friday, October 18, 2013

New Pathway Photos

Here are a few photos of the renovated pathway:

All photographs by Matt Schicker

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

One More Article

The parks department's PR office somehow even managed to get an article into "Broadway World":

Photo Flash: NYC Parks Cuts Ribbon on Highland Park Renovated Paths

October 15

NYC Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White today joined Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, Assembly Member Rafael Espinal, and members of community boards in both Queens and Brooklyn, to cut the ribbon on renovated paths through Highland Park and around the park's Ridgewood Reservoir. The $6.92 million construction project was funded by Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC initiative and also includes new fencing, pathways, lighting plantings. Scroll down for photos!

"Highland Park has long been one of the City's best places to catch a glimpse of native and migrating birds or to enjoy the changing foliage," said Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White. "Thanks to nearly $7 million invested by Mayor Bloomberg, it is now a great place to exercise, and even more accessible to all New Yorkers. I encourage everyone to visit and see all that their local parks have to offer."

After active use of the Ridgewood Reservoir stopped in the 1960s, it became home to a unique ecosystem, including more than 100 species of birds. The first phase of improvements, including new lighting, restored pathways, wheelchair-accessible entry points, and new fencing, was completed earlier this summer. Parks is currently working with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation on plans to decommission the reservoir's dam, required as a result of new safety regulations instituted Hurricane Katrina. Conceptual master plans are also being created for further improvements to park infrastructure, including possible locations for pedestrian networks, active and passive recreation, playgrounds, and educational opportunities.

Highland Park and the Ridgewood Reservoir sit on a ridge with dramatic views of the Rockaways, Atlantic Ocean and nearby communities. It was acquired in pieces over time by the City of Brooklyn, Parks, and The Highland Park Society. The first purchase was in 1856 when the City of Brooklyn purchased the Snediker's cornfield to start the construction of the 50-acre Ridgewood Reservoir. This Reservoir was important as the population in Brooklyn was growing and there was a need for more water. The Reservoir was built in 1858 and held 154 million gallons. In 1889, the Reservoir was the last link in the aqueduct system that originated in Nassau County. In 1891, the land surrounding the reservoir, which in now Upper Highland Park, was purchased by the City of Brooklyn. Jurisdiction for this parcel was given to The Highland Park Society. This parcel helped to buffer the Reservoir from the pollutants generated by cemeteries and garbage plants.

In 1894, an iron fence was built around the Reservoir and ornamented with electric lamps.

The Reservoir operated as a water supply for Brooklyn from 1858 to 1959. In 1917, New York City Tunnel #1 was completed and brought water from north of the city, and in 1936, Tunnel #2 was completed. With the development of the Catskill aqueduct for New York City, Basins One and Three were drained. From 1960 to 1989, Basin Two was used as a backup water supply for Brooklyn and Queens. In 1990, the Department of Environmental Protection decommissioned the site. In 2004, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced its transfer to Parks, as well as plans to develop the site into a public park.

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Another Article about the Reopening

This is from the Queens Courier:

Ridgewood Reservoir reopens after renovations
By Liam La Guerre
Tuesday, October 15th, 2013 5:08 PM EDT

The Ridgewood Reservoir has been resurrected.

A crowd of politicians, civic leaders and members of the community oversaw the reservoir’s grand opening on Tuesday, which heralded the completion of phase one of the site’s revitalization plan.

The nearly $7 million renovation included construction of new fencing, lighting, repaving of pathways and the addition of a handicap-accessible ramp.

“This is a historic spot for Queens and more importantly the Ridgewood community,” said Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley. “It’s a natural resource that many didn’t know about because it wasn’t accessible. Now it’s more accessible.”

The reservoir, situated near the Brooklyn-Queens border in Highland Park, was used to supply water to Brooklyn starting in the 1850s. Three basins make up the more than 50-acre space, which was officially decommissioned in 1990, according to the Parks Department.

The plan to revitalize the reservoir started in a few years ago as a part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative.

Representatives from the Department of Parks and Recreation presented three concepts of a master plan for the reservoir at a public meeting hosted by the Park Services Committee of Community Board (CB) 5 on June 27.

The presentation showed dramatic changes to the reservoir to allow more people to enjoy the green space.

In the first concept plan presented, the public will only have access to the third basin, while the other basins will be locked and opened only for maintenance. There will be stone paths weaved through basin three and the gatehouse between basins one and two will be restored and turned into a ranger station. There will also be viewing platforms around basin two, where a large pool of water currently sits.

The second plan includes all modifications from the first, but adds access to the first basin. A rock climbing wall and a meadow area will be placed in basin three, a boardwalk in basin one and a boat dock in the second basin.

The final concept features the most access. This plan will contain all the mark-ups of the first two plans, plus baseball fields, a comfort station and a waterworks-themed adventure playground in the third basin.

Despite the ideas to renovate the reservoir, many people in community are opposed to a complete transformation of the site.

“What we see as wetland portions, we’d like them to be preserved that way,” said Vincent Arcuri Jr., chair of Community Board 5.

There is no money allocated to the master plan as yet and current ideas have to be reviewed and presented to the community board again.

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Reservoir Reopened

From the Queen Chronicle:

Reservoir changes cheered by public

by Michael Florio, Chronicle Contributor | Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2013 10:30 am

The first phase of upgrades to Highland Park, which features restored pathways, new lighting, new fencing and wheelchair-accessible entry points are completed.

