The reservoir's historic structures & ecosystems are an opportunity to create a unique environmental education center for our children & their future.

Friday, April 28, 2017

From QNS online:

Status change aims to keep the beautiful Ridgewood Reservoir a natural open space

The Ridgewood Reservoir has been reclassified by the NYC Parks Department.
By Anthony Giudice / / Thursday, April 27, 2017 / 3:00 PM

The city Parks Department recently took an important step toward preserving one of Ridgewood’s most beautiful places.

The Ridgewood Reservoir‘s status as a dam was reclassified by the New York City Parks Department after the agency completed a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) application, effectively lowering the site’s hazard rating from Class C “High Hazard” to Class A “Low Hazard.”

This new classification removes the need to create any breaches in the dam, allowing the Ridgewood Reservoir to remain as a natural treasure for all those who visit. Since the reservoir was taken off‐line as a water supply source, it has become a uniquely naturalized area in New York City, serving as an important ecological resource as well as a public recreation space.

“The Ridgewood Reservoir is home to a number of native flora and fauna, making it one of Queens’ most diverse natural areas,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. “The reclassification of the dam is an important step forward to ensure the preservation of this treasured green space.”

The NYC Parks Department said it is fully committed to preserving the Ridgewood Reservoir as a natural open space for the community.

“The Ridgewood Reservoir has always been such a unique and beautiful part of our community, and now, thanks to the dam reclassification, it always will be,” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley. “Thank you to the Parks Department for the new designation and ensuring our greenspace is preserved in this bustling city.”

The Ridgewood Reservoir — located in the northeastern portion of Highland Park — was built back in 1859, and was originally used to supply Brooklyn with water up until 1959, as new reservoirs in the Catskills provided water. It was completely decommissioned in the 1980s.

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Dam Reclassification

Below is the official press release from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation website:

Thursday, April 20, 2017

NYC Parks has successfully completed a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reclassification of the Ridgewood Reservoir, lowering the dam hazard rating from Class C “High Hazard” to Class A "Low Hazard." This new designation eliminates the need to create any breaches in the dam, preserving it as a natural treasure for the local community.

“The Ridgewood Reservoir is home to a number of native flora and fauna, making it one of Queens’ most diverse natural areas,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. “The reclassification of the dam is an important step forward to ensure the preservation of this treasured green space.”

“The Ridgewood Reservoir has always been such a unique and beautiful part of our community, and now, thanks to the dam reclassification, it always will be,” said Council Member Elizabeth Crowley. “Thank you to the Parks Department for the new designation and ensuring our greenspace is preserved in this bustling city.”

NYC Parks is fully committed to preserving the dam as natural open space. In the years since being taken off?line as a water supply source, the reservoir has transitioned into a naturalized area that is unique within NYC and serves as an important ecological and public recreation resource.

The Ridgewood Reservoir is a former water supply reservoir located within Highland Park, straddling the Brooklyn-Queens border. The reservoir was constructed in 1858 and served as part of the water supply system for Brooklyn until 1959. The reservoir is divided into three basins separated by embankments and has been substantially drained for many years.

The Ridgewood Reservoir is located within the northeastern portion of Highland Park, and is a component of a larger green corridor formed by the park and several adjoining cemeteries. The site sits atop a ridge formed by the Wisconsin ice sheet’s terminal moraine, the Harbor Hill Moraine. Rising more than 100 feet above the surrounding outwash plain, the reservoir affords dramatic views over its surroundings to nearby cemeteries, East New York, Woodhaven, the Rockaways, Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Historic Register Designation Imminent?

From the Queens Chronicle:

Historic reservoir closer to register
by Isabella Bruni, Chronicle Contributor
Posted: Thursday, March 30, 2017 10:30 am

Behind the busy Jackie Robinson Parkway lies acres and acres of lush greenery and often forgotten beauty, worthy of recognition, of course, by the city, but also the state and nation, according to area activists.

After a two-decade-long fight for protection, it looks like the Ridgewood Reservoir is, finally, creeping toward recognition from the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

Community Board 5 and Brooklyn’s Community Board 5 are backing the recognition for the reservoir, which sits on the Brooklyn-Queens border in Highland Park and was the city’s main water supply in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service’s register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect America’s historic and archeological resources, according to its website.

Queens CB 5 Parks Committee Chairman Steve Fiedler, who has been involved with preserving the site for 11 years, said placing it on the register would, “give the reservoir another layer of protection.”

The Ridgewood Reservoir meets much of the criteria to be considered for the list, which includes embodying documented historical, cultural and architectural qualities of local and national significance.

The main water supply for Brooklyn, and then all of the city, the reservoir system was completed in 1858 and included two basins. A third basin was constructed in 1891, which increased capacity by over 50 percent.

By 1959, the reservoir was no longer needed to store water for the system and basins one and two were drained, leaving basin three available as a backup supply for emergencies.

After the reservoir was decommissioned in 1989, control of it was transferred from the Department of Environmental Protection to the Parks Department in 2004.

