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

Monday, August 25, 2014

Basin Path Before and After

I thought you'd appreciate this comparison of the path between basins 2 and 3 before and after the Phase 1 work was completed. The two images were shot in essentially the same location. I took the recent photo when leading a tour for the Newtown Historic Society on August 17th.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Some Old Images of the Reservoir

Here are some great images that I found on the Brooklyn Museum's digital collection website:

Caption: George Bradford Brainerd (American, 1845-1887). Ridgewood Reservoir, Brooklyn, ca. 1872-1887.

This was taken prior to the addition of basin 3. The view is from the north-west corner facing the gatehouse between basins 1 and 2. Today you would be standing in the middle of the Jackie Robinson Parkway.

Caption: George Bradford Brainerd (American, 1845-1887). View from the Influx, Ridgewood, Brooklyn, ca. 1872-1887.

Caption: George Bradford Brainerd (American, 1845-1887). Entrance of to Ridgewood Reservoir, Brooklyn, June 23, 1874.

Caption: George Bradford Brainerd (American, 1845-1887). Reservoir Engine House from East End, Ridgewood, Brooklyn, July 23, 1874.

Brooklyn Water Works, Pumping Station, Ridgewood, 1899. Near 1 Wells Street. The Ridgewood pumping station opened in the 1860s; this building was added to the south side in 1890. It was cleared in the 1940s to make way for Conduit Boulevard construction and the new East New York Vocational High School.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

More Petition Coverage

The Times Ledger just published a story about our petition. At the time of their printing we were under 600 signatures. As of this posting are now at 661:

Petition fights plans for Ridgewood dam
August 15, 2014
By Sarina Trangle

A petition challenging the city's plan to decommission the Ridgewood Reservoir dam captured nearly 600 signatures.

The state’s dam classifications may not hold back a flood of opposition in Ridgewood.

Nearly 600 people have signed an online petition asking the city Parks Department to abandon its plans to construct channels between the Ridgewood Reservoir’s three basins. The department has maintained it must puncture the basins to comply with state dam regulations ushered in after Hurricane Katrina.

But the Save the Ridgewood Reservoir preservationist group’s petition on urges the state to reclassify the reservoir as a non-hazardous dam and, consequently, prevent the need for the decommissioning project.

“We’re afraid that it will ruin a really great site,” said Gary Comorau, president of the Highland Park-Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance. “They’re going to be tearing up hundreds and hundreds of trees and putting a road in there, where there are some endangered plants and animals and wetlands.”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation defines a dam as any artificial barrier, including an earthen one, that impounds or may impound water.

The Ridgewood Reservoir supplied water from 1858 to 1959 and then served as a backup water facility until it was decommissioned in 1990, according to Parks officials.

Parks officials say water sits in the second basin.

Still, environmentalists, bird watchers and park patrons argue the dam definition is moot.

Comorau said the clay lining on the basins has eroded, preventing them from filling. He contends it would require 72 inches of rapid rainfall for the basins to flood and no more than 8 inches a day has been recorded in city history.

“They’re talking about spending $6 million to $11 million and closing it for at least two years to remediate something that can’t ever occur,” he said.

Joelle Byrer, Parks’ Queens capital team leader, emphasized during a June meeting that the project was designed to minimize disruption to the ecosystem and give park-goers as much access to the reservoir as possible.

She said the department needed the gravel road so its crews can maintain the channels.

At the time, the city said it planned to put the decommissioning work out to bid in August.

But when asked this week, the department said it did not have a target date for soliciting contractors.

Several elected officials, including U.S. Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn) and Grace Meng (D-Flushing), sent a letter asking the governor to reconsider the reservoir’s future late last month.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at

©2014 Community News Group

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ridgewood Reservoir on "BK LIve"

Yesterday author Tom Stephenson and I were interviewed on "BK Live" about birds and birding in Brooklyn. I was also able to talk about the plight of the Ridgewood Reservoir. If you want to skip ahead, the reservoir segment begins at about the 10 minute mark. Please note that they incorrectly list me as the president of the Brooklyn Bird Club. Wrong Rob. Rob Bate is actually the president.

