The fate of the Ridgewood Reservoir remains uncertain after the fourth and final public meeting held by the city to discuss future plans.
Speculation around the reservoir, which borders Queens and Brooklyn, intensified last month after the Parks Department slashed the planned redevelopment budget for the reservoir by nearly $30 million.
At the June 30th public meeting, parks department officials revealed few details on plans for the stripped-down redevelopment project.
Instead, officials announced the results of a survey taken with area residents about what they would like see happen to the reservoir, and the adjacent Highland Park. The survey results appeared to identify three viable options: to leave the park as a natural reserve; develop it with some infrastructure improvements; and redevelop the park entirely.
Gary Giordano, the district manager of Community Board 5, said the survey was unhelpful in resolving the impasse over how to move forward. "I don't see how the survey results do anything," Giordano said.
Critics of the city's proposal to turn the reservoir and its three basins into a recreational open space remain opposed to the plan, Giordano said, the survey notwithstanding.
"We are not in favor of development of any kind of the basins for ball fields," Giordano said, speaking for CB5, which he said has gone on record against that proposal. He said CB5 would rather see the Parks Department turn the reservoir into a natural preserve, with an environmental education center, and fix the Highland Park ball fields instead.
Parks officials declined to comment for this story, but did say in a statement the department is moving forward with plans to have a private contractor design three conceptual master plans for the reservoir.
"Upon completion of the three conceptual master plans, they will be reviewed by Parks Commissioner Benepe," the statement said, before being sent to relevant community boards for review.
Giordano said he expected to see the three master plans in October.
Confusion surrounding future plans for the reservoir may stem in part from its being closed off to the public, making the space and its redevelopment difficult to imagine.
The day after the last public meeting, this paper obtained access to the reservoir, led by David Quintana, a community activist following the project and the author of the blog Lost in the Ozone.
The reservoir was entered through one of many holes in the chain link fence surrounding its perimeter (included in the approved, $7 million phase one redevelopment of the area is an improved fencing system).
Inside is a veritable urban jungle; thick summer foliage blocks out traffic noise from the surrounding streets, as well-worn paths take visitors around the reservoir basins.
A lookout point at the water-filled second basin reveals a stunning view of the water, the marshland surrounding it and, for the lucky few, sights of fauna including several species of birds and lizards.
Across the basin is an old brick pump house that, if restored, could make for an attractive environmental education center, as many residents have suggested.
Quintana said if everyone involved in the redevelopment project would just visit the reservoir, the discussions and public meetings might have gone very differently.
"That's everybody's impression once they see the place," said Quintana. "They don't understand why the parks department would want to ruin this. From an ecological standpoint, this shouldn't be harmed."