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Thread: Bronx Water Plant and Parks Deal

  1. #1

    Default Bronx Water Plant and Parks Deal

    Parkland covers 24% of the Bronx, the highest percentage of any borough.


    May 8, 2003

    Water Plant With a Spoon of Honey

    By JOYCE PURNICK

    AFTER the Albany budget wars will come the legislative skirmishes, and one of the more urgent is the matter of a filtration plant that City Hall wants to build under the Mosholu golf course in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.

    The federal government says water from the Croton system (10 percent of the city's water) has to be filtered. Some disagree, but the city is under court order, and after years of false starts, time is running out. The city figures it has through this month to get approval from the City Council and from Albany.

    The former mayor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, tried to build a larger version of the plant, but was thwarted by a court decision and by community opposition that he did little to assuage. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who often demonstrates his preference for honey over vinegar, is pledging to spend $200 million on improvements to parks throughout the Bronx, and $43 million on Van Cortlandt Park and the golf course, to make them whole after construction.

    That would be a total of $243 million in capital financing for Bronx parks over about four years (though capital projects tend to stretch out), compared with an average city capital appropriation for Bronx parks of about $13 million a year.

    Will opponents say no to government largess? They have before — most famously in 1985, when 15 years of fierce opposition succeeded in scuttling Westway, the plan to submerge two miles of the West Side Highway and build a park and beach, all on Washington's dime.

    Christian D. DiPalermo, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, said his group wanted the site rezoned and analyzed in another environmental impact study: "We are opposed to taking public parkland for nonpark uses." Will he go to court? "We're looking at that option," said Mr. DiPalermo. "We are not ready to say we are definitely going to sue."

    Some of the parks advocates prefer two other possible sites because they are not in parks. One is in Westchester, where the city would have to pay rent, the other on the Bronx side of the Harlem River at 207th Street. Both would cost more, and be more complicated to construct and make secure, according to the environmental commissioner, Christopher O. Ward and the commissioner of Parks and Recreation, Adrian Benepe.

    If the Van Cortlandt option is blocked, the city could have to select one of the other locations. Neither would be accompanied by the sweetener — which would come from bonds backed by water and sewer fees. "The Bronx can get a legacy that is just phenomenal, but this is a window that will close if we don't do this in Mosholu," said Mr. Ward.

    Reading between the carefully neutral lines of the City Council and State Legislature, both are likely to approve building on the Mosholu site — after more trading with Bronx Democrats on how and where the park money would be spent.

    That would put the advocates in a difficult position. "They have to fish or cut bait," said one Democratic legislator. "The worst thing would be to have this dissolve into recriminations and deal-making with the Bronx Democratic organization."

    A NEW lawsuit would, says the city, use up time, which could lead to steep federal fines. "They can nibble you to death," Mr. Benepe said. "I would find it ironic that parks advocates would try to stop over $200 million from flowing into the parks."

    Among the projects under consideration for Bronx parks if the deal goes through, he said, are adding new trails to the Bronx Greenway, restoring the Croton Trail and rehabilitating the largest complex of ball fields in the Bronx.

    Critics are skeptical. "Will the money really be there?" asked Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Bronx Democratic assemblyman whose district includes the golf course. "Administrations change, commissioners change."

    Mayors would be under strong pressure to honor the plan, said Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society: "The administration should be sensitive to doing this in a way that does not gut protections important to park advocates, and should provide reasonable enforcement that these benefits accrue to the Bronx. It is all within the realm of the very possible."

    Also possible are time-eating court fights, the kind New York knows so well. "It would be a Pyrrhic victory to say parkland should not be used for anything but parks," Mr. Benepe said. "You could have a renaissance in the Bronx unparalleled since W.P.A. days." Or the Mosholu golf course can remain untouched, along with the needy parks of the Bronx.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  2. #2

    Default Unwanted Boon for Bronx Parks

    Step right up NIMBY's.

    "We don't need no stinkin' water!"

    Wait...that's what we'll get.

  3. #3

    Default Unwanted Boon for Bronx Parks

    From the New York Observer:

    Mayor Buying A Water Filter In the Bronx

    by Greg Sargent

    Ending a municipal drama that has dragged on for years, city and state officials have reached a deal with the Bloomberg administration to support construction of a controversial $1.5 billion water-filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, The Observer has learned.

    The agreement was reached in recent days during private discussions among State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and aides to Mr. Bloomberg, according to sources familiar with the talks. It clears the way for the construction of one of the biggest and most politically charged proposals on the city’s agenda: a massive underground plant that would filter the water that flows from the Croton Reservoir, in northern Westchester County, into many neighborhoods in the Bronx and Manhattan.

    The agreement, which could be announced as early as June 12, is a significant victory for the Bloomberg administration. The project, which opponents have stymied for nearly five years, concerns that most fundamental of municipal missions: keeping the city’s drinking water clean.

    In securing support for the project, Mr. Bloomberg is succeeding where his predecessor failed. First proposed by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the late 1990’s, the plan gave rise to one of the most protracted and intense political battles in memory. Mr. Giuliani finally abandoned the plan in 2001 in the face of opposition from parks advocates and elected officials, who argued that it would waste taxpayer money and gobble up enormous swaths of precious parkland.

    But the Bloomberg administration revived the plan several months ago, and has since managed to win support through a combination of behind-the-scenes diplomacy and, more important, a willingness to spend $240 million on new parkland in the Bronx.

