Citing concerns about the environmental impact, increased truck traffic and the vendor selection process, New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. announced on June 26th that his office has rejected a contract by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to develop a portion of the Ridgewood Reservoir into sports fields.
In a letter to Parks' Chief Contracting Officer, the Comptroller's Office returned the contract to allow additional time for your agency to respond to our concerns pertaining to potential scope changes due to environmental review uncertainties and for administrative issues. You may view the letter at www.comptroller.nyc.gov.
Parks submitted the $3.3 million contract forged with Mark K. Morrison Associates LTD (MMA) for registration on May 29. The agreement called for MMA to provide landscape design services for the reconstruction of Highland Park at the Ridgewood Reservoir site in Queens.
Parks has been considering a $50 million renovation project that would replace a large swath of Ridgewood wilderness with sports facilities athletic fields, claiming that the project is necessary to help combat child obesity. However, Thompson has consistently urged the City to rethink its plans to develop the 50-acre site.
The contract rejection was based on a number of concerns. Thompson noted MMA's proposal to partially or completely fill Basin No. 3 at the site would require 27,500 large truckloads of fill to be transported through the adjacent neighborhoods. Thompson said that even if this is partially filled, it would require about 11,700 large truckloads of dirt to be transported there.
Thompson also cautioned that Parks was in the process of meeting with agencies regarding environmental assessment issues, and that an Environmental Assessment Statement (EAS) could be included as a separate fee in any proposal. That information would help in determining whether adverse effects on the environment may be significant enough to warrant further analysis.
The Comptroller further questioned the selection process. The vendor was selected from among three participants through a quasi-competitive process. Thompson noted that changes to the design that may arise from the environmental and public assessments may significantly impact the vendor's proposal.
Comptroller Thompson maintains that the City's money could be better spent improving Highland Park, immediately next to Ridgewood Reservoir. Highland Park has plenty of ball fields to serve its neighborhood, but they are in such deplorable condition that few people use them.
Additionally, Thompson recommends that the trail surrounding the perimeter of the reservoir be upgraded with benches and rest areas as well as signage calling attention to its unique flora and fauna, and believes the area around the reservoir should be opened for guided nature walks.