“It is exceedingly rare for an example of mid-19th century engineering infrastructure to survive intact,” said Matt Malina, director and founder of nonprofit organization NYC H2O.

“Remarkably, the reservoir complex is pretty much as it was when the water first began flowing into it in 1858. It remained in service for over a century, and then the city simply abandoned it, allowing nature to take its course. Today it is an environmental marvel as well as a historic survivor,” he added.

NYC H2O offers educational programs about the city’s water and ecology and has been heavily involved in advocating for the Ridgewood Reservoir and its placement on the National Register of Historic Places.

“As a practical matter, an application is submitted to the NY State Office of Historic Preservation with support from the property owner. It is a site that visibly shows a critical part of the history of the consolidation of the City of New York at the end of the 19th century,” Malina said. “Its significance also derives from the ecological history of the area in regard to New York’s water supply and its current importance as a freshwater site close to Jamaica Bay, an important stop for birds on the Atlantic Flyway. Today its unused basins have evolved in different ways offering a significant case study in ecological succession.”

According to Malina, the board reviews 20 to 30 nominations quarterly and criteria for the state and national registers are the same. The review board includes a historian, an architect, archeologist, elected officials and other experts.

Advantages of being on the register include the property being more closely monitored in terms of what type of development is allowed and becoming eligible for state Environmental Protection Funds that can be used for improving the property.

Malina said it has been crucial to have the support of Community Boards 5 from Queens and Brooklyn and elected officials on the city, state and federal levels from both Brooklyn and Queens, as Highland Park lies on both boroughs.

Making the reservoir and Highland Park more accessible to people is next on the to-do list for park advocates.

“CB 5 Queens and CB5 Brooklyn have been advocating for the MTA to add a bus stop at the reservoir to improve community access,” Malina said. “Currently, the nearest transit stop is the Crescent Street station on the J train, which then requires a one mile walk uphill.”

Queens CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano raved about the beauty of the reservoir in a recent interview.

“It’s an absolutely beautiful place, there are more than 100 species of birds who migrate there during the course of the year and I’d imagine that takes place very soon. There are quite a number of different plants species from that ecosystem so to speak,” Giordano said. “It’s as if you were upstate in the Catskills ... You really get that feeling, that you’re not in New York City.”

“There’s not many places left like it, and we’re finally succeeding,” Fiedler said with a jolt of laughter. “It only took 11 years.”

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Historic Designation Getting Closer

With the organization NYCH2O driving the effort, the reservoir appears to be getting closer to landmark protector. A series of local newspaper article came out this week about that endeavor.

From the Queens Tribune:

Reprieve For Ridgewood Reservoir
on: March 16, 2017 In: News, Top News

The Ridgewood Reservoir has been given a stay of execution following a 20-year battle by community advocates.

The city Parks Department had initially wanted to toss construction debris into the reservoir, pave over it and then create athletic fields at the site, said Steven Fiedler, Community Board 5’s parks committee chairman.
The committee met with the Parks Department during CB 5’s most recent meeting and was able to get the agency to understand that the reservoir does not pose a flooding danger to the community.

According to Fiedler, CB 5 had dam and water experts present during the meeting to discuss the reservoir with Parks Department representatives. The experts presented data showing that during the largest rainstorm in the past century, approximately 15 years ago, the three basins did not rise more than an inch.

The Parks Department agreed to author a letter that would recommend the reservoir become part of the National Historic Register. CB 5 voted unanimously to support this on Fiedler’s recommendation.

Several years ago, the city had put aside $9 million for a succession of dams that would prevent overflow at the reservoir. Fiedler said he hopes that with the money still secured, infrastructure can be created throughout the reservoir, such as walkways, a visitor center, maintenance area and elevator.

Fiedler said that he and Matt Malina, a local water system educator, expect a letter from the Parks Department supporting the reservoir’s place on the register within the week.

This article is from the Queens Ledger:

CB5 supports historic designation for reservoir
by Patrick Kearns
03.13.17 - 03:21 pm

Community Board 5 voted unanimously to support adding the Ridgewood Reservoir to the National Register of Historic Places at its monthly board meeting last week.

“It puts another layer of protection on the Ridgewood Reservoir,” said Steven Fiedler, chair of the board’s Parks Committee. “If we can get them to put it on the National Registry of Historic Places, that means they could never touch it again and it has to stay nature.”

It would also open the Highland Park site up to federal grants for improvements such as pathways, elevators, and bridges.

The 19th century-era Ridgewood Reservoir provided water to Brooklyn, but became obsolete once the city began getting its water from the Catskills in 1936

Over time, nature took over and the site became a wetland. It was decommissioned by the Department of Environmental Conservation in 1990, and in 2004 it was given to the Parks Department.

There was talk of it being filled in to construct athletic fields, but now the Parks Department is committed to preserving the space and supports the historic designation.

“Parks is fully committed to preserving the dam as natural open space,” a spokesperson said.