    The agreement has far-reaching implications for the entire city. When the plant is built, it will enhance the quality of the water that flows from millions of faucets and showerheads on the Upper East Side, downtown Manhattan, parts of the West Side, the Lower East Side and parts of the Bronx. The Croton reservoir system, which serves these neighborhoods, supplies 10 percent of the city’s drinking water.

    According to sources, a crucial piece of this complex political puzzle fell into place when Christopher Ward, the head of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, which will build the plant, agreed to do a supplemental environmental-impact statement sought by residents around the park. In exchange for that concession, Mr. Silver and Mr. Miller agreed to back the plan.

    The support of these legislative leaders is crucial, because the city needs state legislation to build the plant on parkland. On June 10, Assembly leaders introduced the requisite bill, and according to sources, it will be voted on in coming days, with an assurance of Mr. Silver’s support. (A similar vote is certain to pass in the Senate, and Governor George Pataki’s support is also seen as certain.)

    Mr. Miller, meanwhile, has agreed to deliver a home-rule message from the City Council as early as June 12, which Albany needs to pass laws that affect the city. Although nothing can be labeled a certainty in Albany, the support of Mr. Silver and Mr. Miller virtually assures that the project is going to happen.

    Asked if a deal had been reached with City Hall, spokesmen for Mr. Silver and Mr. Miller declined comment. Mr. Ward also declined to comment.

    The decision to support the Bloomberg administration’s plan is politically sensitive. Mr. Silver and Mr. Miller risk the considerable wrath of the plant’s opponents, who thought they had killed the plan for good in 2001. That’s when the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled that the city would need state legislation authorizing the use of parkland for the plant. Many observers believed it would be impossible to coax such legislation from Albany.

    But, as The Observer first reported in March, the plan’s opponents were caught off-guard when the Bloomberg administration quietly revived the proposal. They mobilized once again, and opponents—including Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, the powerful civic group Friends of Van Cortlandt Park and many others—mounted a full-scale lobbying effort to persuade legislative leaders to oppose it.

    Although a federal court order mandated that the city filter water from the Croton, some opponents wanted the city to drop plans for the plant entirely, saying that the science behind filtration was unsound.

    But the city’s position has long been that a huge filtration plant is the best way to deal with a nettlesome strain of bacteria known as cryptosporidia, a parasitic microorganism that flourishes in the Croton Reservoir. The organism itself isn’t the threat; the problem is that the bacteria has forced the city to treat water with huge amounts of chlorine, which may be a long-term health risk. Some studies say that chlorine creates chemical byproducts that have been linked to cancer and fetal-development problems.

    Other opponents backed the idea of a plant, but argued that the city should build it at another location. The city was considering two other sites: one along the Harlem River, and another in Westchester.

    But city engineers persisted in their argument that the Van Cortlandt Park site was easier and cheaper. And the plant—a huge construction project that will take five years to build and will create thousands of jobs—already had the support of the city’s powerful labor unions.

    In the end, City Hall outmaneuvered the plan’s foes.

    Bloomberg aides had spent months working behind the scenes to solidify support, long before their plan to revive the Van Cortlandt option became public.

    One significant victory came in May, when City Hall won the support of environmentalists who had previously questioned the need for a filtration plant. After months of persistent lobbying by city officials, three big conservation groups—the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense and the New York League of Conservation Voters—endorsed the idea of filtration. While this endorsement didn’t concern the politically delicate question of where to put the plant, it was a huge step forward nonetheless.

    Then there was the question of location. To win support for building the plant in Van Cortlandt Park, City Hall wooed the Bronx political leadership with promises of new parkland elsewhere in the borough. This made it easier for local elected officials to back the plan in the face of vociferous community opposition.

    Those efforts infuriated the plan’s foes, who have accused City Hall of using taxpayer money to buy off the opposition in a series of old-fashioned political deals. "The D.E.P. commissioner is sneaking around in back rooms and making deals with the Bronx leadership," Mr. Dinowitz, the Bronx Assemblyman who opposes the plan, said at the time. "The only thing missing is the smoke."

    Now that the deal is consummated, however, even opponents seem resigned to seeing the plant built. "Our stance is that the park should be a location of last resort," said Allison Farina, the government-affairs director for New Yorkers for Parks, a century-old civic group. "But if the city has to do this, we just hope they will follow zoning and environmental laws designed to protect parkland, which is a priceless commodity."

    COPYRIGHT © 2003
    THE NEW YORK OBSERVER
    ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

  4. #4
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    Default Unwanted Boon for Bronx Parks

    Yay! *Clean water! *And jobs!

