Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Athletic Fields May Replace Defunct Reservoir by Alice Lok - The Queens Courier

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The decommissioned Ridgewood Reservoir-turned-nature preserve lying on the border of Queens and Brooklyn may be torn down if plans to install athletic fields are put into motion.

In a statement from the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, it said the agency has held several public meetings, listening sessions, conducted surveys, met with elected officials and community groups to “get a broad sense of what users are interested in seeing at this park. All methods of input will help the Parks Department as we move forward in creating draft designs.”

As of now, contractors are in the process of developing three distinct master plans that take into account what was learned during the meetings. The three plans are stated to be released in October, and all of the plans are likely to include improvements to lighting and safety.

A chief concern of the Parks Department is installing more active recreational fields for baseball and soccer which would mean the preserve would be at least partially destroyed. The Parks Department has done surveys, which have shown a desire for more ball fields.

However, local protesters like David Quintana said they don’t want the natural habitat to be touched and instead of spending money to level the basins and install artificial turf, it would make more sense to fix up and maintain the baseball fields that already exist across the street in Highland Park.

Quintana said if the city were to fix up those fields then the necessity of tearing down all or part of the basin, “would be a moot point.”

In addition, local residents are casting doubt over the fairness of the survey. Quintana said he had obtained a copy and the questions were vague and some of the participants had never even visited the parks.

In another twist, the Parks Department announced a cut in the Ridgewood Reservoir budget plan from $48.8 million to $19.8 million in June.

In a study contracted by the Parks Department, the findings said “no less than 10 plant and animal species listed as Threatened, Endangered or Special Concern in New York State were found at the site.” In addition, the survey said 173 plant species and 127 bird species were observed at the Ridgewood Reservoir.

Quintana, who is focusing on educating the public about the importance of the preserve, said plans to alter the current state of the reservoir “makes absolutely no sense to me and many others in the community.”

Ridgewood Reservoir was active in 1858 to supply water to Brooklyn. The reservoir was then used as a back-up in 1959, after Brooklyn merged into New York City. Eventually, it was decommissioned and drained in 1989.

After it was decommissioned, Quintana said “the city basically neglected the property and Mother Nature has taken it back.”