“The improvements are well done,” said Vince Arcuri, chairman of Community Board 5. “Very nicely done for a phase one project.”

The hope is that the improvements will lead to a friendlier visit for pedestrians going to the Ridgewood Reservoir, which is now part of the park.

“With these improvements, the reservoir is a great place for exercise or a nature walk,” said Zachary Feder, Parks Department spokesman.

Park visitors seem to be enjoying the changes.

“It’s really good for running, the tracks are smooth so they are very comfortable,” said Brooklyn native and runner, Christopher Sanchez. “The stairs look wonderful and are great for working out.”

David Flowers, a Brooklyn resident and frequent visitor said the changes make it good for runners. “It looks a lot better than other parts of the park,” Flowers added.

Enrique Quinones has lived near the park for 26 years and frequently visits. “So far it looks pretty good,” he said. “It is good for bicycles, skating, running, walking and just exercising. The stairs are good for a workout.”

Area resident, Freddy Tonno, enjoys one major feature of the improvements. “It is much cleaner then before,” Tonno said. “It’s great.”

Phase one is just the start for improvements at the reservoir.

“The master plan looks to me to be a 25- year plan to be completed in phases,” Arcuri said. “The next phase is to breach the existing walls of the reservoir.”

The Parks Department is now finalizing designs to decommission the reservoir’s dam, which is required by state Department of Environmental Conservation regulations, Feder said.

The Parks Department’s master plan will not only help reconstruct the Ridgewood Reservoir, but will improve the park’s infrastructure while giving back to the community, the spokesman said.

“With varying degrees of development from plan to plan, potential amenities include pedestrian networks, opportunities for active and passive recreation, new playgrounds, educational opportunities, as well as an abundance of preserved natural areas,” Feder added. Each phase would require funding.

While the first phase did make some improvements to the park, there is still more to be done.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) believes there is a need for more of an environmental draw. “As of now you cannot walk in the reservoir area, but you will be able to one day,” Crowley said.

The councilwoman thinks that the reservoir attracts people. The more that are attracted, she said, the more people will enjoy the paths and will also provide a peaceful setting for runners and families.

Crowley also hopes to see an environmental center focused on the park’s bird life that will be implemented after January. Crowley is hopeful it can be completed by next year.

Arcuri believes the park needs to ups its security.

“My only concern is there is no security to keep an eye on things,” he said. “They need a system of park enforcement police.”

He also wants a pedestrian bridge added. This would prevent people from having to cross a busy street to get from the parking lot to the reservoir side of the park.

“A pedestrian bridge would be good and efficient,” Arcuri said.

Park visitors also have suggestions they would like to see implemented. Tonno wants mile markers so he is aware of how far he has walked.

Sanchez thinks the main park needs “fixing up. Also more barbeque stands to bring the family.”

Quinones has a dream of seeing a public swimming pool added to the property.

The reservoir is located on the Brooklyn-Queens border and became a part of Highland Park a few years ago.

“I encourage people to take advantage of it before the seasons change,” Crowley said. “It’s beautiful.”

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Reservoir Pathways Finished

The Times Ledger covers the recent completion of the reservoir's "Phase One" renovation:

Parks reopens Ridgewood Reservoir
September 28, 2013

By Bianca Fortis

The Ridgewood Reservoir in Highland Park is open now that Phase 1 construction at the site has been completed.

Nearly half the path that winds around the reservoir had been closed since July 2011 when construction began. All of the paths in the park, which is located in Glendale near the Jackie Robinson Parkway, reopened last week, a spokesman for the city Parks Department said.

Phase 1, which cost almost $7 million, involved installing new fencing and new lighting, repaving the walking paths around the basin and building a handicap-accessible ramp, according to Gary Giordano, district manager for Community Board 5.

“It’s just beautiful,” he said.

The contract was awarded to Maspeth construction company Trocom Construction Corp. for $6.4 million. According to the city comptroller’s database, $6.92 million has actually been spent on the project.

Giordano said there may be a ribbon cutting planned to officially mark the reopening of the park, but no details have been set yet.

For more than 100 years, from 1858-1959, the reservoir operated as a water supply. Later, the second of three basins was used as a backup water supply for Queens and Brooklyn. In 1990, the site was decommissioned and it was later developed into a public park.

In July, the Parks Department released three concept plans for Phase 2 of the park. They were based on listening sessions and surveys conducted in 2008 and 2009.

But the city does not actually have any funds available for Phase 2, nor are there any cost estimates available for any of the plans.

In July, a spokesman for the Parks Department said the plans are “intended to foster discussion” and can be adjusted with community input.

The first and simplest plan includes viewing platforms, trail heads and a pedestrian bridge.

The other two plans include more development such as a boat dock, a rock climbing wall, additional boardwalks, ball fields and a “waterworks adventure playground.”

Community members, including Giordano, have said they would like to limit development in the park so the reservoir can remain a natural preserve.

Giordano said he hopes there will be funding available to renovate the pump house at the reservoir, build bathrooms and to possibly construct an environmental center.

“What we as a board have been opposed to is the development of any basins for active recreational use,” he said.

Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Forum Newsgroup Article

Below is The Forum Newsgroup's write-up of the last meeting with the parks department:

City Officials Unveil Plans for Ridgewood Reservoir – But There Is No Funding For Any Of It
by The Forum

The proposals for the Ridgewood Reservoir that city Parks Department officials unveiled last week are the culmination of more than five years of work – including numerous contentious meetings with area residents and surveys given in multiple languages – and range in ideas from stone entranceways to rock climbing.

But no matter what the city and residents decide is the best plan for the 62-acre three-basin reservoir, which provided water for Brooklyn from 1858 to 1959 and has reverted to wetlands, meadows and forests after being decommissioned in 1990, there is currently no funding for any of it to be accomplished – leaving residents wondering just what will happen to the site that is located alongside the Jackie Robinson Parkway on the border of Queens and Brooklyn.

“The bad news is there’s no funding stream – but it’s also the good news that there’s no money,” said David Quintana, an Ozone Park activist who has been working with other area residents for years to ensure that the reservoir, which is home to more than 180 plant species and 127 species of birds, remains a nature preserve and does not house such active recreation sites as sports fields. “It’s good news because that means the city won’t destroy the place.”

Mayor Bloomberg originally allocated about $50 million in his PlaNYC 2030 program to renovate the reservoir – situated on a ridge formed by the Wisconsin ice sheet’s terminal moraine, which created views from the reservoir of everything from Woodhaven to the Rockaways and the Atlantic Ocean – but that funding was slashed as the economy grew worse and community groups voiced opposition to allowing active recreation – like the sports fields for which the city had originally advocated – in the reservoir area. Finally, just $7 million of the original funding was left – and that is being spent on what is known as Phase 1 of the reservoir project, which includes new lighting, restored pathways, wheelchair-accessible entry points, and new fencing along the reservoir’s perimeter.

As for the three concept plans presented by Parks Department officials at last Thursday’s meeting organized by Community Board 5’s Parks Services Committee?

“We’re hoping everyone will be so jazzed that they’ll get their elected officials to open up their pockets,” said Katie Raschdorf, a consultant project manager for the Parks Department who presented the plans alongside Parks Department representative Joelle Byrer.

But, until then, the three plans – created by the Parks Department through Mark Morrison and Association, a consulting firm, and none of which, officials stressed, are set in stone – will remain two-dimensional proposals.

Plan A: Gated public access; Pedestrian bridge and basin overlook; Educational kiosks
Plan A: Gated public access; Pedestrian bridge and basin overlook; Educational kiosks

The first concept plan – known as Plan A – would implement the least amount of change in the reservoir, officials said. As part of that proposal, there would be a gated public access – potentially a stone entrance similar to what is in Central and Prospect parks – to Basin 3, the largest of the basins located by Vermont Place. There would be a potential pedestrian bridge and an overlook allowing individuals to see Basin 1 – a seven-acre wetlands area located adjacent to Salem Field Cemetery – and Basin 2, the middle site that includes a freshwater lake. Among other items, there would also be educational kiosks that Parks Department officials said Parks rangers could use to teach students about the history and ecology of the site.

As part of Plan A, Basin 2 would remain water and there would be habitat restoration conducted in Basin 1.

Plan B: Four-acre lawn area; Tree canopy walk; Boat dock access and rock climbing
Plan B: Four-acre lawn area; Tree canopy walk; Boat dock access and rock climbing

Plan B includes more development than the previous proposal, including a four-acre lawn area in Basin 3. In addition to everything spelled out in Plan A, the second proposal would include a tree canopy walk, boat dock access – allowing for canoeing or kayaking – in Basin 2, and rock climbing, among other items.

The third and final plan, Plan C, drew the most criticism from community members at the meeting. It included an eight-acre lawn in Basin 3 that would include three baseball diamonds and a soccer field. There would be a rock climbing wall, as well as a “water-themed” playground for children.

Those who spoke at the meeting said they were more pleased with these plans than anything the city has advocated for before, saying it seemed as though the Parks Department incorporated residents’ ideas for the reservoir.

Thomas Dowd, a member of CB 5’s Parks Services Committee, said he was happy to see such options as the educational kiosks, but stressed his group would oppose the active recreation elements of Plan C – such as the water-themed playground.

Plan C: Eight-acre lawn; Sports fields; Water-themed playground. Photos Courtesy of NYC Parks Department

“Any plan needs to treat the community boards like partners, in developing a destination park related to eco-tourism and the potential vistas of the oceans and the wildlife and unique engineering, and the history going back to the American revolution,” Dowd said.

Many of those who spoke stressed the need to keep the reservoir as a nature preserve.

“As a native New Yorker, I’d love to see as much of its original character remain intact,” said Joy Fieldstadt, who grew up riding her bicycle to the reservoir and continues to regularly visit the area.

Lou Widerka, a Ridgewood resident and avid bird watcher, said he supports the educational kiosks but, like many of those who spoke, does not want something like sports fields going into the area.

“Why destroy something that’s beautiful?” Widerka asked.

CB 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri asked residents to send the board ideas about the concept plans.

“We need input from all of you,” Arcuri said. “In the next three weeks, anyone with ideas, put it in writing and send it to us.”

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Times Newsweekly Article

The following article about the meeting with the Department of Parks and Recreation on Thursday, June 27, 2013, was just published in the Times Newsweekly:


Residents Like Lofty Ideas For Reservoir

by Robert Pozarycki

Though there’s no money available for the project to move forward, concepts of a master plan for the Ridgewood Reservoir were well-received by residents during a meeting of Community Board5’s Parks Committee last Thursday night, June 27, at St. Pancras Pfeifer Hall in Glendale.

