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House reps explore Ridgewood Reservoir

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Opponents of the city Parks Department's plan to convert one basin of the abandoned Ridgewood Reservoir into a ball field got an infusion of federal support when U.S. Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn) and Edolphus Towns (D-Brooklyn) toured the site Tuesday.

The representatives were enthusiastic about developing the area as parkland, but favored leaving the thick growths of trees at the bottom of the basin intact.

"This community deserves a park like Forest Park, Prospect Park and Central Park," Velazquez said. "I want to make sure this gets done the right way."

"This is an opportunity we should not take lightly," Towns said.

The trip came after City Comptroller William Thompson in June rejected a contract by the city Parks Department to develop one of the three basins into sports fields.

Thompson turned down the $3.3 million contract with architect Mark K. Morrison Associates "to allow additional time for [the] agency to respond to concerns pertaining to potential scope changes due to environmental review certainties and for administrative issues," according to a letter to the Parks Department.

The city plans to retain the 50-acre reservoir's first two basins as a nature preserve.

The electeds were scheduled to be joined by U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), who sent a representative from his office instead. Some 20 members of the public and various preservation groups also attended the tour, joining the politicians as they descended by rope to the bottom of Basin 3.

"We could hear the birds down there. It's just beautiful," Velazquez said after climbing back out. "To think that we could fill that up to make it a ball field amazes me."

In his letter to the Parks Department, Thompson warned the $50 million renovation could damage the reservoir's natural habitat and that the traffic created by the 27,500 truckloads of dirt required to fill the site could cause major congestion.

Borough President Helen Marshall also joined critics of the Parks Department's plan in June, saying the reservoir is currently an excellent place to enjoy nature.

"It's becoming a cadre of elected officials that believe in the Reservoir Alliance's plan and not the mayor's," said Ed Kampermann, who is on the alliance's board of directors.

The reservoir was built in 1858 to supply water to Brooklyn. It was abandoned in 1989 and the 50 acres soon reverted to wetlands and forest.

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

Posted 6:39 pm, October 10, 2011
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