Friday, June 6, 2014

Plan To Cut Into Historic Ridgewood Reservoir Has Activists Fuming - Fears This Will Lead To Development

Flood Hazzard?  The New York State DEC has classified the Ridgewood Reservoir's three basins as a "Class C" High Hazard Dam, critics disagree.  (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) click on images to enlarge

The decommissioned Ridgewood Reservoir in Highland Park is a natural oasis on the Queens-Brooklyn border. Local activists are worried that a state-mandated plan to dig out culverts in the reservoir will destroy the natural beauty of the area. Park and State officials say it is necessary to prevent flooding, activists disagree. 

For years the community fought against Mayor Bloomberg's $50 million PlaNYC proposal to clear out 20 acres of one of the basins for ballfields and develop the area for active recreation. 

Community residents instead wanted the unique area as let along as a natural oasis.

Mayor Bloomberg finally got the message and cut funding for the project.

Critics of the culvert plan say the $ 6 million dollars would be much better spent clearing out the invasive species and providing facilities for educational programing and for security personnel.

Community members and envirmentailists have long advocated for the repurposing two of the existing gate house buildings located on the basin's perimeter for use as an environmental center and a Parks Enforcement Patrol/Ranger facility.  

These funds could play a vital role in the future success of a newly reclaimed natural area! 

 - Geoffrey Croft

Invasive species strangle heathy trees and dramically reduce bio-divercity. 


Local activists are fuming over a city plan to cut culverts into the historic Ridgewood Reservoir in order to stave off the threat of future flooding. They say the $6 million plan — currently awaiting state environmental approvals — is unnecessary and wasteful of money, according to the New York Daily News.  

“It would have to rain 24 hours a day for months to reach capacity,” said Geoffrey Croft of New York City Park Advocates. 

Critics also worry the project will disturb the ecosystems in the defunct reservoir. 

“Construction will destroy the natural habitats within the basins, not to mention that it is also a colossal waste of taxpayer money,” said local civic activist Christina Wilkinson said. 

“Furthermore, if this weather event actually were to occur, allowing the basins to drain into a small catch basin on Vermont Place would be pointless as the sewer system would already be overflowing.” 

The reservoir, located on the Brooklyn-Queens border, was built in 1858 and supplied water to Brooklyn until 1959. 

But the Parks Department said it will face fines by the state if the work is not done, since the reservoir is considered a flooding hazard. 

The only other solution that would satisfy the state — which would involve extensive tree removal and ongoing maintenance — is more costly and intrusive, parks officials said.

The reservoir, located on the Brooklyn-Queens border, was built in 1858. It supplied water to Brooklyn until 1959.

Former Mayor Bloomberg announced 10 years ago that the site would be transferred from the city Department of Environmental Protection to the Parks Department as parkland.


The long abandoned gate houses along the reservoir basin's perimeter could be repurposed and used as an environmental center and a permanent station for Parks Enforcement Patrol officers and park rangers.

The Bloomberg Administration originally pegged the reservoir and surrounding Highland Park for renovations. But the $50 million proposal to clear out 20 acres for ballfields and develop the area for recreation died for lack of funds.   

A Tale Of Two Reservoirs? The community had also requested the fences in the redesign match the historical ones but Park Department officials said that could not be done for safety reasons.  The fence around the Central Park reservoir (left) however used the exact same design as in Ridgewood (right). (Save Ridgewood Reservoir) 

The city did complete a smaller project to repair pathways and lighting around the reservoir, and make the areas more handicapped accessible. Agency officials said the flood prevention project would not change the condition of the reservoir or reduce public access. 

But concerned citizens worried that the culverts could pave the way for future development. 

“It is my firm belief that (the Parks Department) crying crocodile tears when they say that they’d rather not breach the basins but are being forced to by the DEC,” said Rob Jett, who founded the Save the Ridgewood Reservoir website.

He and others worry that the city will revive old plans to clear parts of the reservoir to build the ballfields.   

Familiar bluet at the Ridgewood Reservoir. (Photo: Steve Nanz)

 Interpretive Sign.

Read More:

Parks Officials Say State Wants Ridgewood Reservoir Basins to Be Safer
NY 1 - July 10, 2014 - By Agnes Chung

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