More from Ridgewood Reservoir

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

Steve Nanz has published a page of photos he’s taken at Ridgewood Reservoir this year. Worth checking out if you’d like to know just what we might be losing. He’s a much better photographer than I am. I think my favorite’s this baby snapping turtle heading toward the lake. It probably just hatched:

small snapping turtle covered in sand

There’s a lot of other wildlife living at the reservoir including many warblers, wrens, woodcocks, waterfowl, and other birds. We haven’t had anybody who really knows plants do an inventory yet, though we have identified at least one New York State threatened plant species there; and we’ve been inventorying for less than a year so we only have two seasons worth of data. We don’t really know what species may be overwintering there yet. It would be a shame to lose this before we even know what we have.

Ridgewood Video

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

My friend Rob Jett put this video together. Enjoy. Then act.

The Bulldozers are Coming to Ridgewood Reservoir

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

Last night Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe confirmed that the “listening sessions” about the future of Ridgewood Reservoir were a sham. Despite its so-called Million Trees initiative, the Parks Dept. has always planned on bulldozing over 20 acres of existing trees and native habitat in probably the single healthiest forest anywhere in Queens and Brooklyn to put in ballfields and astroturf. This is being done to expand Highland Park, which currently consists of about 100 acres of poorly maintained, underused ballfields. Apparently they’d rather build new fields than fix and maintain the old ones.

The claims made back in the summer that no decisions had been made were lies. We’ve uncovered evidence that the Parks Dept. had decided at least as far back as May and probably earlier exactly what they wanted to do. I guess they were hoping the public comments would rubber stamp their decision. However, when locals expressed their strong preference for passive, low-impact uses like jogging, walking, bicycling, and nature; and their active distaste for any more soccer and baseball, the Parks Dept. ignored them.

Ridgewood Reservoir has benefited from 40 years of neglect. Precisely because the Parks Dept. couldn’t go in and spend millions of dollars destroying nature like they did in Central Park, Prospect Park, and other city parks, it’s actually in pretty good shape today. Obviously the Parks Dept. thinks this must be fixed. Why have virgin forest when you can turn it into a graffiti-ridden cricket pitch or trampled down astroturf?

It’s obvious that the Parks Dept. doesn’t really care what the public thinks about the future of this unique site, and trying to convince them is pointless. Listening to them is of limited use since they’ve proven you can’t trust them. I suspect the next step will be to work with the local council members, state senators, and assembly int he affected areas to put pressure on parks from above and see where that gets us. At least some of them have been listening to their constituents and gone on record as opposing the plan. Time is pressing though.

Surveyors have been out at the site making plans for tearing down the berm in basin 3 and knocking down the trees to make way for the ballfields. I suspect the Parks Dept. wants to present this as a fait accompli before any more politicians or lawyers can get involved.

If you’re interested, you can find out a lot more at Save Ridgewood Reservoir. Drop me an e-mail if you’d like to work on preserving this unique area. I’ll let you know when the next meeting is.

Grand Jury Notes

Friday, October 12th, 2007

You have to go through metal detectors to enter the building. (It’s the wrong time now, but sooner or later that’s a case waiting to happen. Can the government compel you to enter a building that requires to be searched to enter? I tend to think not.) A sign up front near the X-ray machines at the courthouse door said we weren’t allowed to bring in cameras or “electronic equipment”. No one complained about my laptop though. I’m not sure if the officer even bothered to look at the image from the X-ray machine when I came in. Airport-level security it’s not. I expect there are more than a few camera phones in here. I probably could have gotten in with a Canon EOS 40D if I really wanted to.

There’s wireless access, but it’s got some sort of annoying filter proxy installed that limits Google to safe searches and blocks access to dangerous sites like Transmission.

They’re about two hundred of us in a large room at 320 Jay Street. They’re showing us an Ed Bradley video about Judge Roy Bean, of all folks (a Confederate and Justice of the Peace with 3 months of formal education). He selected his jurors from his saloon and fined them if they didn’t vote the way he wanted them too. There’s a brief history of juries and grand juries. What they omit (the early history of American grand juries and private prosecutions) is more interesting than what they include.

Now Ed Bradley’s been replaced by Sam Waterston (i.e. Hang ’em High Mccoy from Law and Order). Sam tells us we may get any crime: murder, drugs, rape, sodomy. (Well there’s at least one that’s a quick No vote. Is sodomy even still a crime in New York?)

The foreperson is chosen by the court. We can ask questions of the prosecutors and we can ask to speak to a judge. It’s not clear if we can ask questions of witnesses directly, or call our own witnesses. We are forbidden to seek or receive legal advice from any other source. (No googling for case law I guess.) The accused may appear if they wish to, and they may ask us to hear other witnesses. The accused may have an attorney present for advice, but the attorney may not participate. The proceedings are confidential. (Damn. No live blogging about the case. ) We deliberate alone. 12/23 is required to indict, and 16 are required for a quorum. We can redirect some cases to family court or lower court, but the prosecutor has to tell us when we can do this.

You can get out of this if you:

Doing My Civic Duty

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

Tomorrow I have to show up for Kings County grand jury duty at 10:00 A.M. I’ve already put it off twice so I couldn’t get out of it this time. From what I can gather, this isn’t much like petit jury service like you see on TV. You serve for a fixed period of time (likely two weeks) rather than for a specific trial, and you hear as many presentations as you can get through in that time. Indictment is by a majority vote of 12 out of 23. There’s no voir dire, so you can’t sneak out by being snarky to the D.A., telling the judge that God told you to convict, or expressing your deep affection for the principle of jury nullification.

New York Skyline

Friday, September 28th, 2007

downtown Manhattan over the Hudson river

I’m not sure why, but you don’t see so many pictures of the downtown Manhattan skyline taken from New Jersey. For some reason all the movies like to shoot from Brooklyn or the South instead.