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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Critical Environmental Area Designation Concerns

Dear Concerned Friends of Ridgewood Reservoir,

As many of you may know, the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation (DoPR) is hosting two back-to-back meetings on June 21 at 6pm and 7pm at St. Pancras School on 68-20 Myrtle Ave:

• 6pm - Public Hearing by DoPR to accept comments on the proposed designation of the Ridgewood Reservoir as a Critical Environmental Area (CEA).
• 7pm - Unveiling of the new DoPR development plan for Ridgewood Reservoir.

It is my understanding that the CEA, while offering no direct benefits or protections, would establish policy which would affect future decisions and additionally this designation might also be an aid to gaining future funding. However, I'm not sure it should be supported in its current form. The maps provided in the application must be amended to show the wetland in Basin 3, west basin. Also, the special importance of that wetland must be clearly articulated. Without these edits, I can imagine the CEA actually serving as evidence supporting the notion that development of Basin 3 would cause no significant environmental damage.

I would remind one and all that DoPR has never planned to negatively impact the natural habitats of Basins 1 or 2, that this fight has always been about their intentions for the approximate 26 acres which is Basin 3, an area nearly equal in size to Basins 1 and 2 combined. Although the CEA application mentions findings in Basin 3 by the Round Mountain Ecological survey and two DoPR Natural Resources Group studies indicating the existence of wetland, those findings are directly contradicted by the map included in the CEA which shows no wetland in Basin 3 while wetland habitat is clearly marked in Basins 1 and 2. DoPR mentions that three plant species, listed as Threatened or Endangered in New York State, have been observed in Ridgewood Reservoir. Omitted is the fact that those three species were found in Basin 3. One of those species was found only in Basin 3. Two of the species are wetland species one of which being an obligate wetland species. Clearly, Basin 3 contains a highly treasured freshwater wetland which DoPR's planNYC and NYSDEC ECL Article 24 were created to protect.

If this application is to be submitted prior to long awaited wetland mapping from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), DoPR could use the map produced by certified wetland delineator, Mickey Cohen, in his 2009 wetland delineation of Ridgewood Reservoir. That map, which is simply a mark up of DoPR's own geodetic survey map, would be far more accurate. But DoPR should be urged to push NYSDEC for wetland mapping. For years we have made several request including a 2013 formal request and in a 2014 response to Congresswoman Velazquez et al., NYSDEC Commissioner Martens promised field work would start in the fall of that same year. Unless something has happened in the last two weeks, no one from NYSDEC has done soil samples, a requirement for wetland mapping. I should note that Kenneth Scarlatelli, the current NYSDEC Regional Natural Resources Supervisor, has indicated NYSDEC would be holding a hearing in July in which it’s finding would be made public and that the required soil samples would be done by then. I find Mr. Scarlatelli refreshingly forthright and have no reason to doubt him, despite NYSDEC’s past history of delays.

In the community listening session hosted by NYCH2O, Queens Borough Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, announced the welcome news that DoPR has officially taken the plan for building active sports facilities off the table. However, when pressed for details or even a general understanding of what the new plan would be, we were told that we would have to wait until the June 21 meeting.

I urge everyone who can make it, to attend these extremely important meetings. We must push DoPR to correct the contradictions and omissions in the CEA application. We must push NYSDEC to conduct the science required by its own rules. In the last year there have been numerous community meetings hosted by NYCH2O in which the public has been united in seeing Ridgewood Reservoir developed as an historic site and wildlife refuge. Please join us in getting the job done.

Stephen R. Nanz

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