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The Civic Scene

A dedicated group of preservationists want to preserve the Ridgewood Reservoir and Highland Park in western Queens. This area consists of about 142.5 acres of woodland, water, picnic and sports areas. Through neglect, this area has reverted into a unique natural area of unique ecosystems. The problem is that city developers want to destroy some of this natural beauty by modernizing it.

This topic was brought up at a recent meeting of the Queens Coalition for Parks and Natural Spaces, which meets in the Overlook in the city Parks Department building in Forest Park. Fred Kress is the group's president.

The group's Ridgewood proposals call for cutting down some trees and adding more sports facilities within the three reservoir basins. They seem to have too much money for the wrong things.

The second and center basin is a reservoir where migratory birds stop. A proposal calls for cutting down trees in Basin 3 to build cricket fields, but if the Parks Department just fixes up Highland Park, then there will be land there for sports.

Over years of neglect, trees have grown in Basins 1 and 3. They want to breach the Basin 3 reservoir wall, but there is no water here and building cricket fields would mean losing the nature preserve.

People who want to preserve this wild area stated at meetings that nobody from the public wanted sports facilities here. The city, however, came back with drawings for sports fields. Bird watchers have identified 136 species of birds in the area, including seven endangered. People would not mind nature paths in Basin 3, but trees should not be cut down for sports fields.

This area has wetlands, wet forests, open fields, bog-like open areas, a mature canopy forest with native trees and plants, the pond and wetlands acting as key storm water filters, migratory songbirds, seasonal shorebirds stop here, local birds live here and a high point in the Jamaica Bay watershed and Newtown Creek sewershed.

This urban forest improves air quality; lowers air temperatures; absorbs gaseous pollutants; reduces erosion by catching some water before it hits the ground; tempers local climate; creates a habitat for animals, birds and plants; permits the growth of diverse plants; reduces peoples' stress; creates a stronger sense of community; and provides an area where students can learn about nature.

Five pages of proposals, prepared by the Ridgewood Reservoir Education and Preservation Project, are available to explain how to enhance, fix up the area, plan for sustainable management, create a nature museum, restore decayed fixtures, and plan for controlled recreation in the whole area of the basins and Highland Park.

Due to neglect, a wonderful urban forest has developed in the Ridgewood Reservoir. It must be preserved and made usable for New Yorkers in time for 2030.

Also at the meeting, the Klein Farm in Fresh Meadows was discussed. A coalition of Fresh Meadows civic and tenant groups wants to make the farm into a park and affiliate it with Little Neck's Queens County Farm Museum.

The neighbors are watching the Klein Farm. A couple of months ago, it was put up for sale without mention that it is in the Fresh Meadows Preservation District. After a demonstration organized by City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), it was removed from the market.

A large tree was just cut down. It was claimed that the tree was diseased and logs laying on each other show decay in the trunk's center, but we have not had an answer to the questions as to who officially examined the tree and who authorized it being cut down.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: A recent newspaper article stated that the Throgs Neck Bridge will get a major overall by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Months ago, this column reported that there were cracks in the bridge, making trucks unable to ride in the outside lane and larger, heavier trucks go over at night in specially spaced convoys.

They want to spend $40 million to repair the bridge. The article did not mention cracks. They will replace the steel and concrete deck and paint the structural steel. The job will start this summer and take two years to complete. I hope they have finished the Whitestone Bridge before we have to start using it. There will be traffic signs which we can follow.

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