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Friday, October 30, 2009

Preservationists join village committee

BY MICHAEL SEDON The Ridgewood News
Staff Writer

Preserve Graydon Coalition (PGC) co-chair Suzanne Kelly announced to supporters on Monday night that the group has decided to join a committee recently formed by Councilman Pat Mancuso.

Mancuso's committee was intended to include all interested viewpoints in order to arrive at the "best solution for Ridgewood" regarding Graydon Pool. It also includes Mayor David Pfund and representatives from the Ridgewood Pool Project (RPP).

"Ever since that committee meeting's inception, we have wrestled long and hard whether to join that committee or not, for many, many reasons," Kelly said. "We have decided that we will join, and I am going to represent the coalition on the committee."

The PGC formed in July following a formal presentation by the RPP to the Village Council that suggested vast alterations to the pool as a way of increasing membership and making the facility financially self-sustaining. The RPP, which was charged by the Village Council with discovering why membership at the pool has declined in the past 10 years, supports a multi-million-dollar concrete swimming facility to replace the current "plake" (pool plus lake). The group has worked for three years to gather information from residents who use Graydon and those who have left the pool, and collected more than 5,000 signatures online from residents pledging support for a concrete facility earlier this year.

The PGC, created in response to the RPP's proposal, now touts a petition containing the signatures of 1,389 residents to preserve the pool in its current state, according to PGC co-chair Marcia Ringel.

RPP co-chair Melinda Cronk said her group is "very pleased that the [PGC] has decided to join the [committee] at our next meeting. We certainly hope [the PGC's] recent decision signifies that they are interested in discussing the issues, listening to presentations from a variety of experts and exploring all possible solutions for balancing the beautiful aesthetics of Graydon with enhanced water treatment technologies."

Coalition hires environmental lawyer

The PGC recently retained the services of an environmental and land use attorney to argue historic and flood plain issues as reasons for keeping the pool in its natural sand-bottom state, as opposed to altering it to include several smaller concrete pools.

Stuart J. Lieberman, of the Princeton-based law firm Lieberman and Blecher, has taken up the coalition's cause at a cost to be borne by "a handful" of PGC members, Kelly said.

Lieberman addressed about 60 PGC supporters at the Education Building of the Old Paramus Reformed Church on Monday night. He presented five main points that he will argue for Graydon's preservation, including a suggestion that the 100-year-old park be placed on the federal and state lists of historic places.

"Graydon Pool is an historic resource," Lieberman said. "You have to fight because it's so much easier to bulldoze over than to fight and stand for something that's important."

Lieberman used flooding and impermeable surfaces in the vicinity of Graydon as another talking point, explaining that too much development has occurred near the adjacent Ho-Ho-Hus Brook, which exacerbates flooding.

"When we do that suburban thing — when we pave, and we pave and pave — we get flooding," he said. "Bergen County, in general, has a large flooding problem, because when Bergen County was built out as a place for people that work in New York to go and live 50 years ago, there was no understanding of theses issues, so there was uncontrolled development."

Lieberman also pointed out that Garden State Laboratories, which tested the water quality at Graydon each week during the swim season this year, reported that the fecal coliform count of bacteria in the water was consistently below the state standard for even concrete-bottom pools. That led into the issue of water management, which has improved since 2007, according to many Graydon users.

"I'm sure most of you have seen a letter from the Department of Environmental Protection, with the department stating quite clearly that this pool can be run successfully through proper maintenance," Lieberman said.

The eight-page letter to which he referred, written in March 2008, identified inadequate levels of sodium hypochlorite in the water in 2007 and suggested ways to better implement the chemical. The last paragraph of the letter, however, stated that if these measures could not be followed, the DEP would suggest that the "plake" be replaced with a cement-bottom pool.

Lieberman's last point dealt with the financial aspect. He pointed out that many residents in Ridgewood worked in the financial district in New York City, and said the current economic meltdown affected many people in town and elsewhere, which could have contributed to declining membership at Graydon over the last two years.

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