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Queens Chronicle

Ridgewood Reservoir petition support grows

Electeds, residents say planned work is pointless, would destroy wetlands

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Posted: Thursday, August 7, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 12:14 pm, Thu Aug 14, 2014.

The plan to decommission the Ridgewood Reservoir, classified as a Class C high hazard dam by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, has drawn ire from area residents and elected officials since it was announced earlier this year.

Now, in more ways than one, they are petitioning Gov. Cuomo and the state DEC to change the reservoir’s classification and cancel proposed changes to the three basins that some say will destroy the park’s ecology.

On July 31, the preservation group Save Ridgewood Reservoir took to the popular petition website Change.org to rally support for its cause.

“The Ridgewood Reservoir is not a dam and the work is unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer money,” the petition reads. “Furthermore, this plan will destroy important wetlands.”

The two-year, $6 million project, drawn up by the Parks Department as mandated by the DEC, involves creating large culverts in the embankments between the three basins of the park.

According to the DEC, such work would reduce the risk of a breach of one or more of the basins during an unprecedented storm, which might lead to severe flooding in the surrounding areas.

But Save Ridgewood Reservoir’s petition, as well as previous statements from Community Board 5, claims that it would be nearly impossible to fill the park’s basins with enough precipitation to cause a breach.

Additionally, the preservationist group and area elected officials say the project, which involves cutting down nearly 500 trees and the construction of a road and rampways between basins, will negatively impact the habitat of the park’s many wildlife species.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 394 people had signed the online petition, 606 signatures shy of its goal of 1,000.

Many of the petition’s signees are from the area, including Queens Civic Congress Vice President Richard Hellenbrecht and New York City Audubon President Harrison Maas, but some from as far away as Kentucky left messages of encouragement as well.

“This is a rich environmental habitat,” Hellenbrecht wrote, “and offers a unique perspective of NYC history and must be maintained in its developing natural state.”

In a letter to Cuomo dated July 24, Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) and Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn, Queens), state Sens. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and state Assemblymembers Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) and Cathy Nolan (D-Sunnyside) expressed their concern over what the proposed work would do to the park’s ecosystem.

“The proposed work consists of breaching the berms that separate the Ridgewood Reservoir’s basins, building permanent access roads into this habitat, and cutting down at least 470 trees,” the letter reads. “We are deeply concerned that these changes will significantly harm the natural and largely undisturbed habitats of the animals that live there.”

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