From historians to birdwatchers, attendees praised the Parks Department for following the recommendations voiced at previous planning sessions and public meetings on the master plan that the 55-acre reservoir— which became naturally reforested after being drained and taken out of the city’s water system decades ago—be transformed into a nature preserve with some recreation in the largest of its three basins.

In the PlaNYC 2030 master plan proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2006, a proposal was raised to clear one of the largest basin and convert it into athletic fields. This was designed to make Ridgewood Reservoir and the adjacent Highland Park one of eight regional parks citywide.

But the $50 million originally allocated for the project was scrapped as the city was struck by the Great Recession. While money was allocated to make improvements to the perimeter of the site, Parks Depart- ment officials indicated additional cash will be needed in the years to come to make any of the three concepts presented last Thursday—or a combination of those ideas—a reality.

The city, however, moved forward on the first phase of the project, which includes improvements to the perimeter of the reservoir and a causeway between two of the three basins. It is expected that the improvements will be completed in the next several weeks and will attract more guests to the area.

There to outline the master plan for the reservoir were Joelle Byrer and Katie Raschdorf of the Parks Department. The concepts, Raschdorf said, were the “distillation” of 5 1/2 years of research and outreach conducted by the agency and Mark Morrison & Associates, a consulting firm which developed the proposals.

Helping nature take its course

Over the years it has been reforested, the Ridgewood Reservoir has become an important stopover on the “Atlantic Flyway” used by migratory birds, Raschdorf stated. According to Parks Department research, about 127 different bird species inhabit the reservoir at any given time, including seven different kinds which are classified as endangered or threatened.

“The Parks Department realizes how important this is to the migratory habitat. We have addressed it in our concepts,” she said. “We are not bird killers.”

In addition to a diverse avian population, the Ridgewood Reservoir has several different ecosystems filled with all kinds of plantlife, both natural and foreign to the region. The easternmost basin (Basin 1, adjacent to Salem Field Cemetery) has many of the characteristics of a wetland, while the center chamber (Basin 2) includes a natural lake. The largest of the basins (Basin 3, adjacent to Vermont Place) is much like a forest but lacks wetland characteristics.

All three basins, however, are threatened by the influx of invasive plant species, Raschdorf stated. Chinese bittersweet—which she compared to the fast-growing, ivy-like kudzu—is present in Basins 1 and 3, and the aquatic ecosystem in Basin 2 is threatened by phragmites (wetland reeds).

Under all circumstances in the master plan, the Parks Department would remove any and all invasive plant life and replace it with plants meeting the characteristics of the basin’s diverse ecology, she explained. This technique was used in the agency’s previous work at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx and Inwood Park in Manhattan.

“We have come up with an ecological restoration plan that is tailored for each one of the areas and is designed to take into account what is growing there now, what is thriving their now and what will flourish in the future,” Raschdorf added. “We’ve also taken our extensive studies and developed plant palettes that fit into the habitats that we’re trying to encourage.”

From light to major touches

Each of the three concepts keeps most of the reservoir as a natural preserve, although two of the plans introduce an expanded variety of recreational and educational elements. Byrer explained that none of the concepts were set in stone, and residents—in considering a final master plan for the reservoir—can pick and choose the ideas they like from each proposal.

“You don’t have to pick one concept,” she said. “It’s a bit like a menu option.”

Concept A offers the “lightest touch,” Raschdorf said, as public access will be restricted from Basins 1 and 2. Controlled public access will be introduced into Basin 3, with a ramp leading down to the floor of the basin 25 feet below the perimeter pathway. A series of pathways—constructed out of “stabilized aggregate” and boardwalk material, in some spots—will be created within the basin to allow visitors to explore the natural surroundings.

Educational nodes would be installed at certain points along the pathways to inform visitors about the history and ecology of the reservoir, she added. Scenic overlooks would also be created on the causeway between Basins 2 and 3 to allow visitors and birdwatchers to look out over both chambers.

Concept B contains much of the same features of Concept A, but introduces pathways for guided tours into Basin 1, which Raschdorf stated is the most ecologically sensitive of the three chambers. A floating dock would also be constructed in Basin 2 to allow for boating and canoeing.

A four-acre open lawn for passive recreation—similar to the Lawn Meadow in Prospect Park—would also be created in Basin 3, Raschdorf added.

Concept C provides the most direct impact on the reservoir as it offers greater opportunities to public access in all three basins, she stated. Along with incorporating the ideas of Concepts A and B, this concept would result in more stabilized pathways in Basin 1 for guided tours and a large, eight-acre open field with athletic fields in Basin 3.

The large culvert to be created in the wall separating Basin 3 and Vermont Place—part of the decommissioning of the reservoir as a dam, as mandated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation— would be widened and include an asphalt path to allow vehicles to enter the basin as needed, Raschdorf said.

The decommissioning—which includes the installation of openings in the basin walls to prevent no more than six feet of water from being held within at any given time—is being funded in the second phase of the Ridgewood Reservoir preliminary improvements.

All three concept plans include the restoration of the pump house and gate house on the northern end of the reservoir. The pump house would be transformed into a Parks Department security office, while the gate house would be renovated into a ranger station equipped with a comfort station for visitors.

