By Joe Anuta
Construction could begin soon on new fencing surrounding the Ridgewood Reservoir despite objections from members of the community and borough lawmakers.
The contract has been awarded to a Maspeth construction company for $6.4 million, according to the city comptroller’s database, and the work is set to be complete by the end of the year.
But several members of Community Board 5 criticized the city’s plan for the renovation, citing unnecessary spending and inadequate protection of wildlife.
“I’m trying to fight them, but the contract is already awarded and registered in the comptroller’s office,” said Steve Fiedler, chairman of CB 5’s Parks Committee. “Nobody wants to listen.”
One of Fiedler’s objections shared by the rest of the board is that the proposed fence, at 4 feet tall, is too short and would invite trespassers into the natural enclave.
“Right now there is an 8-foot fence and they can’t keep [people] out of there,” Fiedler said.
There are innumerable holes cut into the current chain link fence that surrounds the three basins of the reservoirs. Some have been patched, but many still allow unencumbered access to the basins.
Fiedler said people also dump garbage and have been known to play paint ball in the wooded areas of the reservoir.
A representative from the city Parks Department said the new fencing will allow visitors to see the basins.
“New steel bar fencing around the perimeter and fencing of historical reference near seating areas between basins will allow visitors visual access to the natural environments in the basins,” said the representative, who asked not to be identified.
Currently, the 8-foot tall fence allows park-goers to see the park only through the wires and is overgrown with vines in many places.
The city will also combat invasive species like phragmites, a reed that takes over in watery soil, which have plagued the park over the years.
Fiedler and the board also took issue with the type of fencing.
The park currently has more than 4,000 feet of historic, wrought-iron fencing in and around the basins, Fiedler said. In fact, the fencing was so elaborately crafted that the city made a model of it to use in Central Park in Manhattan.
“You cannot get fencing like that anymore,” Fiedler said, lamenting the fact that the vintage metal will likely be thrown away or melted down.
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) also had objections to the department’s plan to install new lighting.
The city plans on installing lights along the path at 15-foot intervals. There are currently dilapidated lampposts located on the outside of the path, but the city’s plan would move them to the inside and install a shade that would shield the animal and plant life from the lights at night.
“We could save money by building on the existing side,” Addabbo said. “I’m not an engineer, but … I’d like to respectively disagree with the Parks Department.”
The contract is currently under review by city Comptroller John Liu.
In 2008, former city Comptroller William Thompson rejected a plan to turn the reservoir into sports fields.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.