  5. #5

    Default Unwanted Boon for Bronx Parks

    This entire post suffers from a severe lack of information. A few facts:
    1/ There is nothing currently wrong with the water they want to filter. The water that comes from the Croton watershed passes all safety standards, if anything it has improved over the past few years.
    2/ The water that comes from the Catskill and Delaware watersheds, which supply 90% of our drinking supply, has higher levels of several noted contaminants (incl. giardia and cryptosporidia) than Croton. And Catskill / Delaware have received a waiver from the Feds for filtration.
    3/ Additionally, there is an alternative treatment to chlorine, which does not create the harmful by-products. And anyway, as said above, more of this junk is coming from the watersheds that don't have to be filtered, than from the one that supposedly does have to be.
    4/ Building the filtration plant opens the floodgates for unfettered development in the watershed area. So the water will only get dirtier. Building the plant encourages the dumping of chemicals into the water at their source, then brings in more chemicals to clean up those chemicals. Does that sound clean to you?
    5/ "Jobs" will primarily go to construction workers who live outside of New York City. If it's going to be such an economic boom, why are the local residents so opposed to it?
    6/ Mr. Benepe is truly naive if he thinks all that money is going to be spent on parks in the Bronx. Have you noticed Pataki dragging his feet on the whole thing the past few days? If anything that money should be put into protecting the watershed, if they get away with building the plant. Any other use is just bribery. Benepe has plenty of fundraisers, it's part of his job to convince them to raise money for parks that aren't necessarily the "backyard" of the wealthy, a la Central Park.
    7/ This opposition is the opposite of NIMBYism (though there certainly have been and continue to be proponents of that appraoch). The best way to keep the water clean is to do so at its source, through careful management and restricted development. The filtration plant is not necessary. The DEP could have applied for the waiver for Croton, and probably would have gotten it. But it was their "sacrificial lamb" to protect the Catskill / Delaware region. And that ain't fair to the residents of the community or the watershed area.
    8/ Who do you think is paying for all this? Water rates in the city have already gone up, in anticipation of paying for the construction. Bloomberg can't keep firehouses open but he can find ways to pay for unnecessary filtration plants?
    I haven't even mentioned the health risks involved for the people / children living nearby, both during construction and after.
    We are not trying to keep "200 million dollars from flowing into the parks." We are trying to protect a much larger and more important ecosystem, one that can continue to supply clean water, unfiltered, for years to come.

  6. #6

    Default Unwanted Boon for Bronx Parks

    July 7, 2003

    A Park Divided in the Bronx

    By KIRK JOHNSON

    The one-mile pathway that runs through Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, from the tennis courts at Indian Field to Van Cortlandt Lake, is all parkland, or so it says on the map.

    But in some places it is pretty hard to tell, especially for the quarter-mile stretch that goes along the shoulder of Interstate 87 — an often-roaring, often-clogged commuter artery otherwise known as the Major Deegan — or when the four-lane Mosholu Parkway is clattering overhead.

    The highways carve up Van Cortlandt Park like a pie, or perhaps more aptly like a series of fenced-off kingdoms. Only by the most circuitous routes can a person go from one segment to another, over or under the highways, and so residents here say mostly they do not.

    "The park has been chipped away," said Karen Argenti, a nearby resident.

    Van Cortlandt's segmented character, and what historians say is the underlying cause — city and state policies that for decades considered the park's land expendable for highways and other projects — colors everything about the fight over a huge water-treatment plant that New York City wants to build in the park's southeast corner.

    The city's Department of Environmental Protection is under court order to filter water from the city's oldest reservoir system, the Croton, and faces fines for every day that a site is not finally selected and approved. Officials at the department argue that putting the $1.3 billion plant in the park is the most logical and cost-effective choice.

    Opponents say Van Cortlandt has already given its share. Taking pieces of it has been the way things have been done, they say, since at least the 1930's, when Robert Moses, the highway builder and city parks commissioner from 1933 to 1959, paved over one of the biggest freshwater marshes left in New York City, in the park's center, for the building of the Mosholu Parkway.

    Hardly anything is certain. City officials say that Bronx parks will blossom if the Van Cortlandt plant goes forward, from the $240 million in park improvement money agreed to by city and state officials last month. But the legislation that would create that package is being held up by Gov. George E. Pataki, who has said, through a spokeswoman, that he has "serious concerns" about the bill, raising the possibility that he might not sign it when it reaches his desk.

    Underneath all the positioning, however, and the mountain of statistics and studies accumulated over the years around this filtration issue, is the landscape of the park itself.

    If Central Park has become the symbol of the cultivated, worshipfully preserved urban garden, Van Cortlandt in some ways presents the opposite question. When does a park cease to be a park at all? How many pieces must be cut off from public use without the fabric of the whole being lost? Who does the park belong to, the city or the residents who treat it as their backyard?

    Van Cortlandt, according to the history of the park written for the city in 1984, was not formally designed, like Central Park, or Prospect Park in Brooklyn, where landscape views and specific plantings were part of the architectural plan. For reasons of costs or aesthetics or both, it was left wild.

    And the highways, in an odd way, have reinforced that wildness. The park's center, hemmed in by the Deegan Expressway and the Mosholu and Henry Hudson Parkways, is barely used at all because it is so hard to get to, residents say. And on a recent afternoon walking the park's trails, especially along what is called, appropriately, the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, it seemed almost like wilderness, if not for the inescapable traffic sounds. Vine-covered trees hung down where they had fallen across the trail, apparently undisturbed by pedestrians. Signs marking the way were almost entirely absent.

    Like every New York open space, Van Cortlandt has its passionate devotees. Or perhaps more accurately, it has people who love their particular slices.

    Abdelaziz Benchekroun, 34, a Moroccan immigrant, moved to the Bronx from Manhattan last year specifically to live by Van Cortlandt Park after he visited a friend and fell in love with a biking and jogging area called the Parade Ground on the park's east side. He runs there every night. Asked if he ever goes over to the southeastern corner of the park, where the filtration plant would be placed near Jerome Avenue and Gun Hill Road, Mr. Benchekroun looked blank for a moment, then shook his head.

    "I don't go over there," he said.

