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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 on June 12, 2008, 2:03 pm
In category: Environment,Parks | 1 Comment »

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One Response to “The Battle Over Ridgewood Reservoir”

  1. Edward Kampermann Says:
    June 18th, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Comptroller Bill Thompson personally took the walking tour of the Ridgewood Reservoir at Highland Park; as a result of his physical immersion in this beautiful urban habitat he realized the importance of preserving and enhancing what nature has returned to man. As a matter of fact every elected official or their representative that has taken the educational tours sponsored by the Ridgewood Reservoir / Highland Park Alliance has come to the conclusion that the well thought out and graphically illustrated plan presented by the Alliance is the most sensible and correct way to spend the taxpayers money. Perhaps due to his hectic campaign schedule he was not able to attend a tour. Incidentally, the only candidate in the 30th council districtís special election to actually tour the Reservoir and listen to the presentation was Charles Ober. However, I trust that our newly elected councilperson in the 30th district, Anthony Como, once he has taken the educational tour and consulted with his mentor Senator Serf Maltese (a strong proponent of protecting the environment) he will adopt the Ridgewood Reservoir/Highland Park Allianceís plan as his formal position with regard to the future of the Ridgewood Reservoir and Highland Park.

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