© 2017

Another piece was in the Queens Chronicle:

Push for a ‘historic’ designation grows
by Christopher Barca, Associate Editor | Posted: Thursday, March 16, 2017 10:30 am

The years-long fight to preserve the Ridgewood Reservoir is finally coming to an end, Community Board 5 Parks Committee Chairman Steve Fiedler says.

And a happy one, at that.

CB 5 voted 32-0 last Wednesday to support a push to have the scenic location on the Brooklyn-Queens border added to the state and federal registers of Historic Places, much to Fielder’s joy.

“It’s been a 20-year battle with the Parks Department to keep this thing nature,” Fiedler said after the vote. “Thank you for your support and I think we finally won.”

Ground was first broken by the city on the three-basin reservoir, which sits within Highland Park on the Queens-Brooklyn border, in 1856.

It was used as one of the five boroughs’ primary water supplies until 1959, after which time it was used only as a water source during droughts.

It was eventually decommissioned and drained in 1989, eventually returning to its previous state as a popular forest habitat for birds and other wildlife with water filling the second basin.

Three years ago, the state proposed a flood mitigation project that would involve breaching the berms separating the basins and building roadways between them.

A city study later determined the area posed no flood risk and should be reclassified from a Class C high-hazard dam to a Class A low-hazard one.

Parks Department spokeswoman Meghan Lalor told the Chronicle in a Monday email that the agency will also be getting behind Fiedler’s push to have the Ridgewood Reservoir deemed a historic place.

“We will be pursuing a Critical Environmental Area designation for this site, as well as issuing a formal letter of support for the inclusion of the site on the National and State Historic Registers,” Lalor said. “NYC Parks is fully committed to preserving the dam as natural open space.”

Designating a space as a CEA is done by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. To become a CEA, according to the DEC, the area “must have an exceptional or unique character” with respect to public health, wildlife and ecological significance, as well as its cultural, historic, educational and recreational values.

Fiedler said he heard the reclassification from Class C to Class A could come this month, but Lalor said there is no timeline for such a decision.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Community Board Meeting

From Queens Community Board 5 District Manager:


DATE: February 21, 2017

ATTN: Parks Services Committee Members and Guests

FROM: Gary Giordano, District Manager
           Community Board 5 Queens
           61-23 Myrtle Avenue
           Glendale, NY 11385

RE:  AGENDA & Meeting Notice for PARKS Services Committee Meeting at 7:30 PM on THURSDAY, MARCH 2nd, 2017 in Board 5 Office on Myrtle Avenue

Attached please find a copy of the meeting notice and agenda for the upcoming Parks Services Committee Meeting, that is scheduled to begin at 7:30pm on THURSDAY, MARCH 2nd, in the Board 5 office. If you haven’t already received a copy, also attached is a copy of the Ridgewood Reservoir Nomination to the State & National Historic Registers, as prepared by NYC H2O.

If you cannot attend this meeting, please either call the Board 5 office at (718) 366-1834, or reply via email. A quorum is required in order to vote at this committee meeting.

All are welcome to attend.

Thank you for your cooperation.


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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Support Letter for Reservoir Listing

Below is a suggested letter of support for adding the Ridgewood Reservoir to the State and National Register of Historic Places. It has been over 8 years since the community began its uphill battle to protect this unique and important area. We are very close to accomplishing that goal, but could use a bit more help:


February 9, 2017

Commissioner Rose Harvey
NY State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Peebles Island State Park
P.O. Box 189
Waterford, NY 12188-0189

Commissioner Harvey:

We wholeheartedly support the listing of the Ridgewood Reservoir on the State and National Register of Historic Places. This landmark in engineering history is the most important example of 19th century urban infrastructure in the City of New York, and it certainly merits recognition.

Built between 1856 and 1858, the Ridgewood Reservoir is the last remaining piece of the water supply system of the City of Brooklyn. It was an engineering marvel at the time, and today it is an important feature of Highland Park. The reservoir offers insight into the environmental history of Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau County, and as such is invaluable.

Since being decommissioned in 1989, the three reservoir basins have evolved into distinct ecological environments, from woodlands to wetlands. This evolution is unique in the city and affords an unequaled opportunity to study nature.

The Ridgewood Reservoir merits recognition as a landmark in urban history, engineering history, and environmental history, and we urge you to list this site on the New York State Register of Historic Places and the National Register.


cc: Ruth Pierpont, Director, Division for Historic Preservation;


We suggest that support letters include cc’s to:

Queens Borough Parks Commissioner Dotty Lewandowski;
Liam Kavanagh, Deputy Parks Commissioner;
Steve Zahn, Acting Director NY State DEC Region 2;
Ken Scarlatelli, Natural Resource Manager for NY State DEC Region 2;
Salema Davis, CB5 Brooklyn Parks Committee Chairwoman;

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Application for Historic Preservation

NYC H2O has applied to the State and National Historic Registers for the Ridgewood Reservoir. You can write a letter of support and address it to the State Historic Preservation Office. Here's a link to a suggested letter.

New York State Division for Historic Preservation
Peebles Island State Park
P.O. Box 189
Waterford, NY 12188-0189

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