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

Monday, December 11, 2017

Keep NYC Waterways Clean

From our friends at NYC H2O.


City Council Hearing on Stormwater Infrastructure
This Wednesday December 13, 2017 10 AM
City Council Chambers, New York City Hall

Dear NYC H2O Enthusiast,

Please attend the City Council hearing on sewage infrastructure this Wednesday and consider giving testimony.

The City and State need to hear how concerned waterway advocates are about the lack of transparency in the approval process and the proposed plans for stormwater infrastructure. When finally implemented in 2030, the current plan will leave 20 billion gallons of raw sewage in our waterways each year.

The NYC DEP and NY State (DEC) did not provide the public with an opportunity to voice our concerns about the City's flawed Combined Sewer Overflow Long Term Control Plans before they approved them in March of this year (see the SWIM Coalitions's fact sheet about this here).

We need to call on the City Council to ensure that NYC gets raw sewage out of our waterways.

Please pass the word about the hearing to everyone you can and let us know you're coming by joining the SWIM Coalition's Facebook Event here!


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Thursday, December 7, 2017

National Registry Update

I just received the following email. A huge thank you to Matt Malina and the folks at NYC H2O. There have been so many folks from concerned residents to various community organizations, local community boards, city / state / federal politicians who worked to save the Ridgewood Reservoir from development, but NYC H2O gave the final, necessary big burst of energy to get it done:


From: Jennifer Betsworth (PARKS)
Date: Dec 7, 2017 2:39 PM
Subject: Ridgewood Reservoir

All –

I’m happy to confirm that the State Review Board voted unanimously to recommend the Ridgewood Reservoir for nomination to the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Congratulations! Early next week, the structure will be formally listed on the State Register and the package will be mailed out to the National Park Service. You should receive a letter notifying you along the way. It typically takes about 2-3 months to hear back from the NPS, and I’ll let you know once I’ve heard any news.

Matt – it was great to finally meet you, and to have you and Steve speak on behalf of the project. The board always enjoys hearing from the people behind the projects, who have worked diligently and passionately to bring them to fruition.

Have a great weekend!

Jennifer Betsworth
Historic Preservation Specialist
NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation

Peebles Island State Park
P.O. Box 189
Waterford, New York 12188


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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wetlands Update

From the QNS website:

Ridgewood Reservoir will soon be added to the state Wetlands Map, preserving the site
By Anthony Giudice
Monday, November 20, 2017 / 3:15 PM

After years of advocacy by local elected officials, residents, and environmental experts, the Ridgewood Reservoir will soon be added to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Wetlands Maps as a designated wetland.

In a letter to Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, a staunch supporter of making the Ridgewood Reservoir a wetland, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos notified Nolan that the wetlands within the reservoir are of “unusual local importance,” making them eligible to be added to DEC’s official wetlands map.

“The Reservoir is truly a unique site which consists of natural and largely undisturbed habitats for many species of animals,” Nolan said in a statement. “I welcome the state’s strong interest in preserving this site in its entirety for future generations. Thank you to Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYS Commissioner Basil Seggos, Queens Community Board 5 and all of the residents and organizations that have advocated for the reservoir over the last decade. I look forward to working with DEC and our community as we work through this formal process.”

The wetlands at the Ridgewood Reservoir can be added to the map through the multi-step process of a map amendment.

The map amendment process involves the following steps:

• Publishing a public notice announcing the intent to make the map amendments;
• The availability of the draft maps and supporting documentation;
• A public comment period; and
• A public meeting.

“Following the public hearing, DEC will consider and respond, as appropriate, to all proposed modifications to the wetland boundaries, make any necessary changes, and then finalize and publish the map amendment,” Seggos wrote in the letter to Nolan. “DEC, in association with the NYC Park Department, has completed the wetland delineation on the site, with the intention of adding them to the official DEC Wetland Maps.”

The three basins within the Ridgewood Reservoir are home to more than 100* species of birds — including at least five that have been listed as Threatened or of Special Concern in New York state — several different species of plant and fauna and a wide variety of tree species.

*As of this writing the list is up to 158 bird species

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Pumphouse Location

After looking over some recently acquired photos and drawing I decided edit together this short video. The pumphouse was demolished in the 1960s.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

State and National Register of Historic Places

The Ridgewood Reservoir has passed another hurdle towards historic recognition. Keeping fingers crossed:

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Friday, November 3, 2017

Meeting Reminder

Please note the location correction. Meeting is taking place at the Redeemer Lutheran School not the church.

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Yet Another Community Input Meeting

In the 10 years since we've begun this process, I'm going to guess that this is at least the 10th community input meeting with the Department of Parks and Recreation. Please share this with all interested parties as we need to make certain that Capital Projects isn't planning any surprises:

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Friday, July 21, 2017

More Wetland Support

Just published in the Queens Courier:

Ridgewood Reservoir gets another supporter in the push for federal wetland designation
Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez wants to see the Ridgewood Reservoir receive Wetland Designation.