    Joseph Rivera, a social worker who lives in Manhattan, drives to Van Cortlandt Park with his family on his day off because he finds it more peaceful than Central Park, which is a few blocks from his home. His particular segment, he said, is a place called Vault Hill, just south of the Henry Hudson Parkway, which cuts off the park's northwest corner.

    Lyn Pyle, who was eating a take-out Chinese dinner on the lawn at the park's southeast corner on a recent evening, said that Van Cortlandt's chopped-up character makes the filtration plant a neighborhood issue.

    And she thinks her southeast corner neighborhood, called Knox Gates, is at risk. It held together in the 1970's, when she first moved here, even as the abandonment and arson and decay spread elsewhere in the Bronx. But asthma rates are very high, and she thinks the five-year construction plan for the plant and the need to blast 13 stories down through the bedrock might make people move away, unraveling what urban decay never could.

    But the negotiation over the plant and its impact is also very much a work in progress.

    As recently as a few weeks ago, for example, the managers of the Van Cortlandt Golf Course had planned to expand into park's southeast corner to compensate for the loss of two fairways that would be displaced by the plant's construction.

    But the course's manager, Barry K. McLaughlin, said in an interview last week that city officials have now told him they want the 11-acre corner parcel untouched. Mr. McLaughlin said his architect has since found a way to use the existing course's land to make up for the lost holes.

    Paul R. Sawyer, executive director of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, which has been fighting the plant, said the decision to protect the corner was a very positive development.

    "They don't want to infringe upon the community where they have their business," he said, referring to the golf course. "That's a victory."

    For other residents, the question of the filtration plant has become bound up with all the things they want their neighborhood to be. Last year, for example, teenagers at the Knox Gates community center, called the Cove, created a kind of wish-list project for the park's southeast corner. The teenagers did man-in-the-street interviews, questioned local business owners and came up with a plan. Working with an architect, they imagined a manicured place with a cafe and restrooms and benches, none of which the area has.

    Now city officials have suggested that the filtration plant might make that vision a reality. The city's environmental commissioner, Christopher O. Ward, visited the Cove a few weeks ago and told residents that money might come the group's way, and that he would work to see that their project was at the top of the list when the $240 million in parks money is doled out.

    "This is a process that empowers and makes that agenda real, rather than an agenda that has no mechanism to become real," Mr. Ward said in an interview, referring to the Cove's plans.

    Residents near the southeast corner of the park say the tradeoff is more complicated.

    "We had plans for raising the money," said Ms. Pyle, a director of a small theater company and a volunteer at the Cove. "They're saying we could get money now — if we put up with five years of construction."


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  7. #7

    Default Unwanted Boon for Bronx Parks

    July 9, 2003

    City Asks Albany Leaders to Release Water Plant Bill

    By AL BAKER

    ALBANY, July 8 — Facing fines of $7,500 a day for failing to lock in a site to filter water from the Croton reservoir system, New York City officials urged the State Legislature today to release legislation needed to move the project along.

    Officials from the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the fines to the federal government had mounted to $300,000 so far while the city had waited for Gov. George E. Pataki to sign a bill to build a water treatment plant in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.

    But Mr. Pataki said he had not seen the bill, which was passed by the Legislature just before lawmakers went on vacation on June 20. The bill would allow the city to build a $1.3 billion plant, capable of treating up to 290 million gallons a day, under a driving range at the Mosholu Golf Course in the park.

    At a news conference in Brooklyn today, Mayor Bloomberg said he feared that time was running out to act on the plan, one he said would create thousands of jobs, renovate parts of the Bronx and allow savings of $200 million that could be used to build parks in other parts of the borough or enhance existing ones.

    "We have to build a plant," Mr. Bloomberg said. "We either build it where we proposed, underneath a golf driving range, which would then be restored and you wouldn't even know it was there, or we build it elsewhere. If we build it elsewhere it will cost an awful lot more money, and if it goes outside of New York City it will cost jobs in this city."

    He added: "It would be a very bad thing for this city if we didn't do it now because it would probably never be done."

    City officials later asked the Assembly to send the bill to the governor's office, and Assembly officials said they would. "It will most likely be sent this week," said Eileen Larrabee, a spokeswoman for Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker.

    The Legislature's approval of the plan followed years of public debate on the need for a filtration plant and appeared to satisfy a Court of Appeals decision about where to put it as well as a federal Environmental Protection Agency consent decree on public health rules.

    Until a plant is operable, the city cannot guarantee that water from the Croton system, which typically supplies about 10 percent of its daily needs, will continue to comply with health standards.

    Whether Mr. Pataki will sign the bill is another matter. At a news conference Monday, the governor said he was concerned about construction of the plant, but he declined to say what the concerns were.

    "When the bill is sent to us, we'll take a look at those concerns," Mr. Pataki said.

    Suzanne Morris, a spokeswoman for Mr. Pataki, later said in an e-mail message that the governor had been conferring with environmentalists and leaders in Norwood, the Bronx neighborhood that would be affected, about their opposition to the plan.

    Some people, including Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Democrat whose district includes the park and its surrounding neighborhood, and some environmentalists, are hoping Mr. Pataki's consternation means he will veto the bill despite the city's appeal for his signature.

    City officials and a legislative official in Albany say the governor has been unhappy with the legislation because it leaves him out of the process of doling out $200 million to build more parks in the Bronx or to spruce up existing ones, perks to community groups as compensation for the disruption it will cause to their neighborhood and parkland.

