Today’s news:

City OKs new design for Ridgewood Reservoir

After months of conflict with community groups, the city has approved a preliminary design contract for Ridgewood Reservoir.

Landscape architects Mark K. Morrison Associates will begin building fences, lighting, steps and benches along the perimeter of the park to increase public safety, City Comptroller William Thompson said last week.

The contract also calls for MMA to issue three conceptual plans to develop the overgrown site into a more conventional park, including one design dedicated to passive recreation for the 142−acre property located just south of the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Cypress Avenue along the Brooklyn border.

Thompson and the city Parks Department also modified the contract to give the public a say in the design process before and after the initial design concepts are created.

“Under this new agreement, we have ensured that the public will have a say in the ongoing design and construction process of the rest of the reservoir each step of the way,” Thompson said in a statement.

Civic leaders involved in the fight over the reservoir were encouraged by the news. Christina Wilkinson, secretary of the influential Juniper Park Civic Association, praised the announcement.

“We’re very relieved that he’s pushing forward with what needs to be done there, which is fixing up the light and the pathways,” she said. “We’ve been advocating for that since the get−go.”

Wilkinson also said the passive recreational area plan, without the controversial ballfields that irritated preservationists, was never an option before.

The preservation group Highland Park⁄Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance pointed out that Mayor Michael Bloomberg intends to release a wetlands report soon that may include the reservoir. It could render moot any attempts to transform the park, the group said.

They also refuted claims that the area needs more ballfields.

“Our group monitored the use of the existing fields during the course of the baseball season and they were frequently unused on beautiful spring mornings,” the group wrote on its Web site.

Alliance board member Rob Jett did not return phone calls by press time Tuesday.

Wilkinson said she was optimistic about the reservoir’s future.

“I still feel that the New York State Department of Enviornmental Conservation is going to rule that it’s a wetland and that it’s going to severely limit any kind of redevelopment,” she said. “This buys us more time to get that through to the state.”

The three basins comprising the reservoir were last used during the drought of 1965 and were drained in 1989.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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