Thursday, March 19, 2009

Baseball Fields Hot Issue for Reservoir Development by Ben Hogwood - Queens Chronicle

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Gary Giordano, left, district manager for Community Board 5, stands with Kevin Quinn of the Parks Department during a presentation on plans to renovate Ridgewood Reservoir.

If the Parks Department builds it, maybe they will come.

But not everyone wants the department to build it.

Parks has $50 million to redevelop the Ridgewood Reservoir, a 50-acre swath of nature sitting on the Brooklyn-Queens border, and is contemplating building ballfields on the site. While the location is considered part of Highland Park, the money is only for the reservoir and its perimeter.

Parks held the first of four meetings on Monday to discuss the project with the public and answer questions. The site is a stop along the Atlantic flyway, one of four main migration routes used by millions of birds as well as other creatures. There has been a strong push both locally and from the city comptroller to keep it in a natural state, with more passive activities like walking paths and educational facilities.

However, many in attendance at the meeting spoke in favor of putting in fields for children to play sports.

“I’ve never seen a bird watcher in my life,” said Lawrence Rickert, a Brooklyn resident who lives alongside Highland Park.

Bishop David Benke, president of the Atlantic District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, said there was enough room in the reservoir to include some baseball diamonds as well as a place for senior citizens to do their walking. “Fix this whole park so our children, and our children’s children, can enjoy it,” Benke said.

But the two community boards representing the area have passed resolutions calling for the reservoir to remain green, as pointed out by David Quintana, an Ozone Park resident, at the meeting.

If there was one item people appeared to agree on, it was that upgrades also needed to be made to the surrounding Highland Park.

Attendee Charles Monaco said a master plan for the entire area is key to the successful development of the park.

The reservoir originally consisted of three large basins that provided water to Brooklyn from 1858 until 1959. In 2004, the city turned the land over to the Parks Department to be developed as a public park.

Last month, Comptroller Bill Thompson Jr. approved a contract to begin design work on the perimeter of the reservoir. The contract also mandated Parks to gather more input on the larger project from the community.

The next public hearing on the reservoir will be held at 7 p.m. on March 30. A location has yet to be announced.