    Under a memorandum of understanding, Mayor Bloomberg, Mr. Silver and Joseph L. Bruno, the State Senate majority leader, will decide on distribution, and Pataki administration officials say that memorandum essentially allows the mayor and the legislative leaders to decide who gets the money.

    "He wants to be relevant even though it is a city park," said a legislative official.

    Other city officials speculated that the governor, left out of the deal as he was left out of the state budget deal, wants to be able to put his name on it.

    City officials said they wrote to the governor today to try to answer his concerns about the money. "The mayor has written to the governor and said he would work to ensure that the governor is included in the selection process," said Chris Ward, the city's Department of Environmental Protection commissioner.

    But a senior Pataki administration official insisted that the sticking point was not the money but concerns over the environment and the integrity of the water system, a priority of Mr. Pataki's. The official said there had not been an environmental impact study that compares the Van Cortlandt Park site with two alternative sites, something Mr. Ward said the Albany bill provides for.

    "This was a deal cut by the city with the legislative leaders, Democrats and Republicans, to get a bill passed and without taking into account the process and the integrity of the process, and that gives us real concerns," said the official, who said the governor wanted to work with the city and lawmakers to fix the problem.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  8. #8

    Default Unwanted Boon for Bronx Parks

    July 11, 2003

    Forward on Filtration

    Just before its summer recess, the State Legislature authorized New York City to build a $1.3 billion water treatment plant in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. This dismayed the park's devoted friends but delighted City Hall. The city is under a court order to filter water from the city's oldest reservoir system, the Croton, which typically supplies 10 percent of the city's daily needs.

    The bill does not mandate Van Cortlandt as the plant's site. Indeed, it calls for an environmental review that, if done properly, will require the consideration of alternative sites. From an engineering and financial perspective, however, the Van Cortlandt site is superior to any other the city has looked at.

    Unfortunately, Gov. George Pataki has been conspicuously unenthusiastic about the bill. The governor worries that the environmental review process is too vague. He is also deeply annoyed that the city and the Legislature failed to include him in the negotiations that produced not only the bill but also a critically important side agreement promising the Bronx $243 million for various park-related projects in exchange for allowing the plant. He has a legitimate beef. Watershed protection and water quality have been among his signature issues over the years, and for the city and the State Legislature to have ignored him in this case was plainly ill advised. He should also have been consulted on the promised largesse to the Bronx.

    None of this, though, is reason enough to veto the bill. Starting all over again with new legislation would be a mistake — the filtration debate has gone on long enough. Mr. Pataki should be invited to review the side agreement and to request reasonable amendments, including, if necessary, a more detailed environmental review. That done, he should sign the bill, keeping the Van Cortlandt site on the table.

    We sympathize with the concerns of Van Cortlandt's friends. We also believe that their discomfort will be modest and fleeting. Construction would involve only a small part of the park, and nearly all of the land would be restored to its original condition because the plant would be underground.

    The city has also promised not to use the filtration plant as an excuse to abandon watershed protections in the larger Croton system north of the city. Indeed, it pledges even stronger efforts to safeguard wetlands, purchase open space and enforce environmental laws. Throw in the $243 million in new parks projects for the Bronx, and this strikes us as a win-win deal for everyone.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  9. #9

    Default Unwanted Boon for Bronx Parks

    Pataki Okays Construction Of Water Treatment Plant In The Bronx

    JULY 22ND, 2003

    The construction of a massive water filtration plant that boosters say will keep millions of dollars and thousands of jobs in New York City will likely go ahead, after Governor George Pataki cleared the way for the project Tuesday.

    Less than two hours before the midnight deadline, Pataki approved legislation authorizing the city to build the Croton watershed water treatment facility within Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.

    The governor had expressed concerns about the plant's environmental impact on the park, but he was lobbied heavily by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and numerous unions, who wanted the plant to be built in New York City rather than on an alternate site in Westchester County.

    "I would like to express my deepest thanks to Governor Pataki for signing (this) legislation," Bloomberg said in a statement. "Not only will this allow us to meet the Environmental Protection Administration's ten-year-old mandate that we filter water from the Croton Reservoir system, it will also allow us to invest $243 million in park improvements in the Bronx and prevent us from loosing this important project to the suburbs."

    In his own statement Pataki said he decided to approve the project "based on commitments made by Mayor Bloomberg, and discussions with Bronx Borough President Aldolfo Carrion, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, environmental advocates and community leaders."

    The city Department of Environmental Protection has said it will save up to $600 million if the plant is built in the Bronx instead of Westchester County.

    The plant will be constructed under a driving range at the Mosholu Golf Course. Bloomberg says that once construction is completed, the park will be returned to its present appearance.


    Copyright © 2003 NY1 News. All rights reserved.

  10. #10

    Default Unwanted Boon for Bronx Parks

    July 24, 2003

    Officials Face Tough Part of Water Deal

    By KIRK JOHNSON with JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.

    Gov. George E. Pataki's approval late Tuesday of legislation authorizing a $1.3 billion water-filtration plant in the Bronx broke a logjam that had kept New York City water system administrators, environmentalists and public health officials holding their breath for weeks.

    But what comes next, water experts say, could be just as exhausting: the details.

    The engineering of the plant, which will filter about 10 percent of the city's supply and require a deep excavation into the bedrock below Van Cortlandt Park over five and a half years of construction, is only the beginning.

    What must also be worked through are the conditions and promises by which the city was able to get the measure approved by the Legislature and then signed by the governor. They include a new environmental impact study that looks at alternative sites for the plant, and the creation of a process by which the $243 million in capital money for Bronx parks is to be distributed.