By Anthony Giudice / / Thursday, July 20, 2017 / 11:00 AM

The push to grant the Ridgewood Reservoir federal recognition as a wetland under the Freshwater Wetlands Act got another supporter: Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez.

On July 11, the Congresswoman wrote a letter to Eileen Murphy, the director of Congressional and Federal Affairs with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), outlining her support of the reservoir becoming designated as a wetland.

“The Ridgewood Reservoir is a local environmental gem that we should protect for future generations,” Velázquez said in a statement. “Granting the reservoir wetland status would [mean] that legal environmental protections under the Freshwater Wetlands Act would be extended to the reservoir, aiding its preservation.”

In her letter, Velázquez noted the reservoir’s history of serving the Queens and Brooklyn communities as a water supply, as well as an asset to Highland Park by providing flood protection by holding back water and slowing stormwater runoff.

She also pointed out the Ridgewood Reservoir’s importance to the ecological environments created by the reservoir and its three basins, and its use as an educational tool for local schools and residents.

“We strongly believe the Ridgewood Reservoir merits said wetland designation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for its urban, engineering and environmental significance,” Velázquez wrote. “We respectfully urge you to exercise your authority and render this designation.”
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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Village Voice Article

The following piece was just published in the "Village Voice":


Saving Queens’ Secret Wetlands
by Ryan Goldberg
June 27, 2017

Asters grow around the old reservoir. courtesy Matt Malina / NYCH20

One early-March afternoon in 2007, Rob Jett climbed through a hole in a chain-link fence and thought he had entered a lost world.

He and two fellow bird-watchers rappelled into a dense swamp forest of birch and sweetgum, mosses and lichens. They were standing in ankle-deep water in the west basin of the 160-year-old Ridgewood Reservoir, the last vestige of Brooklyn’s old waterworks, smack on the border of Brooklyn and Queens. Inside this wilderness, the sounds of the city faded away above the reservoir’s stone levees.

“We were like, ‘Holy shit,’ ” Jett told the Voice.

Jett, 61, had never seen a place like it, even though he had grown up only two miles away and for years had been writing about bird-watching throughout the city.

The reservoir was once important to the growth of Brooklyn as it became one of the largest cities in the country. Steam engines pumped the water into the three reservoir basins and then gravity carried it downhill as it traveled under city streets, into people’s homes.

But the reservoir was drained and abandoned in 1989, and within a single generation nature had reclaimed the basins and transformed them into a swamp-forest mix unlike any in the city.

Jett and his companions — married couple Steve Nanz and Heidi Steiner — crawled underneath vines straddling the path between the west and central basins.

They saw signs of paintball matches and tire tracks from dirt bikes and ATVs. All the lampposts were smashed. They daydreamed about the possibilities for the fifty-acre site: boardwalks through two of the basins and a nature center inside one of the two derelict redbrick gatehouses.

Their ideas conjured something similar to the High Line project, which was then being designed: a piece of obsolete urban infrastructure integrated with nature.

Until Wednesday, June 21, the city had never held the same view as the bird-watchers. Originally, the parks department, which acquired the reservoir from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection in 2004, presented $50 million plans that would have bulldozed it for athletic fields. The reservoir remains standing because of a small group of naturalists, preservationists, and community activists who rallied to defend it as a nature preserve and historic jewel.

Ridgewood Reservoir circa 1887. George Brainerd

At the community meeting in Glendale last Wednesday, Queens parks commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski confirmed that Parks would no longer push for active recreation at the reservoir. The roughly sixty attendees offered proposals for the site that were similar to those first imaginings — limited trails inside the outer basins, a nature center, scenic overlooks, removal of invasive flora. Parks’ budget is $9 million.

To the reservoir’s supporters, the timing was still worrisome: the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) still hasn’t labeled the reservoir a wetlands. By law, such a designation would forever protect it from development. So, too, would landmark status. In March, the nonprofit NYC H2O, applied for its inclusion on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

At the meeting, Owen Wells, Parks’ director of environmental review, presented a plan for labeling the site a Critical Environmental Area — a nonregulatory policy statement without the muscle of the state wetlands label.

Nanz pointed out that a map of the reservoir did not include the L-shaped west basin, which is as large as the other two together and has long been a focus of their efforts, as part of the wetlands. Parks once wanted to build sports fields over it, and an NYSDEC regional director previously told Nanz that it would never be protected as a wetlands.

At least five reports going back to 2005, including one from Parks’ own Natural Resources Group and another from its ecological consultants, have provided evidence of wetlands in all three basins. Nanz worried that the Critical Environmental Area tag could be used as cover for development of the west basin if it was not included.

