The Ridgewood Reservoir, the decommissioned 19th century pond, has been the subject of debate over the years. The land has since become owned by the Parks Department and in 2004, Mayor Bloomberg announced plans to develop the site into a public park.
Nearly 10 years later, construction can still be seen along Vermont Place as part of the “Ridgewood Reservoir Project,” which will provide new pathways, more handicap accessibility and lighting to the area, but concern over the construction’s effect on the trees surrounding the site has been raised a number of times.
In March, The Chronicle reported on the mistreatment of the trees and showed images of the construction site where planks of wood surrounded each of the 150-year-old London planetrees. In that story, it was reported that heavy machinery, heavy piles of material and extreme foot traffic can cause soil to be compacted, restricting the roots and preventing essential nutrients from getting to the trees.
The Parks Department said it was working on improving the conditions of the area, and decompaction of the soil had been completed by late April, but arborist Carsten Glaeser, who also has tried to bring attention to compaction in Kissena Park, said workers haven’t done anything.
“They never altered a thing,” he said.
When asked if planting new trees would be a feasible option, he passionately shot the idea down.
“I see this all the time,” he said. “If there’s any outrage from the public, a spokesperson says they are going to replace the trees. You can’t replace those trees. That kind of language becomes an excuse and takes away the emphasis and how and why these trees are being damaged.”
“All of our project designs are reviewed by an arborist several times before construction begins to minimize any impact on trees,” a Parks Department spokesman said. “As part of our design process, an arborist will visit the project site, assess the health of site trees and make recommendations for their safety during construction. Landscape architects use this input to revise their designs, as needed. Final designs must be approved again by our Forestry Division before we advertise for a contractor.”
While the debate continues, the Department of Parks and Recreation will be presenting the proposed phase II master plan for the Ridgewood Reservoir at the Community Board 5 Parks Services Committee meeting on Thursday.
A study conducted by the U.S. Forest Service and Davey Institute found that urban trees and forests are saving an average of one life every year per city. In New York City, trees save an average of eight lives a year.
Whether the master plan will involve more construction around the trees and how that will affect the organisms over the years is unclear, but Glaeser is certain that if action isn’t taken, the trees will die.
The meeting will take place at Pfeiffer Hall in Saint Pancras School at 68-20 Myrtle Ave. on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Enter through the parking lot on the east side of 68th Street between Myrtle and Cooper avenus.