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Plans for reservoir debated

Borough residents got to voice their ideas for plans for the Ridgewood Reservoir at a heavily attended, and sometimes contentious, meeting at Oak Ridge in Glendale Monday night.

More than 80 Queens and Brooklyn residents jammed into a room in Oak Ridge to advocate for everything from keeping the reservoir’s three basins natural to adding baseball diamonds — a move Community Board 5 members have slammed.

“We want to leave the three basins with no recreational activity,” said Tom Dowd, who sits on the Parks Committee of CB 5.

Community board members approved 26−0 a resolution in May that calls for the city to “preserve all ecosystems within all three chambers of the Ridgewood Reservoir.”

Monday’s event was the first in a series of meetings sponsored by the city Parks Department to discuss the reservoir, a 55−acre site located on the Queens⁄Brooklyn border. The reservoir is part of Highland Park, one of eight lark parks being redesigned through PlaNYC 2030, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s initiative to create more open space for city residents.

Alongside Parks Department officials, representatives from landscape architects Mark K. Morrison Associates spoke to community members about plans for the reservoir.

Morrison Associates has signed a $1 million contract with the city to craft plans for the first phase of the reservoir project, which includes building fences, lighting, steps and benches along the perimeter of the park to increase public safety.

The plans should take about four months to design, after which they would go before the community board, said Parks Department employee Kevin Quinn.

Morrison Associates will also issue three conceptual plans for the interior of the reservoir. One plan must be entirely passive, meaning it could not include anything like sports fields, another will be active and the third will be a compromise between passive and active use, Parks Borough Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said.

While many of the park’s users are from Brooklyn Community Board 5, much of the reservoir proper is located in Queens Community Board 5, Lewandowski said. Many of the Brooklyn residents at the meeting argued for more active use of the reservoir, while many Queens residents advocated for preservation.

“We’d like to see an underserved community get athletic facilities for their youth,” said Larry Rickert, a leader of East Brooklyn Congregations, a group that represents 31 community organizations, including churches, schools and neighborhood associations. “One basin could be set aside for human use and the others just for nature.”

Ridgewood resident Lou Widerka disagreed and said the reservoir is “not the right place to put ball fields.”

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D−Middle Village) said she believes plans can be made that suit a wide range of desires.

“We want to work to make sure we can preserve the reservoir and at the same time make the community happy,” Crowley said.

The three basins comprising the reservoir were last used during the drought of 1965 and were drained in 1989. Since then, a forest has taken root in the area.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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