Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Locals Want New Ridgewood Reservoir Plan by Lisa L. Colangelo - NY Daily News

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LOCAL ACTIVISTS unhappy with a Parks Department plan to fix up the area surrounding the Ridgewood Reservoir are hoping city Controller John Liu will champion their cause.

They met with members of Liu's staff last week and asked them to freeze a Parks contract on the project unless changes are made.

"We're working to figure out a way to make sure the project addresses the concerns, and meets the needs of the community," Liu said in a statement. "Even in a city like New York, there are many opportunities to preserve natural environments."

Parks officials are still deciding how to turn the decommissioned reservoir - which has naturally devolved into a swampy oasis of green on the Brooklyn-Queens border - into a park. Many community activists and elected officials have said they want the spot to remain wild while others said some of the space should be used for recreational fields.

During his tenure as controller, William Thompson held up contracts until the city agreed to reconsider plans for the site.

The first phase of the project includes fixing up walkways, fencing and lighting, along with a new handicapped-accessible ramp.

But Steve Fiedler, chairman of Community Board 5's parks committee, said that plan would require the removal of dozens of trees and discard 100-year-old historic fencing.

And instead of creating a new ramp near busy Vermont Place, Fiedler and others said the city should fix up an existing ramp on the other side of the reservoir or build an overhead ramp.

"Look at how hard it is to get across," Fiedler said as he tried to cross the street during a recent visit to the site with other supporters.

"It also doesn't make sense to place a 4-foot fence around this," he said. "You really need a 6-foot fence."

Parks officials pointed out only three trees would be removed to create the ramp.

"The first phase of the Ridgewood Reservoir enhancements were extensively discussed with the community and vetted by Queens Community Board 5 in July 2009," said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. "This phase is essential because it will address security, lighting and improve access to the park."

She also said that only "invasive species that are compromising the infrastructure and threatening the delicate biodiversity of the reservoir" will be removed.

Photos by: Sam