Vol. 11, No. 24 Dec. 17 - 30, 1998


As News of Plant Sinks In, Norwood Reacts


Inside her beribboned, sweet-smelling floral supply shop, Daisy Boyer is feeling anything but delicate about her arriving neighbor: a 10-acre water filtration plant to be built in the Mosholu Golf Course, across Jerome Avenue from her store.

"It's a waste of money. If [the water system] is not broken, don't fix it," said Boyer, who owns Daisy's Marketplace, a thriving florists' wholesaler. "Everything's been fine for all these years -- now they gotta dig it all up."

"I like the golf course. I like looking across the street at something green," she said.

Told the city was planning to restore the golf course once the underground construction of the plant was complete, Boyer offered the skepticism and sarcasm of a veteran New Yorker.

"They're going to put the golf course back on top at the end?" she said with a short laugh. "Yeah, right, I'll wait for that."

Down the street at the Institute of Applied Human Dynamics (IAHD), an agency for the mentally handicapped and disabled, administrative assistant Kenneth Martinez said a project on the scale of the filtration plant would "absolutely" affect the environment.

"When they were working on the track over here, we had a lot of dust and debris falling off and floating in the air," Martinez said, referring to the elevated subway train that runs up and down Jerome Avenue. "Then we found out it was asbestos!"

"I don't know what the implications mean," said Michael Katch, regional assistant vice-president of Federation of Employment Guidance Services (FEGS), a nonprofit agency on Jerome Avenue. "Is there an environmental impact? Will there be excess traffic?"

"Many of our clients come on public transportation and they walk down Jerome Avenue," Katch said. "This is a mental health facility and we have people in various states of mental health, so I have a safety concern. Also, noise may interfere with [therapy] groups or other programs."

"I think they should leave it as is," said his colleague, Yvonne Popley. "Around here, a lot of the population goes to the swingsets for activities," she said, referring to the recently built Kingdom for Kids playground next door to the golf course.

Down the street at the Clean Jeans dry cleaner, manager Louie Navarro was uneasy about the effects of construction on his customers' ability to park.

"It'll mess up the traffic flow," said Navarro, adding that many of his customers drive. "They're going to mess it up, man."

The closest residential community to the Mosholu Golf Course is the Knox-Gates section of Norwood. Sylvia Tamm of Norwood and Candice Bennett, a Scott Tower resident, were walking through Knox-Gates on business. They believe that a plant in the Mosholu Golf Course is just as bad as the Jerome Park Reservoir for the Bronx.

"Terrible!" Tamm said. "It's going to stink."

"Why don't they put it in the boondocks, where there won't be the pollution or the people?" Bennett said. "It's because of mismanagement, and unthinking, inconsiderate men in power."

Residents of the little neighborhood, contained by Mosholu Parkway, Jerome Avenue and Van Cortlandt Park on its three sides, were asked if the potential environmental impacts of the plant's construction would provoke Knox-Gates into community action.

"If the people are concerned about the construction, they should do that," said Biz Looz, a resident who was talking with friends on a Knox-Gates stoop. "But what are the chances of finding people who care enough?"

"Respect for the community -- that's what's lacking here," Looz said.

Lizzie Durrett, who is unemployed, said she was interested in the possibility of more jobs for Norwood connected with the massive construction. She scoffed at the threat of more noise or pollution from the filtration plant.

"It's noisy anyway! I'm used to it," she said. "Couldn't be no worse than the train or the kids."

Aside from merchants and residents, it seems golfers will be among the project's most militant opponents.

"It's baloney what they're doing, taking all the public land," said Anthony Ianacco, a Yonkers retiree who hits the Mosholu links regularly.

Manhattanite Paul Veneziano has opposed the Mosholu Golf Course site "very vociferously" since it appeared on the Department of Environmental Protection's list this summer.

"The DEP chose the site late in the game. Information did not get systematically disseminated to the golfers," he said.

Word is getting out. Petitions from the Mosholu Woodlawn South Community Coalition to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and local city Councilwoman June M. Eisland were filled with 23 signatures each in less than a week.

"I have a weekly game with a regular bunch of older guys," Veneziano said. "It's a little bit of a home away from home," the only public golf course in New York City accessible by subway with no reservations needed.

Not every merchant on the block had a dark view of the DEP's filtration plans. At the Bravo supermarket, manager Antonio Familia was grinning at the thought of feeding troops of hungry construction workers. Next door, when a friend explained in Urdu that Croton filtration was to be "a pollution control system," Makkah Pakistani market manager Raja Mahood became enthusiastic about the prospect of the plant.

"We are ready to make any cooperation," Mahood said. "It's a good thing for other human beings."

But for most of its prospective neighbors, everything about the plant, not only its location but its purpose, is highly questionable. The Croton watershed only supplies 10 percent of New York City's water needs. Outside of droughts, only Greenwich Village and Chelsea consistently receive water from this source, a fact which left Navarro miffed.

"They're going to tear this park up just to help lower Manhattan?" he said. "They're not showing us any love up here."

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