First, the reservoir- with its beautiful, lake-like second basin and winding pathways- is a gem of a natural habitat the likes of which can never be replaced. The site is home to over 100 species of birds, other animals and a rich variety of flora. It is a community resource, and by any measure more-than-deserving of environmental oversight and protection.
The issue of preservation hits roundly on the second- and perhaps most important- reason why the state plan makes sense. If the DEC classifies the site as a state-regulated wetlands, that could impede the city from pursuing a misguided redevelopment plan for the site, one that has been soundly rejected by the community board and neighborhood preservationists alike.
To be fair, the city isn't planning to raze the reservoir and replace it with high-rise apartment buildings or a large mall. But the city's vision for the reservoir- the final version of which has not been chosen, or made public- suggests a keen desire to build ball fields on the reservoir's third basin.
This makes no sense. It would disrupt the site's fragile ecosystem, and does not take into account Highland Park, which is adjacent to the reservoir and has plenty of recreational areas of its own. If the city, in these tough fiscal times, is committed to spending millions of dollars on a parks project on the border of Queens and Brooklyn, why not invest the money in improving Highland Park and leave the reservoir alone?
In that scenario, the entire site could be converted into a nature preserve with educational facilities, as many wish. The Bloomberg Administration, though, is not known for backing development compromises when it could instead spend more money, and build new projects.
So unless the state steps in, its very likely the city will proceed with its plans, regardless of any opposition to them. It is still unclear how a wetlands designation would impact the city's plans. And of course the DEC might decide not to follow through with the wetlands designation after all.
But if it does, that might be enough to protect the reservoir for generations of Queens and Brooklyn residents. And we might get an improved Highland Park in the bargain. How about that?