City Adds Filtration Site in Norwood
By JORDAN MOSS
Taking residents by surprise, the city has added the Norwood section of Van Cortlandt Park that includes the Mosholu Golf Course and Driving Range on Jerome Avenue and the playground area just below it to a list of potential sites for building a filtration plant for the Croton Water System.
The news came buried in city documents distributed to community activists in July that describe the environmental studies to be undertaken for each site. Because of the eleventh hour inclusion, almost no information on the golf course site was provided.
Cathy DelliCarpini, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Environmental Protection, said the "site was added to the list of the seven original sites as a result of comments received during the comment period on the scope of work for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement."
She said the DEP's reasons for adding the site were that "operationally it's not far from the other sites we're considering," and the fact that it's city-owned property.
The Mosholu site will be evaluated for cost and environmental impact at the end of September with the seven others in the Bronx and Westchester, DelliCarpini said.
Community leaders, many who have long been involved in fighting proposals to put the plant at the Jerome Park Reservoir or next to the golf course at Shandler Recreation Area in Van Cortlandt Park, angrily denounced the latest entry into the filtration wars.
Norwood resident Fay Muir likened hearing about the new site to "getting a kick." "It really feels terrible," she said. "I can't believe they would pick that spot. We just cleaned that up. With the kids now playing there, it's really outrageous that they're thinking of taking that."
Muir, who is involved in efforts to fight the plant, was referring to a recent community campaign to revive the corner section of Van Cortlandt Park bordered by Jerome Avenue and East Gun Hill Road, which until a couple of years ago was overrun by weeds, garbage and people drinking and using drugs. Now the area is regularly mowed and kept clean by the Parks Department, with flower beds being tended by residents and a popular new playground, donated by Saturn of the Bronx, at the center of the rejuvenated patch of parkland.
Ora Holloway, the Norwood resident and Montefiore Medical Center employee who led the fight to bring the park back to life, was devastated by the news.
"I think it's the worst thing they could possibly do," Holloway said, citing the playground and the site's location across the street from a densely populated community. Norwood, like the rest of the Bronx, has an unusually high asthma rate. Bronx opponents of the plant have long argued that the seven to 10 years of construction will stir up dust and chemicals harmful to human health.
Holloway said she believes the Jerome Park Reservoir site, until recently the city's "preferred" site, was just a diversion and that the largely black and Latino community above Gun Hill Road is being targeted. "I think this was a bait-and-switch. They can start digging at Jerome Park. In the end you're so busy fighting against [that], that they're behind your back digging someplace else."
The reaction to the latest documents from DEP, which include the "Final Scope of Work for the Environmental Impact Statement" and a "Response to Comments" from a series of public hearings last spring in the Bronx and Westchester, preview what will probably be a steady escalation of tensions through the rest of the year, as the city gets closer to picking one of the eight sites.
In September, the DEP is expected to release its preliminary draft environmental impact statement to be followed by more public hearings and then the final draft in December when the city will finally pick the site for the plant.
Though local activists are still pushing state and federal regulators to allow the city to pursue natural alternatives to filtration, the city is under orders from the federal government to begin building the facility for the Croton system, which provides New York City with 10 percent of its water, by 2001.
In addition to the Mosholu Golf Course and playground site, two other nearby Van Cortlandt Park sites -- at Shandler Recreation Area and in Croton Woods -- are being considered by the city. Both face the opposition of residents, environmental activists, and little league organizers at Mosholu Montefiore Community Center who rely on Shandler's baseball fields. The other sites under consideration are the Westchester towns of Mt. Pleasant, Yonkers, Greenburgh and Yorktown.
Golf course regulars interviewed by the Norwood News last Wednesday were dumbstruck by the news that their beloved rolling greens were in the city's sights. Ray Salomone, a Manhattan businessman, took a break from driving a bucket of golf balls to explain that the Mosholu course is an "ideal setup" because it combines a driving range and putting green, which golfers use to practice, with a nine-hole golf course. "You don't get the combination of those in the city." It's also easy to get to, with the #4-train Woodlawn station right across the street.
Upon learning the news, Gregory Persell, the course's instructor, said, "They could just take this -- take it all? That's absurd."
Holloway agrees, but is worried about the community losing much more than just a golf course.
"We've done a lot of work to improve the neighborhood," she said. "For them to come and destroy it -- when does it ever end? When do they ever give us a chance?"
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