    New deadlines for the various phases of the project will probably be set within the next few weeks, but city officials said construction could not begin until early to mid-2005, even if all goes smoothly from here.

    "We'll be meeting next week to discuss the milestones," said Charles G. Sturcken, the chief of staff of the city's Department of Environmental Protection, which operates the water system. "Every step of the way is a negotiation."

    Mr. Pataki, in his down-to-the-wire negotiations on Tuesday night, insisted, for example, that the Bronx borough president, Adolfo Carrión Jr., be included in decisions about the fund for Bronx parks. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's agreement on that point, aides to the governor said, was one of the final pieces to fall into place.

    Officials at the Department of Environmental Protection are also on record with a promise to include extensive new protections of the watershed lands around the Croton Reservoir, mainly in Westchester and Putnam Counties, that will feed into the filtration plant. And the big environmental groups that signed on this year as allies in supporting filtration in return for that promise said they would be watching closely to ensure that the promise was kept.

    New York is under court-monitored consent order to build a filtration plant, as a result of a lawsuit filed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and has been trying for years to resolve the issue by building in Van Cortlandt Park. In 2001, New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, said the State Legislature would have to specifically authorize taking parkland.

    Mr. Pataki's signature on Tuesday means that that authorization is in hand. That will allow the city to say to the court what it has been saying for years — that it believes Van Cortlandt Park is the best choice in both engineering and cost concerns.

    Opponents of the Van Cortlandt Park plan say the pressure to move forward in the park will make an environmental review meaningless.

    "It is disingenuous of the city to say that they're going to do an open-minded and fair site selection process when in their public statements they say they're delighted that they can go forward and build the plant at Van Cortlandt Park," said Elizabeth Cooke Levy, the president of Friends of Van Cortlandt Park.

    Some environmentalists who have supported filtration said, however, that the new environmental impact statement would force city officials to lay out in detail why they believe the park site is the best.

    "The city has said that Van Cortlandt Park is best from an engineering and cost point of view," said James T. B. Tripp, the general counsel at Environmental Defense, a national conservation group based in New York. He said the supplemental environmental impact statement "provides an opportunity to show that in writing."

    But there were other issues on Tuesday night. Mr. Pataki was not happy with the filtration bill, his aides said, because it left no role for him in determining how the parks money would be spent in the Bronx. Instead, Mayor Bloomberg had forged an agreement with the two legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, under which they would jointly decide the distributions.

    The governor also wanted the city to compare the environmental impact of the latest plan for the water treatment plant in Van Cortlandt Park to similar plans at two other sites — one on the Harlem River and the other in Westchester County. And he insisted that Mr. Carrión be given a say in where the money for parks is spent within the Bronx.

    Aides to Mr. Pataki say Mr. Bloomberg agreed quickly on the first two demands, giving the governor the ability to veto any disbursements and expanding the environmental review.

    But state officials said Mr. Bloomberg was adamant that Mr. Carrión, an influential Democrat, not be included in the process. It was the disagreement about Mr. Carrión's role that kept negotiations between the governor's office and City Hall going late into the night.

    Finally, at 9:53 p.m., Mr. Bloomberg and his lawyers sent Mr. Pataki a fax formalizing the compromise, including a recognition that the governor would consult with Mr. Carrión in monetary decisions.

    The letter was legally binding, according to the governor's office, and gave Mr. Pataki what amounted to a seat at the table. It also ensured that all of the parks fund money will go to the Bronx, something the original legislation did not guarantee.

    Finally, it left open the possibility, though slim, that the city could still find one of the other two sites preferable to the Van Cortlandt Park site, after the environmental statements are laid side by side and studied.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

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    March 25, 2004

    Water Hazard?

    By ANTHONY DePALMA


    The proposed site of a water plant in Van Cortlandt Park.

    On the surface, it looks like a simple problem with a straightforward solution. On the surface.

    On certain days, the drinking water that comes into New York from a dozen reservoirs just north of the city is cloudy, smelly or spiked with midge larvae. The city has been ordered to clean it up.

    The $1.2 billion price for a water filtration plant is not an issue. Neither is engineering.

    The stumbling block is a classic New York obsession - location - even though some of the real estate being fought over is subterranean.

    The city's preferred site is below the surface of the southeastern corner of Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, a chip shot from the last stop on the No. 4 elevated subway and about half a block from the edge of the working-class Norwood neighborhood.

    The idea is to put the filtration plant - the size of a small factory - in a big hole in the ground where there is now a utilitarian golf driving range.

    The city has burrowed under parks before, most notably in Central Park, where it has buried four huge valve chambers, the last one about 25 years ago. People walking, running or picnicking above it now have no clue there is machinery beneath them.

    City officials promise that once the treatment plant is built in the Bronx, it will be covered with a layer of soil and grass, and the driving range will be back in business.

    But Paul Sawyer, who lives near Van Cortlandt Park, doubts the city will keep its promises. "We do not trust D.E.P. with their projects in our parks," said Mr. Sawyer, who is executive director of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park.

    He and other residents fear that the traffic and tons of chemicals that will come with the completed plant will make it very visible, and intrusive. They worry that exhaust from the underground operation will turn the grass yellow and contaminate the air.

    Most of all, residents and some local officials worry that the eight-year construction period, during which 28 acres of the park would be unusable, would overburden a poor, hard-working neighborhood.

