Residents Upset Over Ridgewood Reservoir

BY LUIS GRONDA
Staff Writer

Some residents are up in arms over the City’s plan for what they say are needed changes at the Ridgewood Reservoir. The Parks Dept. presented its plan on Monday to decommission the dam at the reservoir in order to meet state-mandated standards for maintaining a dam in New York State. Those standards were tightened in 2009, according to the Dept. of Environmental Conservation, forcing Parks to create a plan for the dam.

Representatives from the Parks Dept. said, at a public meeting at St. Pancras School in Ridgewood on Monday night, that they are opting for this plan because the alternative would be to remove trees and constantly maintain the dam, which would be more expensive.

The agency’s plan would change the classification of the Ridgewood Reservoir to no longer be able to hold water and allow them to dig culverts in the dam.

They also said they must perform the work because the dam is in danger of flooding, with one DEC rep describing the potential breach as “catastrophic.”

In 2004, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the reservoir would be transferred to the Parks Dept. and a plan to develop the area would be created. That plan never developed and the reservoir turned into a sanctuary for wildlife.

Critics of the plan were not shy in expressing their dismay about the project to representatives of both City agencies Monday night. They said their work would be invasive to the reservoir and would destroy wildlife and trees that make up the sanctuary. The reservoir is a popular destination for bird watchers.

“We are trying to have a nature conservancy and a wetland. This is a complete disturbance to everything,” said Steven Fiedler, chairman of the Community Board 5’s parks committee.

“It just defies logic what they want to do here,” said Tom Dowd, a Ridgewood resident. Fiedler’s point of contention is the plan to build a construction access route through basin 3 in the reservoir and he asked if they could build it coming off the Jackie Robinson Parkway instead.

The Parks Dept. representative said they are only building the road to allow their trucks to drive through the reservoir while work is ongoing. The road is not set in stone and could be moved if it is found to be invasive, Joelle Bryer, a Parks Dept. representative, said.

Another concern from residents is that many of them want the reservoir to be officially recognized as wetlands and a nature conservancy. A few residents asked about the status of that application and said this project could cause irrefutable damage to the area, affecting that application.

Steve Zahn, a DEC representative who attended the meeting, said the agency has received that application, but they have not yet acted on it as limited staffing have stretched the agency thin.

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Zahn said DEC had to allocate its resources and staff to projects involving that and this is not a high priority. He added this project would not affect the reservoir at all, including its wildlife and habitat, and they will take that request into consideration at a later date.

Furthermore, in response to a concern, Bryer said Parks will remove 470 trees as part of the project, but will plant 512 trees at the reservoir and 200 trees at Highland Park to replace them.

Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri asked if the local municipality, i.e. CB5, could request an unlimited extension on the decommissioning of the dam, so that other projects could be considered for the reservoir, including the application for a wetland designation.

DEC said they would get back to CB5 with a definitive answer on that in the near future.

Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, lgronda@queenstribune.com, or @luisgronda.