Monday, July 13, 2009

Locals Fuming Over Surveys by Ralph Mancini - Times Newsweekly

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Architect Mark Morrison (standing at right) details recent assessments performed by his company in the reservoir area.

Community members were up in arms over the perceived
lack of input afforded to them by the Parks Department regarding plans for phase one of the Ridgewood Reservoir rehabilitation project during the fourth and final community outreach meeting held Tuesday, June 30 in Forest Park.

South Queens activist David M. Quintana joined Community Board 5 member John Maier in claiming that he never received one of 253 surveys distributed to the public to allow people to express their views on the reservoir, located on the Brooklyn/ Queens border near Highland Park.

Maier wondered why he never saw the questionnaire even after he submitted his mailing address to agency representatives at a prior session.

The complaints were directed at Parks Queens Team Leader of Capital Projects Kevin Quinn, who along with colleague Jason Schwartz told a crowd of local community leaders and concerned residents that the surveys were drawn up to get information from individuals that couldn't make it out to public meetings.

"These surveys have no transparency at all," charged Quintana. "How do we know that they weren't filled out by one person?"

Quinn explained that decisions being made on future work at the reservoir's three basins will not be determined by statistics.

The purpose of the surveys, he insisted, was to gather as many different viewpoints on three conceptual master plans that have been designed for the development and/or stabilization of the reservoir site.

David M. Quintana (pictured seated, gesturing to guest speakers) was among those who critiqued the Parks Department on their distribution of surveys, which asked people for their thoughts on the Ridgewood Reservoir project.

Quintana and others countered by asking why a first set of surveys were dismissed.

By and large the complainants at the conference were in favor of leaving the 50-acre property untouched in order for it to continue serving the community as an urban forest containing a variety of trees, plants and several types of wildlife, including 137 bird species.

In past meetings, the public has also taken issue with the fact that only one of Parks' master plans has been dedicated to "passive recreation."

Board 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri agreed with the survey results indicating the need for new and rebuilt ball fields at Highland Park.

He advised city officials to be "realistic" with their planning and added that he would like to see them execute their work in a "foolproof" manner.

The funding for the project has reportedly been significantly reduced from the $50 million that was originally set aside.

Arcuri invited Parks Department representatives and spokespeople from project architect Mark K. Morrison Associates to attend Community Board 5's October session to detail some of the decisions being made on park and reservoir renovations.

Public input findings

Mark Morrison was on hand along with fellow company representatives Eric Mattes and Chris Syrett to discuss the various assessments they performed on each of the Ridgewood Reservoir's three basins.

They described one as a heavily wooded area and a second as consisting of a lot of open water. The third basin, detailed Syrett, is the largest with the widest array of biodiversity.

Mattes then unveiled the results gathered from two recent community workshops which took place in Brooklyn and Queens.

Reportedly, the Queens session was attended by 45 residents, while the Brooklyn workshop had a turnout of 30 individuals.

All 75 people were divided into teams and encouraged to present commentary on the three master plans.

The combined results of the two meetings, according to Mattes, indicated that the top three community suggestions for development in the first basin were:

the addition of a boardwalk system for site access;

a "no-entry" zone to preserve the basin; and,

creating facilities for nocturnal activities.

In the second basin, most respondents wanted to see:

the addition of a boardwalk system for site access;

a "no-entry" zone to preserve the basin; and,

the strategic removal of invasive exotic plant species.

In the third basin, the top three suggestions were:

the addition of a boardwalk system for site access;

a nature center for community programs and education; and,

recreational opportunities.