    "This project will destroy the neighborhood we've been fighting to save for 30 years," said Lyn Pyle, a longtime resident and community organizer. "It will destroy the community and the web of people's lives."

    While 90 percent of New York's drinking water comes from the distant Catskill Mountains, the rest flows down from the Croton system, east of the Hudson River. Federal environmental officials have given the city a waiver from building a filtration plant for the Catskill water, so long as it stays clean. But in 1998, the city had to agree to treat the Croton water.

    In a little more than three months, Christopher O. Ward, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, will have to make a final decision about where to build the treatment plant.

    He said that if Van Cortlandt were selected, the city would simply be borrowing the parkland for a while, during construction. The city would have to blast a hole about the size of ground zero to fit the 290 million-gallon-per-day treatment plant. The area around the Jerome Park reservoir would also have to be excavated for connecting tunnels.

    But when the main plant work was done, Mr. Ward said, except for a small office and a loading dock for the filtering chemicals, the plant would be as unobtrusive as the valve chambers and underground tanks that the city has built in other parks.

    The city has committed $43 million to restoring the park. And to compensate the community for ripping up that corner of the 1,146-acre park, the city has promised to kick in an additional $200 million for an extensive upgrading of other parks throughout the borough.

    "The D.E.P. has demonstrated that it can build big infrastructure in very sensitive locations," said Mr. Ward during a tour of a huge valve chamber beneath Central Park. While substantially smaller than the proposed project in the Bronx, it is in a much more conspicuous and jealously guarded spot in the city. For security reasons, Mr. Ward asked that the exact location not be revealed.

    The chamber, 160 feet down, is capped by a maze of pipe and valves that required 1.2 acres to be fenced off and dug up for much of the 1970's and 1980's. On a recent morning, schoolchildren were sledding on top of the chamber, apparently giving no more thought to what was underneath them than to the classes they were missing because of the late winter snow.

    But the restored Central Park landscape is little comfort to some Bronx residents. Fay Muir, a longtime resident and leader of the Mosholu-Woodlawn South Community Coalition, recalled that the city built a valve chamber in the northern section of Van Cortlandt Park more than 10 years ago and still had not fully restored the area.

    "It's not a matter of not trusting the D.E.P.," Ms. Muir said. "We just go by their record."

    Mr. Ward, clearly frustrated by the opposition, fears what would happen if community groups derailed a project to protect the health of millions.

    "Should local, not-in-my-backyard community opposition stop such an important project?" Mr. Ward asked. "This is a huge water supply decision that will be in place for the next 100 to 150 years. A bad decision will have a serious impact on everyone."

    Under city laws, Mr. Ward will have to respond to community comments by June 30. He then will issue what is called a commissioner's finding, in which he lays out the rationale for selecting a site from among the current alternatives - Van Cortlandt, a part of the Harlem River waterfront or 83 acres of city-owned industrial land in Westchester County.

    Then, following a 15-day notice period, the preferred site will be formally designated. Officials expect a legal challenge.

    The city prefers the Van Cortlandt site because it is in New York rather than in Westchester County, where the city would have to pay property taxes on the building.

    The Westchester site, in the town of Mount Pleasant, has been set aside for the construction of a huge filtration plant for the Catskills' water, should the federal government ever order the city to filter the bulk of its drinking water. Before it could consider the Van Cortlandt site, the city had to get approval from the New York Legislature to allow parkland to be used for construction. As part of the deal, the city agreed to provide the $243 million in park improvements in the Bronx.

    Ms. Muir said that in doing its environmental study, the city failed to adequately study such critical issues as the impact that construction trucks would have on the busy intersection of Jerome Avenue and West Gun Hill Road. She also worries that so much blasting would create dust that would worsen the asthma that is a problem for many neighborhood children.

    And though the driving range is fenced in now, she said children often crossed it or played there when golfers were not around. The city plans to incorporate ventilation louvers into a new fence around the perimeter of the driving range. It would also build a 14-foot-high sound barricade fence along Jerome Avenue that would also be a waterfall.

    The city considers the water wall an aesthetic amenity. Ms. Muir considers it an obstruction. "We're not going to be able to even see the park," she said.

    Building at the city site in Westchester County makes more sense, Ms. Muir said, because no one lives nearby and building above ground is cheaper than going below the surface. And Westchester County residents who buy water from the city would pay a part of the construction costs, keeping water rates for city residents about 20 percent lower than if the plant was built in New York.

    City officials said building in Westchester County would deprive the city of needed jobs and would not necessarily be cheaper because Westchester residents could challenge attempts to pass along building costs. Opponents of the city's plan bristled at the suggestion they were putting their needs above the city's.

    "It's not Nimby," said Anne Marie Garti, president of the Jerome Park Conservancy, which had been involved in an earlier fight against the city's plans to build the filtration plant near the Jerome Park reservoir in the Bronx. "There's a better site, and not only would it cost everyone in New York 20 percent less, it won't set a precedent for building industrial facilities in parkland, and that's everybody's concern."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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    April 1, 2004

    Bronx Filtration Plant

    To the Editor:

    "Water Hazard? Plan to Put Filtration Plant Under Park Angers the Bronx" (news article, March 25) cited only one example of the confluence of parks and water-related facilities.

    In fact, the city's 28,722-acre park system is married to the water system. Silver Lake Park in Staten Island was dug up in the 1960's for a 58-acre reservoir, part of it underground. In Flushing, Queens, a vast underground combined sewer overflow tank will be covered by a large indoor recreation center and new ballfields.

