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

Sunday, November 28, 2010

NYC Water System Event

I thought that the following event would be of interest to this blog's readers:

Constructing the New York City Drinking Water System:
A Pictorial History

Construction on New York City’s first viable drinking water system began in 1838 with the  Old Croton Aqueduct that brought fresh potable water from the Croton Reservoir in Westchester.  As the city grew so did its demand for clean drinking water. Expansion and maintenance have been continuous ever since.

Engineers carefully documented and photographed many of the projects as they were being constructed. Over the years these archives got disorganized. Gina Pollara and a team from the Cooper Union school of Architecture put the archive back together. Come hear Gina, author of “WATER-WORKS: The Architecture and Engineering of the New York City Water Supply,” tell the story.

Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. (Students and teachers are free.)
For more info contact

When: December 13, 2010: 7:00PM to December 17, 2010: 9:00PM
Where: St Jean Community Center, 184 east 76th street New York, NY 10021 map
This event is made possible with funds from the Catskill Watershed Corporation in partnership with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

NYC H2O is an endeavor on the part of Matt Malina to educate the NYC public about the amazing systems and natural resources that bring NYC high quality drinking water.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The City Concealed

WNET's "The City Concealed" series just posted a piece on the Ridgewood Reservoir. You can read the entire posting here. Below is the video.

Ridgewood Reservoir is one of those places that defies the common imagination of New York City. A lake sits surrounded by reeds and two massive basins, each with its own habitat. Dirt paths lined with iron gates from previous centuries surround the basins, but this all hides within a chain-link fence that cuts off access. The fence is a patchwork in constant development, telling the story of repeated entries with wire cutters. A few people might circle the outer fence’s road on foot or bicycle, but for the most part the site is empty.

When we first visited the reservoir with Rob Jett, a birder and local activist, I was struck by the variety of habitat. Aside from the center water body, there were hardwood trees, soggy wetlands, some sort of bamboo, grasses, and a host of other plant clusters. Every moment things were changing, even the ground. Some areas were rocky. Some had compacted dirt, others had soft soil. One wooded zone had trees growing on thin soil, roots exposed, trees slightly bouncing as we walked carefully between them.

Rob Jett and the Highland Park-Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance see the reservoir as an educational opportunity, a chance to take students and locals through distinct environments in a controlled space, but the city Parks department has on its eyes on the park for development.

Ridgewood Reservoir is one of a handful of PLANYC projects, in which the New York City Department of Parks & Recreations seeks to find new and creative uses for open or unused spaces. Although no master plan has been selected, active recreation (such as ballfields) are on the table, which has some local residents worried.

For active recreation the city is focused on one basin in particular, which has shallow soil on top of clay, a ground that they claim may never sustainably support a healthy native habitat. The Highland Park-Ridgewood Reservoir alliance points out that these same drainage issues could also make the site inappropriate for ballfields.

As the city moves forward on an early development phase, making improvements to the perimeter walkway, it’s clear that any thoughtful improvement will likely benefit this long overlooked space.

- bijan rezvani, producer

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Wetlands Designation Still Pending

The following was just published in the Times Newsweekly regarding NYSDEC wetlands designation for the reservoir:

Agency Is Still Weighing Wetland Ruling For Reservoir
Designation Could Alter Park Plans
by Robert Pozarycki

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) remains no closer to making a decision regarding the potential declaration of the Ridgewood Reservoir on the Brooklyn/Queens border as a wetland, according to an agency spokesperson.

“At this time, DEC has not made any determination to map the ponded or vegetated areas within the Ridgewood Reservoir as regulated freshwater wetlands,” said Thomas Panzone in an e-mail to the Times Newsweekly in response to a statement made during Community Board 5’s Oct. 13 meeting that the agency was “90 percent certain” that it would classify the 55-acre site as a wetland.

The co-chairperson of Board 5’s Parks Committee, Steven Fiedler, told board members on Oct. 13 that the statement was made by a DEC representative during a recent meeting convened by State Sen. Joseph Addabbo and community residents regarding the fate of the reservoir.

According to Panzone, “DEC is in communication with New York City Parks and DEP, which have committed to conduct hydrological studies of the reservoir district to determine the current sources of water entering and leaving the reservoir basins.”

“Once these studies are concluded, the [DEC] will determine whether to conduct further studies of the vegetation and make a decision regarding whether to map this area as freshwater wetlands,” Panzone said.

Should the agency declare the reservoir as a wetland, the spokesperson said, the city’s Parks Department would then be required to submit permits to the state agency for any potential improvements it wishes to make in any or all of the basins. All applications would be restricted to “certain regulated future activities in the freshwater wetland or 100-foot freshwater wetland adjacent area.”

“The designation would mean that the city would have to demonstrate, through a permit application, that future uses of the area would be consistent with protection and preser- vation of the wetland resources,” Panzone added. He noted that the Parks Department would maintain responsibility for the management and maintenance of the reservoir if the wetland designation is administered.

Formerly used as the source of drinking water for Brooklyn and Queens, the Ridgewood Reservoir was taken completely out of the city’s water system in the late 1980s. Since being shuttered and left inactive, the site has evolved into a natural habitat filled with a wide assortment of plant and wildlife.

In 2004, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection transferred ownership of the reservoir to the Parks Department. The agency later declared its intention of developing the site—along with the adjacent Highland Park—into one of eight regional parks as part of the PlaNYC 2030 master plan launched by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2007.

Community and environmental activists fought plans initially put forth by the Parks Department to develop athletic fields in one of the reservoir’s three basins as part of a $50 million overhaul. Funds for the project were eventually scaled back due to the fiscal crisis that gripped the city and country in 2008.

Currently, the Parks Department is in the midst of the first phase of improvements to the reservoir, which includes installing new fencing and lighting around the perimeter of the site. The project would not be affected in any way by any potential wetland declaration, it was noted.

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