BK Live 8/13/14: Brooklyn Bird Club from Brooklyn Independent Media on Vimeo.

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Newtown Historical Society Reservoir Tour

From the Newtown Historical Society:

Newtown Historical Society Tour

Nature and history tour of the Ridgewood Reservoir Sunday 8/17

On Sunday, August 17, we will be offering a special nature and history tour of the Ridgewood Reservoir starting at 9am in the main parking lot on Vermont Place at Highland Park.  We will view the historic structures in the recently renovated park, observe the natural world and discuss its future.

You can take public transportation to Highland Park.  The B13 bus stops along Cypress Hills Street and the Q56 stops along Jamaica Avenue.  The Cleveland Street stop on the J train is 3 blocks from the park.  Or, you can drive or bike.

This tour will be led by special guest Rob Jett, author of The City Birder.

This tour is 100% FREE and will be a great experience for children and adults alike.  For more info or to RSVP, write to or call 718-366-3715.

Thanks, and we look forward to seeing you on the 17th.  Please watch the video below for more information about the historical and environmental importance of the Ridgewood Reservoir.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Queens Chronicle Article

The Queens Chronicle just published an article about our petition:

Ridgewood Reservoir petition support grows
by Christopher Barca, Reporter | Posted: Thursday, August 7, 2014 10:30 am

The plan to decommission the Ridgewood Reservoir, classified as a Class C high hazard dam by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, has drawn ire from area residents and elected officials since it was announced earlier this year.

Now, in more ways than one, they are petitioning Gov. Cuomo and the state DEC to change the reservoir’s classification and cancel proposed changes to the three basins that some say will destroy the park’s ecology.

On July 31, the preservation group Save Ridgewood Reservoir took to the popular petition website to rally support for its cause.


You can read the entire article here.

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Support from the EDF

At our request, the Environmental Defense Fund sent a letter to the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, as well as, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. As more individuals, organizations and politicians rally around our cause, the greater the likelihood that historic Ridgewood Reservoir will be protected:


To:    Joelle Byrer, NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation, Queens Capital Team Leader,
         Jonna Carmona-Graf, NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation, Chief of Capital Program Management,
         Bram Gunther, NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation, Chief of Forestry, Horticulture, and  Natural Resources Group,
         Venetia Lannon, NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation, Region 2 Director,

From: James T.B. Tripp, Senior Counsel, Environmental Defense Fund
         Aaron Stanton, Ford Foundation Fellow, Environmental Defense Fund

July 17, 2014
Re: Proposed Ridgewood Reservoir Construction

We understand that the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) are preparing to construct three culverts and an access road in the Ridgewood Reservoir to diminish a potential flooding problem and re-classify the Class C dam structure as a Class D structure.

We also understand that the reservoir is a unique and valuable natural resource and community amenity.  As noted on the DPR website, the reservoir is home to “wetland plants, some found on the Threatened and Endangered lists,” and it serves as a link in the Atlantic Flyway for numerous species of migratory birds.  See Ridgewood Reservoir: A Brief History, N.Y.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, (last visited July 17, 2014).

Considering the reservoir’s ecological value, as well as concern from members of the community over potential damage resulting from the proposed work, we are requesting assurances from DPR and DEC that the construction will not materially affect the quality or condition of the former reservoir’s wetland environment.

Additionally, we understand that community members have requested that DEC include the reservoir on the New York State freshwater wetland map, but that DEC has not gotten to this request because of staffing shortages and Hurricane Sandy-related work.  While we are sympathetic to the volume of work generated by Sandy, as nearly two years have passed since that event, we encourage the Department to consider this request as soon as possible.  The reservoir merits the Department’s consideration in this respect, as it is larger than 12.4 acres and is of “unique local importance.”  See N.Y. Envtl. Conserv. Law § 24-0301 (McKinney 2014).

We appreciate your consideration of these requests.


James T.B. Tripp     Aaron Stanton
Senior Counsel      Ford Foundation Fellow


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