Fordham Hill Residents Battle
Residents of the Fordham Hill Cooperative development on Sedgwick Avenue and Fordham Road have begun meeting to plan their opposition to the construction of a filtration plant along the Harlem River.
The proposed Bronx site represents the beginning of the third chapter in a decade-long controversy involving the siting of a water filtration plant for the Croton water system, which supplies the city with 10 percent of its water. For many years, Jerome Park Reservoir was the city's preferred site, but the city scuttled the plan in the wake of a torrent of community protests, mainly in Kingsbridge Heights, Van Cortlandt Village, and later in Bedford Park. The city later chose Mosholu Golf Course in Van Cortlandt Park but was forced to abandon that plan when the state's highest court told the city that building in parkland required the consent of the state legislature - permission it was unable to attain.
The latest plan calls for either building the plant along the Harlem River, within a 15-acre plot near the West Fordham/ University Heights Bridge, and to the south of West 225th Street on property currently owned by Butler Lumber, the Department of Transportation, and Con Edison or at a property called Eastview in the town of Mt. Pleasant in Westchester, which the city owns but would need local approval to build on.
Critics of the plant cite traffic, noise, and air pollution during the seven- to 10-year construction of the plant as the main reasons for their opposition. Many filtration foes also believe that the best method of protecting the water supply is to deter pollution by discouraging development in the watershed and by various natural methods of cleaning the water.
While they've only just begun their civic odyssey - which, if the past is any guide, will lead them to uncountable meetings, rallies, and hearings - the Fordham Hill residents say they're in it for the long haul.
In addition to the quality-of-life concerns, Fordham Hill resident Roger Deakins said he's already "convinced that there's no need for this project at all. There's a larger environmental issue involved here."
Worried that there won't be any opportunity for public input, Deakins said his group wrote Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion to ask him to initiate the creation of a Citizens Advisory Committee for the project. They had not yet gotten a reply by press time.
Residents from the 1,100 unit cooperative have been weekly in the development's community room weekly since April. At last Tuesday's meeting weekly, they laid out plans to leaflet and educate owners of Fordham Road businesses about the facility. In one day, Deakins said, the group was able to get 800 signatures on a petition opposing the plant from fellow cooperators.
They have also been in contact with Fr. John Dello Russo, pastor of St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church, with whom they are planning a joint event in September.
The city will make a decision on which site it prefers by April 2003. If the Harlem River site is chosen, construction is scheduled to begin in March 2005.
Ed. note: All Norwood News articles about the filtration issue over the last three years are archived at www.bronxmall.com/norwoodnews.
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