Letter to the Editor from the Forum West: July 30, 2009
Thank you for your coverage of the Ridgewood Reservoir. One thing I haven’t heard mentioned yet is the blatant fiscal irresponsibility of the Parks Dept. in forging ahead with a multi-million dollar contract with a landscape design firm before the environmental studies have been completed. If the reservoir is assessed as critical habitat, all of that money will have either been wasted – or what I fear most – used as a rationale to continue regardless. Putting the cart before the horse seems to be the way too many unpopular plans get forced on unwilling communities, at least in the outer boroughs.
Several years back the Parks Dept. proposed filling in the Central Park Reservoir so as to gain more ball fields and recreation space, but the community objected as the reservoir is a valuable stopover for migratory waterfowl. Public opinion was respected, and public opinion in the case of the Ridgewood Reservoir has been no different, despite the Parks Dept.’s misrepresentations and outright lies. The people of Queens and Brooklyn shouldn’t allow themselves to be treated like second-rate New Yorkers.
What angers me most about the June 30th meeting was the way they treated us as though we were idiots. They thought that if they raced through their presentation and summed up in a circular manner that no one would notice the discrepancies. Very telling is the fact that they said at the start of the 7pm meeting that they only had the room till 7:30pm! A little “wham-bam”?
The 2007 survey results were “discarded”, no reason given but I have a hunch it was pro-preservation. The 2009 survey was conducted by a pro-development group, and of course this was to be the final consensus. Never mind the fact that people who’d been at every meeting were hearing of the survey for the first time. How representative is that!?
The opinions of the community groups who’d been asked to form “task forces” and were overwhelmingly pro-preservation are also being completely discounted. Were they asked to work on this just to let them think that their opinions mattered? Meantime, contracts have been signed (and hidden from public review) so who’s fooling who? This is all so amateurishly underhanded it’d be laughable if only there weren’t so much at stake.
Queens and Brooklyn air quality ranks poorly in a city already ranked one of the most polluted in the nation. We have terrible problems with flooding from storm run-off. But woodlands and marshes are natural sponges and filters. We’re losing trees at an unprecedented rate due to development and disease.
Bird numbers decline by 1 million per species per year, largely – though not only – due to habitat loss at each end of their range. It isn’t enough to “save the rainforest” when we let northern habitat be destroyed or degraded. The 8 acres under special consideration for development due to their relative dryness are as important to the function of the overall reservoir ecology as is any other part.
The basics are already there. The Ridgewood Reservoir should be regarded as a rare gift and appreciated as such. I urge all concerned to write to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.
Ms. Willie Harrison
In related news, the Parks Department finally released a presentation that they gave back in March which reported that the vast majority of park patrons and area residents want to see the place stay natural.