    The Bronx filtration plant is different from earlier projects because of its unprecedented mitigation package. The $243 million in improvements will rebuild Bronx parks in a renaissance unparalleled since the 1930's. Among the projects being advanced by neighborhood groups and elected officials are the completion of the Bronx River Greenway, new waterfront parks and reconstruction of athletic facilities.

    The need for clean, safe drinking water and a federal court decision compel the construction of a filtration plant. The temporary inconvenience of its construction will be outweighed by the "giveback" of new and improved parks for Bronx residents and all New Yorkers.

    ADRIAN BENEPE
    Commissioner, Department of Parks and Recreation
    New York, March 26, 2004

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  14. #14

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    July 2, 2004

    City to Build Filtering Plant Under a Park in the Bronx

    By IAN URBINA

    The city will move forward with plans to construct a disputed $1.3 billion water filtration plant under Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, the city's environmental commissioner said yesterday.

    "From the perspective of security and cost, the Van Cortlandt site is by far the best option," said Christopher O. Ward, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, after releasing the final draft of the department's environmental impact study. "The data could not be more clear on this."

    The city considered three possible locations for the filtration plant: under Van Cortlandt park, on a waterfront section along the Harlem River, and on 83 acres of city-owned property in Eastview in Westchester County.

    Last year, environmental protection officials expressed a clear preference for the Van Cortlandt location, but they agreed to study the matter more closely.

    The Van Cortlandt option would involve excavating a 28 acre-section of the Mosholu Golf Course in the southeastern corner of the park, which is about half a block from the working-class Norwood neighborhood.

    Residents living near the park oppose the plan, arguing that it will create health problems, ruin precious greenery and worsen traffic in the area.

    "It's also just a huge waste of money," said Gil Maduro, a professor of economics at Baruch University who lives several blocks from the proposed site. "The Van Cortland option is about $309 million more expensive and it poses steeper engineering challenges than Eastview because it has to be built underground."

    But Mr. Ward said that the numbers being cited by critics were outdated. The most current studies reveal that the Van Cortlandt option would cost $1.3 billion whereas Eastview, the next cheapest option, would have cost $1.8 billion, he said.

    Mr. Ward also pointed out that an additional $243 million worth of park amenities had been included in the Van Cortlandt plan - $43 million of which will go toward improving Van Cortland and the rest for other parks in the Bronx, he said.

    "The Van Cortlandt site has the added advantages that it is closest to those who need the water most, and it is within city limits, thus saving the city from paying unnecessary property taxes to Westchester County," Mr. Ward explained.

    "The city already pays $83 million in local property taxes for city facilities that are situated outside the five boroughs," he said.

    During a news conference on Staten Island on Wednesday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg expressed his support for the Van Cortlandt option. "Everybody is a winner," he said. "The city will have a better water supply. And the people of the Bronx will benefit dramatically from this."

    Lyn Pyle, who is the director of The COVE environmental justice committee, a neighborhood association in the Knox Gates neighborhood of the Bronx, calls the decision "an outrage." The plant will involve trucks bringing chemicals in and carrying sludge out, she said. "This also opens the way for the city to start turning parks into industrial zones."

    To construct the 290-million-gallon-per-day treatment plant, the city will have to blast a hole several hundred feet deep and about as long as two football fields. City officials have promised that once the treatment plant is completed, the golf course will be restored to its original condition.

    The city has burrowed under parks before, most notably Central Park, where it has buried four huge valve chambers, the last one about 25 years ago.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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    July 17, 2004

    Web Poll Results on Filtration Plant Raise Tampering Issue

    By SETH KUGEL

    Many people are skeptical about polls on the Internet, which are widely considered unscientific.

    But if technicians at News 12, a news channel run by Cablevision in the Bronx, are correct, somebody in city government cared enough to stuff the virtual ballot box for a recent online poll the station conducted about the city's decision to build a water filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park in the northwest part of the borough.

    On Monday, News 12 reported that more than 200 of the 390 votes cast in support of the city's decision were generated from computers at City Hall. The final count tallied 107 votes opposed to the city's plan.

    State Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, one of the few Democrats from the Bronx who oppose the Van Cortlandt Park site, sent a letter on Thursday to the city's Department of Investigation asking it to check into the online poll.

    "It's sleazy," Mr. Dinowitz said yesterday. "It's an attempt to a create a false picture of what's going on in the Bronx. I've never heard of anything like this in my life."

    Deborah Koller-Feeney, a spokeswoman for the News 12 Network, which operates Cablevision news channels throughout the metropolitan region, would not disclose the exact identification numbers, or so-called IP addresses, of the computers that provided the flurry of yes votes. But she said, "We are confident they come from City Hall."

    Later yesterday, Ms. Koller-Feeney, in another interview, changed her statement, saying she had meant to say the "City Hall complex," which could include the offices of City Council members.

    Jordan Barowitz, a spokesman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and Steve Sigmund, a spokesman for the City Council, said they could not look into the matter without more specific information.

    The plan to build the filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park was strongly supported by the Bronx Democratic County Committee.

    Opponents of the plant said they were upset at the possibility that the online poll had been tampered with. "City workers are not supposed to be using computers to do other than city business," said Karen Argenti, a spokeswoman for the Friends of Jerome Park Reservoir. "They're not supposed to influence the news in that way."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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