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Queens Chronicle

State DEC enters reservoir picture

Albany may consider request to declare Ridgewood site a wetland

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Posted: Thursday, August 11, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 12:41 pm, Thu Aug 18, 2011.

The state may soon be entering the fray over the future of the Ridgewood Reservoir.

Vanetia Lannon, director of Region 2 of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, will tour the site on Aug. 17. The email from Lannon’s office did not state the specific nature of the tour, but Ridgewood resident Tom Dowd and Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano confirmed the visit.

Dowd, who favors turning the site into a nature preserve, said it is connected with some residents’ wish to declare the site a wetland.

“Last year we requested that the state declare the area a wetland, but they would not proceed until they had some documentation from the city,” Dowd said. “We requested a new meeting with the new director, and he has directed his Region 2 director to tour the area.”

Should the area be officially declared a wetland, it would be far more difficult for the city to develop the property as ballfields or for other active recreation.

The city Parks Department currently is adding lighting, metal fencing along the walking trail and a handicapped-accessible ramp near the Vermont Place entrance that is now accessible only by steps.

“Phase 1 is off to a good start,” said Giordano on Tuesday.

“The improvements are for safety and security,” he said. “We have a disagreement with the city about the height of the fence — they’re installing a four-foot fence and the community board requested six feet — because there have been too many instances of people getting into the reservoir basins.

But the Parks Department is confident that won’t be a problem.”

He also said the resurfacing of the trail and new lighting were absolutely necessary, though he would have liked to have seen wiring for the lights located on the road side of the trail rather than inside to reduce digging.

The reservoir sits in Highland Park on the border with Brooklyn. It was constructed as a reservoir in 1858 and continued to serve Brooklyn until 1959, when basins one and three were drained.

Basin 2 served as a backup supply for Brooklyn from 1960 to 1989, and was decommissioned in 1990. It was transferred to the Parks Department in 2004 with the intention of turning it into a public park.

The city is looking at the possibility of filling in at least one basin to convert it into public ballfields.

But CB 5 and local environmentalists would like to see it used for passive recreation, such as a nature preserve and educational site, citing the progress nature already has made in reclaiming the land.

“There are 140 species of birds in that area,” said Dowd, a lifelong Ridgewood resident and president of the Earth Society Foundation. “There are endangered plants and animals. I would like to see the Parks Department turn that into a classroom, a place for scientific study.”

Giordano said the board also favors passive recreation and education over baseball and soccer fields.

“If you want ballfields, why not renovate ones you already have in Highland Park first?” he asked.

A Parks Department spokeswoman said Tuesday that Phase 1 will be completed by spring.

Numerous samples have been taken for soil and hydrology studies.

“The results will help determine the next steps and options for the next phase,” she said.

Welcome to the discussion.