No cost estimates for either of the concepts were provided by the Parks Department representatives. Once community residents form their own master plan for the project, Raschdorf stated, the Parks Department will conduct an environmental impact statement and calculate the cost needed for the project to move forward.

She added residents who liked the plan would need to reach out to their local elected officials in the years to come and advocate for funding.

Having their say

During the public comment portion of the meeting, many expressed relief that the city seemingly abandoned the idea of clearing out Basin 3 and replacing it with athletic fields. While they praised the Parks Department for their concept schemes, they offered their own criticism and ideas for each plan.

Tom Dowd suggested that the final master plan for the Ridgewood Reservoir create a nature preserve which can be appreciated and studied by guests of all ages while also preserving the natural habitat. Noting that the state ranks near the bottom in the country in ecotourism, Dowd suggested introducing elements such as a viewing platform and a Victorian garden to attract birdwatchers and nature lovers to the site.

Maryellen Borello offered that the Ridgewood Reservoir presented the opportunity to give students a chance to see what the area looked like well before it was settled and industrialized.

“The present Ridgewood Reservoir is such a wonderful gift of nature. We have the area gone back to its early days,” she said. “Children don’t have to imagine; they can see it and appreciate how it really was— quiet, except for bird sounds and leaves rustling in the breeze.”

Borello, along with Joy Fieldstadt, suggested the city keep Ridgewood Reservoir for nature and renovate athletic fields inside of Highland Park.

David Quintana spoke against introducing active recreation elements at the reservoir since the Parks Enforcement Patrol agency is understaffed. He cited a report which indicated that last year, there were only two PEP officers assigned to the entire borough of Queens.

“This is a much, much better plan than” original proposals for the Ridgewood Reservoir, he said. “I just wish the Parks Department agreed with the community when there was money in the budget.”

“In this case, less is better,” added Lou Whitaker. “We’re looking to develop it? Mother Nature did it for us. Put some historic sites, a learning center. But why destroy what is beautiful?”

Board 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri praised the Parks Department for forming “a real master plan.” He stated the board’s Parks Committee— co-chaired by Kathy Masi, who presided over the session—would further examine the concepts and form a recommendation in August.

In the meantime, Arcuri invited the public to continue to send written comments and observations on the future of the Ridgewood Reservoir to the committee for its consideration. Remarks can be sent by mail to Community Board 5, 61-23 Myrtle Ave,. Glendale, NY 11385; or by email to Send us an email

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Public Meeting

CB5 to hold public meeting on Ridgewood Reservoir proposals

The Parks Services Committee of Community Board 5 will host a meeting with representatives of the Department of Parks and Recreation, who will present the Proposed Master Plan for the Ridgewood Reservoir.

The meeting will take place on Thursday, June 27, at 7:30 p.m. in Pfeiffer Hall at St. Pancras School, 68-20 Myrtle Avenue, in Ridgewood. Enter the hall through the parking lot on the east side of 68th Street between Myrtle and Cooper avenues.

The Ridgewood Reservoir is now part of Highland Park. It is bordered by Cypress Avenue and the Jackie Robinson Parkway on the north, Highland Boulevard and Highland Park on the south, and Vermont Place on the west.

The plan reportedly contains three options for the future of the reservoir. The reservoir is currently closed for a Phase I capital project that will provide new lighting and fencing around the perimeter, resurfacing of a pathway, and construction of a handicap access ramp on Vermont Place.


Since June 24, 2007, when the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation held their first community "listening session", they have been attempting to destroy the natural habitats that have evolved in the reservoirs three basins by any means. If you have followed this blog for 6 years, you know that each time that the city doesn't get the answers that they like, they try a different tactic. If you care about the Ridgewood Reservoir and don't want to see the parks department waste millions of taxpayers dollars on the destruction of an important natural space, please attend the public meeting on June 27th.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Another Park For Sale

The Daily News just published the following story:

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras proposes public-private alliance for Flushing Meadows

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Selling and Giving Away NYC Parks

The Leonard Lopate Show on National Public Radio just broadcast the following show about New York City's unfortunate trend of selling or giving away public parklands to private developers:

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Parks Department Killing Trees

The following article was just published in the Queens Chronicle. It may seem unbelievable to people outside of New York City, but our Department of Parks and Recreation has a history of ineptitude. Whether it is because the department's administrators are unqualified for their jobs or just don't care is unclear, either way NYC taxpayers suffer in the long run:

Construction is killing the trees
Ridgewood Reservoir work will result in dozens dying if nothing is done

by Tess McRae, Reporter | Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013 10:30 am

Construction at the Ridgewood Reservoir in Highland Park is harming 150-year-old trees there.

Along Vermont Place, construction for the “Ridgewood Reservoir Project,” which will provide new pathways, more handicap accessibility and lighting, as part of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC is underway, but with tools, machines and debris weighing on the ground, civic leaders and tree experts are worried what the arboreal effect will be.

“When soil gets compacted by machinery or heavy piles of material or even extreme foot traffic, it loses its structure,” said Morgan Potter, a horticulturalist with the Queens Botanical Garden. “Not only are the roots being squished, but they are losing the environment necessary for regrowth.”

As the work goes on, dozens of London plane trees are surrounded by a chain-link fence which sits directly on top of many of their root systems. Compacted soil prevents a tree’s roots from accessing nutrients from water and soil. But trees can take years to show signs of stress because they are such large organisms. That causes a major problem with construction projects because once building is finished the trees may appear normal.

