Parks group eyes Klein Farm plans

By Alex Christodoulides

Sometimes the city's ideas for parkland are at odds with the community's, and the Queens Conservancy for Parks and Green Spaces has an eye on several areas where this is the case, such as Fresh Meadows' Klein Farm and the Ridgewood Reservoir.

The Fresh Meadows community hopes that the Klein Farm site, which ceased operating as a farm in late 2003 when it was sold to developer Tommy Huang, could one day be returned to its original use, which the group discussed at a meeting last Thursday. The site was listed for sale in early March.

“There are two Web sites [listing the farm for sale],” said Bob Harris, president of the West Cunningham Park Civic. “One lists it as being in a residential district and the other as commercial.”

Klein Farm sits in a preservation district that restricts what can be done with the property, which neither site mentions, Harris said. The community and local elected officials have said they would like to see the farm return to its roots.

“It's not listed on the Web sites as a preservation district. To do anything, they'd have to have a [Uniform Land Use Review Process] and the area, with all its civics, wouldn't let anything happen,” he said, adding that the Queens County Farm Museum may be interested in buying the site and turning it back into a farm.

“We'll keep an eye on it,” Queens Conservancy for Parks and Green Spaces President Fred Kress promised.

The group also has an eye on the Ridgewood Reservoir, which local groups would like to see remain as untouched as possible, which does not match the city Parks Department's vision to convert one of three basins of the Ridgewood Reservoir for recreational use with bike paths and artificial turf ballfields.

The city has proposed clearing 20 acres of land for recreational facilities in and around the westernmost section of the park, which Kress said did not reflect the reality of the park's usage.

“In some areas we have ballfields people actually use, and in others we have ballfields that are in disrepair,” he said.

The park has been called “one of the wildest places in all of New York City” by environmental scientist John Waldman, according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council that criticizes the city's plans, which was passed around at the QCPGS meeting.

“In all the meetings we attended nobody from the public wanted sports facilities, and then the city came back with drawings with sports facilities for basin three,” said Teri Muroff-Meyer, a representative of the Ridgewood Reservoir Highland Park Education & Preservation Project.

She noted that the park is a stopover for migratory songbirds and birdwatchers have identified seven endangered species among the 136 they have observed and another seven species that are on the Audubon Watch List of declining or rare birds. The group would like to see the green space used for educational purposes and recreation in a setting that makes use of existing infrastructure such as walking trails.

“We'd just like to see them preserve what's there,” she said.

Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at achristodoulides@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.