Thursday, November 4, 2010

Agency Is Still Weighing Wetland Ruling For Reservoir by Robert Pozarycki - Times Newsweekly

Read original...

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) remains no closer to making a decision regarding the potential declaration of the Ridgewood Reservoir on the Brooklyn/Queens border as a wetland, according to an agency spokesperson.

“At this time, DEC has not made any determination to map the ponded or vegetated areas within the Ridgewood Reservoir as regulated freshwater wetlands,” said Thomas Panzone in an e-mail to the Times Newsweekly in response to a state- ment made during Community Board 5’s Oct. 13 meeting that the agency was “90 percent certain” that it would classify the 55-acre site as a wetland.

The co-chairperson of Board 5’s Parks Committee, Steven Fiedler, told board members on Oct. 13 that the statement was made by a DEC representative during a recent meeting convened by State Sen. Joseph Addabbo and community residents regarding the fate of the reservoir.

According to Panzone, “DEC is in communication with New York City Parks and DEP, which have committed to conduct hydrological studies of the reservoir district to determine the current sources of water entering and leaving the reservoir basins.”

“Once these studies are concluded, the [DEC] will determine whether to conduct further studies of the vegetation and make a decision regarding whether to map this area as freshwater wetlands,” Panzone said.

Should the agency declare the reservoir as a wetland, the spokesperson said, the city’s Parks Department would then be required to submit permits to the state agency for any potential improvements it wishes to make in any or all of the basins. 

All applications would be restricted to “certain regulated future activities in the freshwater wetland or 100-foot freshwater wetland adjacent area.”

“The designation would mean that the city would have to demonstrate, through a permit application, that future uses of the area would be consistent with protection and preser- vation of the wetland resources,” Panzone added. He noted that the Parks Department would maintain responsibility for the management and maintenance of the reservoir if the wetland designation is administered.

Formerly used as the source of drinking water for Brooklyn and Queens, the Ridgewood Reservoir was taken completely out of the city’s water system in the late 1980s. Since being shuttered and left inactive, the site has evolved into a natural habitat filled with a wide assortment of plant and wildlife.

In 2004, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection transferred ownership of the reservoir to the Parks Department. The agency later declared its intention of developing the site—along with the adjacent Highland Park—into one of eight regional parks as part of the PlaNYC 2030 master plan launched by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2007.

Community and environmental activists fought plans initially put forth by the Parks Department to develop athletic fields in one of the reservoir’s three basins as part of a $50 million overhaul. Funds for the project were eventually scaled back due to the fiscal crisis that gripped the city and country in 2008.

Currently, the Parks Department is in the midst of the first phase of improvements to the reservoir, which includes installing new fencing and lighting around the perimeter of the site. The project would not be affected in any way by any potential wetland declaration, it was noted.