Tonight the Queens Civic Congress held a civic roundtable about Parks. Queens Parks Commissioner Dottie Lewandowski and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito were to attend. Dottie made it but Melissa "had business to attend to in Atlanta." Queens Coalition for Parks and Green Space Chair Fred Kress was also a panelist.
David Quintana, Henry Euler and Steve Fiedler from the Ridgewood Reservoir group were in the audience. A number of park questions were posed to Commissioner Lewandowski by the moderator, Kim O'Hanion, but none were about the future of the reservoir. Then she opened it up to questions from the audience.
David Quintana was called on and asked Ms. Lewandowski why she was not being straightforward about the Parks Dept's plan to cut down about 100 mature trees during phase 1 which is scheduled to start this Fall. That's right - 65 trees will be removed around the edge of the basins and 35 near the Jackie Robinson Parkway to allow for a handicapped entrance. Dottie replied that the trees being cut down were more like weeds that had implanted themselves in the walls of the basins and would have to be removed anyway. She said that a forester was consulted and approved the removal of each tree.
US Fish & Wildlife Federal Wetlands Inventory Map (locate map on website)
Quintana pressed on about the DEC possibly declaring the area as a wetland. Lewandowski replied that the DEC has not declared it a wetland because they would have to consider each basin individually and that each basin is not large enough to be designated (New York State Fresh Water Wetlands Act - See '24-0301.- see page 6 Commissioner's study.). She claimed those are the rules and expressed confidence that the reservoir will not be declared a wetland for that reason showing no concern whatsoever about the diverse life found within the basins.
Later on, Henry Euler asked about whether budget cuts would affect the plans for phase 1. She responded that the money was still there for phase 1 and again said that the Parks Dept planned to move ahead with it in coming months. She said they were also ready to present their 3 plans for phase 2 to the Community Boards, but that the DEC stepped in and said they were investigating whether the reservoir could be classified as a dam and not a wetland. She claimed that if the DEC does classify the reservoir as a dam, then all three basins would have to be denuded of vegetation in order to prepare them to receive water again. She claimed that Parks is working hard to ensure that doesn't happen.
Her entire explanation made no sense and does not jibe with the statements that DEC released to the press when asked about the issue. Two attendees sitting in front of me turned around and suggested that she had been making these things up as she went along.
Note that this was a public meeting and although there were no members of the press there, everyone was taking notes and she will have a hard time denying what she said should a reporter question her about this.