Today’s NY Times: Save Ridgewood Reservoir from NYC Parks Department

Ridgewood ReservoirToday’s New York Times features an Op-Ed by NYC Comptroller William Thompson Jr. and Robert Kennedy Jr. calling for the preservation of Ridgewood Reservoir on the Brooklyn-Queens border, “a teeming wildlife preserve,” 20 acres of which the Parks Department wants to cover over with ball fields (artificial turf, no less).

It’s yet another example of the New York City Parks Department’s astounding and caustic attitude against preserving natural and wildlife habitat in our city.

The writers state that “this plan flies in the face of Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s widely hailed environmental blueprint, which bemoans the loss of the city’s natural areas.” Really? I guess they are not familiar with what happened at Yankee Stadium, for starters, where two parks were sacrificed in the Bronx by the Bloomberg Administration. And, I’ve previously outlined the tree destruction that’s occurred at parks across our city.

Ridgewood Reservoir was built in 1858 to provide drinking water to the city of Brooklyn. It wasn’t until the end of the century that Brooklyn merged with the City of Greater New York and then gained access to its water supply system. It was abandoned entirely in 1989 at which point nature took over.

The article continues:

Ridgewood Reservoir on the Brooklyn-Queens border is an oasis where an amazing range of plant and animal species thrive in a verdant landscape of steep hills and narrow valleys amid the city’s paved sidewalks.

But what’s more astounding, the city’s Parks Department could wind up destroying it.

Ridgewood is an accidental wilderness, tucked alongside the Jackie Robinson Parkway. …

As the 50 acres reverted to wetlands, meadows and forests, tens of thousands of plants and trees took root and flourished. Turtles, fish, frogs and millions of insects moved in. Songbirds nested in the glades, transforming the area into a migratory rest stop. According to the National Audubon Society, 137 species of birds use the reservoir, including eight rare species. It is a place as close to unspoiled nature as you’re likely to find anywhere within city limits.

Yet, the New York City Parks Department is considering a $50 million “renovation” project that would cover more than 20 acres of the reservoir with athletic fields and facilities.

Our friends at Save Ridgewood Reservoir led a tour of this spot earlier this month with 70 people and 10 elected officials attending, all stunned at the beauty of this spot and the audacity of the Parks Department to want to pave it over. Let’s hope – and help spread the word – that they don’t accomplish their goal.

Event: The Selling of Brooklyn Bridge Park @ Judson Memorial Church Fri. May 30th

Brooklyn Bridge Park \'08Discussion: The Selling of Brooklyn Bridge Park

Friday, May 30th; 6:30 p.m.

Judson Memorial Church (Washington Sq. Park South, entrance on Thompson St.)

Background information:

Urban parks are becoming our newest endangered species. It has been a 20-year effort by the surrounding community to secure the Brooklyn Bridge Park in an 85-acre strip along 1.5 miles of Brooklyn’s East River waterfront.  Yet, it has become an example of the implementation of “parks that pay for themselves,” increased privatization and the further demise of public parks.

Requiring parks to pay their own way is an extension of the relentless cutbacks in public funding for NYC parks in recent decades, from 1.5% of the municipal budget in former years to only 0.4% currently.

Unlike traditional New York City parks, which are administered by the NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation, the Brooklyn Bridge Park is being created by a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corp., a state agency whose primary mission is promotion of economic activity.

Apart from $150 million committed by the city and state for construction, the park will have to generate enough income to pay for ongoing operation and upkeep. The main source, under the approved plan, will be payments from owners of apartments in high-rise housing with 1,200 luxury units that private developers will be allowed to build within the park – a massive intrusion into its narrow swath of green space.

Speakers:

Judi Francis, President, Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund

Roy Sloane, civic activist

Free and open to the public. Wine, cheese and snacks will be served.

Presented by the Sierra Club.