“I can say with certainty that these trees will be negatively affected by this project,” Potter said. “Whether they succumb to the damage depends on their vigor and any measures taken to remedy the problems after the project is over.”

“The consequences may not be seen for years down the line,” local tree expert Carsten Glaeser said. “Trees are the largest organisms on the planet and I’ve seen this happen time after time. Whether it’s because of building developers constructing a building or a situation like this, it’s always the same and the tree eventually dies.”

The Parks Department responded by saying it is working on the issue and hopes it will be resolved soon.

“NYC Parks is currently working on a course of action at the Ridgewood Reservoir site involving tree protection, adding additional wood chips, pruning to the existing trees along the roadway, and decompaction within the construction area,” Phil Abrasmson, a Parks Department spokesman, said. “In order to build a required ramp, the contractor piled fill near trees along Vermont Place due to the tightness of the space, and we are processing a change order to decompact around those trees.”

The Parks Department could not say when those changes will go into effect.

Glaeser said that though the Parks Department is not always right, all city agencies get it wrong when it comes to tree care.

He also says that the solution does not involve programs such as MillionTreesNYC, the city initiative to plant and care for one million trees across the five boroughs over the next decade.

“We need to protect the trees we have have rather than planting new trees,” he said.

Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, agrees.

“Trees in the reservoir are a natural resource,” Holden said. “You can’t replace a 60- or 70-year-old tree. With pollution and air quality in recent years, the trees won’t even get that large.”

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Dam Hazard Classifications

Below is a link to a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation document that outlines dam hazard classification:

I find it curious that the DEC believes that the Ridgewood Reservoir could cause catastrophic damage to the surround area if there was a dam failure when two of the three basins are empty of water and have remained that way for decades since they were drained. In addition, we've been told many times by individuals in the Natural Resources Group that the water in the central basin in merely inches deep and the result of collected rain water. Is it only a coincidence that the parks department has been talking for years about breaching the basins to give vehicle access to their planned recreational facilities within the basins? A plan that the surrounding communities has very vocally opposed.

In coming days we will be researching decommissioned reservoirs in New York State and report back whether the NYSDEC required those to be breached to "protect" the public.

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Colossal Waste of Taxpayers Dollars

The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation have revealed their plans to breach the walls of the Ridgewood Reservoir. In what can only be viewed as a colossal waste of taxpayers dollars, they plan on spending $11M to, essentially, destroy an amazing feat of historic civil engineering. Given the parks department's terrible track record, one can only assume that if allowed to proceed, the project will cost much more, take much longer and cause many "unforeseen" problems. The Times Newsweekly just published the following story:

Panel: Too Invasive To Reforested Basins
by Robert Pozarycki

The Parks Department’s proposal to create a runoff system at the Ridgewood Reservoir was panned by members of Community Board 5’s Parks Committee at its meeting last Monday, Feb. 25, in Glendale, who charged that it opened the door for trespassers to gain access to ecologically-sensitive areas of the greenspace.

Joelle Byrer and Katie Raschdorf of the Parks Department explained the details of the plan, which is being done to satisfy a request by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to formally decommission the long-inactive greenspace as a “high-class hazard C dam.”

Ridgewood Reservoir was taken completely out of the city’s water system nearly 25 years ago, and over time has evolved into a natural habitat. However, the reservoir—in which only one of its three basins has water—is nonetheless considered by the state DEC as a dam. The state had mandated that by 2014, all structures recognized as dams be fortified to modern standards for retaining water or breached if no longer used for such purposes.

Since Ridgewood Reservoir is in the process of being transformed into a public park, Byrer stated, the Parks Department is working to create a series of outlets within the three basins. Electing to maintain the reservoir as a dam would have required the Parks Department to make repairs and remove plantlife in the basins.

In order to decommission the dam, Raschdorf explained, the Parks Department will need to “poke holes in the walls so that under no circumstances— no catastrophic weather events—that this structure will not impound more than six feet of water at any time.” The center basin— which has water no greater than five feet deep, Raschdorf noted—will remain in tact.

“What our goal has been all along is to maintain that water level in the center basin,” Raschdorf added. “We’re working with our design consultants in order to do that, and the DEC is okay with that, because we understand the importance of it.”

To accomplish this task, the Parks Department will install culverts (openings) in the walls separating the three basins which comprise the reservoir, as well as the outer wall of the westernmost basin adjacent to Vermont Place. The aim is to have runoff flow through the culverts along the topography of the site, from its highest point located near the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Salem Field Cemetery to the low point at the corner of Vermont Place and Highland Boulevard.

The breaches in between all three basins would be located on the northern end nearest the Jackie Robinson Parkway. Raschdorf explained the location of the breaches are important in order to maintain the sensitive ecology in the easternmost basin.

Once runoff exits through the culvert adjacent to the corner of Vermont Place and Highland Boulevard, Raschdorf noted, the water will flow into nearby catch basins and through the city’s sewer system. But she pointed out the only scenario under which water would flow through the Vermont Place culvert would be a weather event of apocalyptic proportions.

“There will be way more global catastrophic before you would see any water draining onto Vermont Place,” she said, adding that there was no heavy flooding reported in the reservoir during recent weather events such as Hurricane Sandy.

