The Battle Over Ridgewood Reservoir
June 12th, 2008
Located on the border of Brooklyn and Queens in Highland Park rests the Ridgewood Reservoir, a 50 acre enclave reclaimed by nature. It is a series of three abandoned reservoirs that have become the home of trees, birds, and insects over two decades of idleness. In 2004, the mayor turned over the bucolic area from the hands of the Department of Environmental Protection to the Parks Department. Then last year, as part of PlaNYC 2030, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed converting one of the reservoirs for recreational use while setting the others aside as nature preserves.
The comptroller, parks commissioner, activists, bloggers, and the area’s new council member all have something to say about that.
Comptroller William Thompson took a tour of the forested redoubt in Feb. Although he took no position on Bloomberg’s $50 million proposal then, he recently penned an op-ed with Robert Kennedy in the New York Times opposing it.
“This plan flies in the face of Mayor Michael Bloombergís widely hailed environmental blueprint, which bemoans the loss of the cityís natural areas,” they wrote. “The Parks Departmentís own scientific consultants have warned against disturbing the reservoir, an area they call ‘highly significant for the biodiversity of New York City and the region.'”
Community activist and blogger David Quintana agrees. “I can only hope that with a concerted effort of community activists, political pressure and plain old common sense that the reservoir will be left alone and continue to flourish and be the tranquil sea of green that Mother Nature has reforested over the last 40 years while the City of New York neglected the facility,” he wrote in a comment on the opinion piece.
But in a letter to the editor, Parks Commissioner Adian Benepe wrote: “As with all of these projects, the city holds listening sessions with community residents to incorporate their input into the design. Many options have been discussed, including one with athletic fields in a small area of the 50-acre Ridgewood Reservoir, an area that is composed primarily of invasive trees and vines that threaten the parkís ecological balance.”
Some parks blogs had plenty to say in response to that.
“Any discussions about designs that involved breaching the reservoir’s retaining wall to install active recreation were one-sided,” the Save Ridgewood Reservoir blog rebuts. “The parks department came up with the ideas, not the communities.”
“For an underfunded city agency, the Parks Department ought to focus on maintenance and repair instead of elaborate reconstructions,” the Washington Square Park blog adds. “However, thatís not quite as splashy.”
The area’s new council member, Anthony Como, had taken positions on the plan during the recent special election.
In a questionnaire, he said he supported preserving two of the basins and transforming the other. “This balance will allow for the appreciation of nature and the importance of having the fields for moderate physical activity.” But in a candidate forum, he added that he was opposed to a baseball field on the grounds that it would disrupt the ecosystem. “Moderate walking, maybe hiking, or running is fine, but otherwise, I think it’ll destroy the whole system,” the council member-elect said.By Mike Muller on June 12, 2008, 2:03 pm
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