Vol. 17, No. 13 June 17 - 30, 2004


Accountability on Filtration Plant

In two weeks, the city will announce where it plans to build a water filtration plant for the Croton water system. 

As we wait for the inevitable -- the good money is on Mosholu Golf Course in Van Cortlandt Park -- it might be a good time to think about who is responsible. Sure, the mayor and his Department of Environmental Protection have had designs on our park for years. And we would not be in this situation if they weren't hell-bent on blasting and digging a gigantic hole in the park for a mammoth industrial facility the size of Yankee Stadium.

But it is also our own leaders, right here in the Bronx, who sold Norwood and its 
neighbors down the river in exchange for a vague and unenforceable promise of $243 million in park improvements. 

In the entire Bronx, only Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, whose district includes the park site, opposed the plant, upending long-standing protocol in the state Assembly that let the local lawmaker make the call on such issues. 

Though it is probably too little, too late, the recognition that they may have been sold a bill of goods appears to be dawning upon some elected officials. Borough President Adolfo Carrion, whose support was important in the city's deal with the Bronx' Assembly delegation, seemed to back away from his support for the project at a recent meeting of the 52nd Precinct Community Council where a Bedford Park woman asked what could be done to stop the project. From Carrion's response, you would have thought he opposed it, especially if you didn't know he favored the deal with the city. "This is far from over," he said, adding that there will be lawsuits. "There are a lot of smart people that are going to snare this up for a long time. Stay tuned."

Assemblyman Jeffrey Klein has also tried to have it both ways. He says the Assembly never voted to site the plant in the park, but only to give the city the option of putting it there. And that helped us how? 

The backing away of these officials, and their lack of confidence in their original 
decision, makes one doubtful that the deal they made will result in the park 
improvements they were promised. 

Already, it seems local park projects are being deferred as politicians wait for the $243 million to materialize. Councilman Oliver Koppell said at a recent community meeting that, though it was a priority for him, improvements to Williamsbridge Oval Park were not realistic since the city would wait for the filtration windfall before significant capital projects were planned for Bronx parks. This is precisely what the city said it would not do when it championed the addition of the $243 million to the Parks budget. There is likely to be more evidence of the abandonment of Bronx parks in the city budget that is due the same day the filtration decision will be made. 

But not all hope is lost. Local residents are mobilizing like never before and at least two lawsuits with some promise are on the horizon. The announcement on June 30 is just the beginning of the latest chapter in a civic saga that stretches back more than a decade. The story goes on because the city keeps making bad decisions rather than pursuing options that will hurt its own citizens the least. It could very well be that history is repeating itself.

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