Installing these culverts, however, will require crews to enter into the reservoirs themselves. To accomplish this task with minimal effects on the natural habitats of all three basins, Raschdorf explained, crews will make a path running along the northern and western perimeters of each basin wall.

Heavy machinery will not be required to enter the basin to install the pre-cast concrete culverts, she noted. The path also gives the Parks Department the opportunity to enter each basin and remove invasive plant species and replace it with new plantlife native to the area.

Committee members took issue with the size of the culvert planned between the exterior wall of the Ridgewood Reservoir’s western basin and Vermont Place, which is planned to be 11’-high, 14’-wide and 46’ deep. All of the culverts will be gated and locked.

“We’re spending millions of dollars to do this,” said Parks Committee Co-chair Steve Fiedler. “After a while, with a lack of maintenance, it’s gone. I don’t want to see something like this built and then all of that soil and grass washed away, and it looks like crap. There’s no reason for that if they install a drainage system.”

Fiedler also expressed concern about the size of the culverts, which he claimed would allow trespassers to gain access to the location.

“I don’t want 11 feet. I don’t think vehicles should ever get in any of these basins,” he said, suggesting that the Parks Department instead make its entrance from the nearby Jackie Robinson Parkway.

“There’s no security patrol up there. It’s a free for all at night time. Those gates are going to be broken and walked into,” Fiedler added.

It was noted that this project will be done separate from the current improvements being made to the perimeter of the Ridgewood Reservoir. That project, Raschdorf noted, is expected to be completed this spring.

In all, the work is expected to cost $11 million, which will be funded through the Mayor’s office, according to Byrer. The committee was asked to offer a letter of recommendation for the Parks Department’s plans, which will likely be brought before the full board for a vote at the board’s Mar. 13 meeting.

The Parks Department reps also outlined renovation plans for the area of the reservoir adjacent to Salem Field Cemetery. As explained by Raschdorf, this includes improving very steep slopes which were created through illegal dumping by the cemetery over the years.

The plans include cutting into the illegal slopes—which reportedly encroach beyond the cemetery’s property line and onto Parks Department territory—and installing an 8’-tall retaining wall. A 4’-high stone wall would be erected in front of the retaining wall, and the area between the two will be filled in with soil and planters.

Salem Field is reportedly funding the entire cost of the project, as per a requirement issued by the state DEC, Byrer added.

Above is an artist rendering of the proposed culvert to be constructed on the outer wall of the Ridgewood Reservoir near Vermont Place. Above is the map showing where breaches will be made to officially decommission the reservoir as a state-recognized dam. (courtesy of NYC Parks)

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

More Parks Department Incompetence

When the Brooklyn and Queens communities surrounding Highland Park were told that Phase 1 of the Ridgewood Reservoir project was going to proceed, they were happy, because new paths, handicapped access and better lighting were sorely needed. Everyone was assured that existing trees would not be harmed during construction, with oversight and protection provided so that they suffered minimal impact. However, that is not what is happening and this is just one more example of how the city agency tasked with being the stewards of our open spaces has failed us, either through apathy, ignorance or corruption.

The large 150 year old Planetrees that line Vermont Place at the edge of the Ridgewood Reservoir have had their wide spreading root systems compacted and then buried in 5-8 feet of fill and soils at the approval of the Parks Capital Project Administrator and the Capital Arborist. The Forest Park administrator is aware of this problem but "will not interfere with Capital".

Clearly unenforced is the department's Tree and Landscape Protection Plan. Below is an excerpt of the NYC Parks and Recreation: Parks Tree Preservation Protocols (Sept 2009) that present the rules and protocol by which construction operations shall occur when within proximity to and under the canopy of large public trees. Numerous large and impressive veteran parkland London Planetrees that line Vermont Place at the reservoir provide important ecological, environmental and social benefits to park users and the neighboring communities. The London Planetrees within a construction site are candidates for the extraordinary preservation (and protection) protocols needed and so outlined by this document.

Yet over the past 4-5 months Parks Dept. Capital landscape architect and engineering operations failed to see these veteran trees both in design and now during construction. And in the absence of effective protection fencing they have directed their general contractor, the movement of his machinery and the storage of soil atop of the tree’s critical root zones (CRZ, (see Tree Protection in Design, item d), with known consequences to tree health and stability.

The preservation of CRZ as part of Parks tree policy is essential for the organisms long-term well being. So that roots are to able to breathe, acquire nutrients, water resources and minimize risk by ensuring tree stability. More so are the environmental benefits offered by these trees in their ability to efficiently sequester carbon, absorb dangerous air-borne particles, off-set the heat island affect, ameliorate the climate and significantly reduce rates of childhood asthma. But by deliberate negative impacts from construction not only has tree health and stability been comprised but those essential environmental benefits as they affect human health and longevity, have been critically diminished and made so less efficient.

Vermont Place trees prior to contruction:

Vermont Place trees currently:


NYC Parks and Recreation Parks Tree Preservation Protocols (Sept 2009)

How Construction Hurts Trees
Trees grow in a delicate balance with their environment and any changes to that balance must be minimized if the tree is to remain in a healthy state and fulfill its useful life potential. Tree decline and death on or adjacent to construction sites frequently occurs due to the vulnerability of the root system. Roots are cut or damaged when installing utilities, sewers, foundations, driveways, curbs, sidewalks, etc. Roots are also lost due to grading, soil pollution and soil compaction. Other more obvious damage to trees comes in the form of physical wounding to bark and branches from vehicles, cranes, scaffolding, and storage of materials. Construction damage may take several years to become apparent in the trees affected and often results in their slow decline and death long after the project has been completed. It should be noted that younger trees and certain species can be more tolerant to construction disturbance than older trees.

Tree Protection in Design
Tree protection begins in the planning and design stages of every project. From decisions made about utility placement and grading, to the location of curbs and equipment and work staging areas, the amount of damage that trees sustain throughout the construction process is often determined on paper long before construction begins. A critical element of tree protection is the protection of the soil and the root systems growing within that soil. Root systems often extend far beyond the drip line of the tree canopy. Disturbance of the root system can result in severe injury to the tree. Each project should have a Certified Arborist Report (CAR) detailing the following:

a. A scaled plan of the area, including the existing and proposed locations of all building structures and utilities. Buildings should also include maximum vertical heights.

b. The locations of all existing trees identified by common and/or botanical name, condition and diameter at breast height. Condition assessment should follow the method detailed in the International Society of Arboriculture’s Guide for Plant Appraisal . The site plan should clearly identify which trees are to be retained, which are to be transplanted and which are to be removed.

c. The location of perimeter and protective fencing around each tree or group of trees.

d. The locations of all Critical Root Zones (CRZs), defined as the area for each tree which contains the estimated minimal amount of both structural and feeder roots that must be protected to minimize tree damage and retain structural stability. The CRZ for each tree is calculated based on the Tree Species Tolerance to construction impacts and age class, as outlined in the International Society of Arboriculture’s Best Management Practices: Managing Trees During Construction (K. Fite, T. Smiley, 2008). Although CRZs will differ by species and tree age, zones range from ½ foot per one inch DBH (diameter at breast height) to 1½ foot per one inch DBH. If the species tolerance is unknown, then the 1½ foot per one inch DBH standard is assumed. See detail No. 1.

e. The locations of all new plantings.

f. The location of storage areas and access routes within the site to be used during construction.

g. The location of any cranes, scaffolding, hoists and/or similar which would potentially interfere with tree canopies.

h. The location and design of any foundations adjacent to trees and also detailing any required overcuts.

i. Details of any grade changes.

j. Locations of utilities. All utility locations, depth, and size must be specified on plans. Utility installation and grading activities should avoid the fenced in areas; if working within the CRZ is absolutely necessary, however, then trenchless construction techniques must be specifiedto minimize root damage.

k. Locations of site activities. Construction site activities such as access routes, staging areas, materials and equipment stockpiling, truck or tool washing, etc. shall be located as to prevent disturbances to the CRZs.

l. Curb and pathway installation. Curb installation adjacent to existing trees should be avoided. Soft surfaces should be used for paths near trees. If curb replacement is necessary, consider using steel-facing without concrete curb adjacent to tree roots rather than excavating with machinery for mechanical forms.

General Requirements for all Work
The protection measures must be in place prior to the start of work, including demolition. The following requirements must be adhered to during construction:

a. Treatment of tree roots. No roots over one (1) inch diameter should be shaved or cut without the written permission of Parks. If small roots must be cut this should be done with a sharp implement to leave a clean finish. Use of heavy equipment such as a backhoe to cut roots is prohibited.

b. Pruning. All contact between equipment and overhead tree limbs should be avoided. Bending or breakage of limbs is prohibited. If clearance pruning is proposed, it shall not take place without the written permission of the Agency, and shall only be performed with professional equipment as per the Agency’s standards and specifications for such work. No trees shall be pruned or removed without the written permission of the Agency. Tree work is to be performed by an arborist holding certification from the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). The Agency is to receive notification 48 hours before any tree work is to begin.

c. Fencing. Fencing will be specified by the Borough Forestry Director. The minimum fencing material for low impact sites is four (4) feet orange plastic on flanged posts. Please see detail No. 2. For larger impact projects, five (5) foot chain-link on posts sunk into the ground with props may be more appropriate. Please see detail No. 3. Tree protection fences cannot be moved at any time without the written permission of the Borough Forestry Director. The fences must be maintained on a regular basis and repaired and/or re-staked as needed. Tree protection zone signs should be attached to these fences as shown in detail No. 4.

d. Tree guards. All trees within the construction area (outside of the protective fencing) shall be encircled with wooden tree guards built to Parks’ specifications. Please see detail No. 5.

e. Tree trunk protection. In addition to the tree guards, each tree must be wrapped with an appropriate protective material (as approved by the Borough Forester’s representative) as extra protection from physical wounding. Appropriate materials may be, but are not limited to, roadway drainage geocomposite.

f. Stockpiling of materials. Under no circumstances should equipment and materials be stockpiled within the fenced areas.

g. Disposal of wastewater and other debris. No contaminants or wastewater from construction activities should be disposed of within or around protected areas.

h. Parking. No vehicle shall be parked within or driven into the fenced areas.

i. Grade changes. All grade changes within the fenced areas should be avoided. If grade changes are called for within the CRZ, follow the specific requirements below.

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

In Memoriam

Teri Muroff, friend, activist and valued member of the Highland Park/Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance, lost her long fight with cancer last week. She will be missed by many. The Greenpoint Star published a wonderful obituary here.

Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to her family. You can leave a message in her online guestbook here.

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