In one impassioned exchange with Wells, Ridgewood resident Tom Dowd, 74, shouted, “Will you put it on the map?” regarding the possible wetlands in the west basin.

“We will update the map to resolve this concern,” Wells answered.

In 2010, Nanz and others filed an application for wetlands designation with NYSDEC. Two weeks ago, its regional supervisor finally conducted a field survey at the reservoir, and will visit again in July before releasing findings in the fall.

“Seven years is a long time to act on a permit application,” said New York environmental lawyer Edan Rotenberg. “Seven years is effectively ignoring it.”

This saga with the parks department began with an experimental dance project. In 2007, choreographer and performer Jennifer Monson, who had been studying wildlife migration for years, organized a yearlong residency at what she called “a beautiful fairytale forest in the middle of the city.”

As part of her research, Monson asked the Brooklyn Bird Club to lead a bird survey. Jett, Nanz, and Steiner volunteered first. During periodic visits, they found almost forty different species using it as a breeding ground, and more than twice that many stopping there on their migration along the Atlantic Flyway.

As new visitors came to the reservoir for Monson’s performances, the Bloomberg administration, seemingly intent on leveling the forests there for sports fields even as it pledged to plant one million trees in the city, named it one of eight “destination parks.”

Recognizing the reservoir’s endangered state, those who wanted to see it remain a wildlife refuge created the Highland Park/Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance.

Because of the reservoir’s inaccessibility — the Jackie Robinson Parkway and several cemeteries cut it off from nearby Bushwick and Ridgewood — “the parks department anticipated going in there and getting shovels in the ground quickly,” Steiner said. “We did everything we could to stop them.”

They led field trips and bird walks for residents and politicians. In late June of 2008, then-comptroller William C. Thompson halted the plan because of financial and environmental concerns. Months later, the economic crash quartered the project’s budget, leaving only enough for renovations to the walkways and lighting.

The community groups declared victory. Then one evening in the fall of 2013, Glendale resident Gary Comorau, president of the alliance, attended a local community board meeting. The parks department was giving a presentation about remediating flooding at the reservoir. The city was going to breach the levees in three places, cut down nearly 500 trees, and build roads through the west basin. In short, destroy it — at a cost of at least $6 million.

“My mouth dropped open,” Comorau said.

State dam-safety regulations still classified it as a high-hazard dam, even though it never held water. Comorau learned that the annual rainfall in Ridgewood is less than forty inches. But even 10 feet of rain wouldn’t fill the reservoir.

Comorau mobilized his group. After months without answers, he hired Rotenberg, the environmental lawyer. As Rotenberg called local and state officials, making the point that there was no flood risk, Comorau and his associates convinced every elected official in the district, from the City Council to Congress, to write Governor Andrew Cuomo about their concerns.

In September 2014, NYSDEC Commissioner Joseph Martens said Parks had requested a reclassification of the reservoir as a low-hazard dam. (It was only formalized two months ago.) In a letter to politicians, Martens added that his staff would begin wetlands delineation of the reservoir “as early as this fall.”

Three years later, its protectors are still waiting.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Jett said after the meeting on the 21st. “For ten years we’ve been saying: landmark and wetlands. Then they won’t ever be able to destroy it.”


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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Critical Environmental Area Designation Concerns

Dear Concerned Friends of Ridgewood Reservoir,

As many of you may know, the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation (DoPR) is hosting two back-to-back meetings on June 21 at 6pm and 7pm at St. Pancras School on 68-20 Myrtle Ave:

• 6pm - Public Hearing by DoPR to accept comments on the proposed designation of the Ridgewood Reservoir as a Critical Environmental Area (CEA).
• 7pm - Unveiling of the new DoPR development plan for Ridgewood Reservoir.

It is my understanding that the CEA, while offering no direct benefits or protections, would establish policy which would affect future decisions and additionally this designation might also be an aid to gaining future funding. However, I'm not sure it should be supported in its current form. The maps provided in the application must be amended to show the wetland in Basin 3, west basin. Also, the special importance of that wetland must be clearly articulated. Without these edits, I can imagine the CEA actually serving as evidence supporting the notion that development of Basin 3 would cause no significant environmental damage.

I would remind one and all that DoPR has never planned to negatively impact the natural habitats of Basins 1 or 2, that this fight has always been about their intentions for the approximate 26 acres which is Basin 3, an area nearly equal in size to Basins 1 and 2 combined. Although the CEA application mentions findings in Basin 3 by the Round Mountain Ecological survey and two DoPR Natural Resources Group studies indicating the existence of wetland, those findings are directly contradicted by the map included in the CEA which shows no wetland in Basin 3 while wetland habitat is clearly marked in Basins 1 and 2. DoPR mentions that three plant species, listed as Threatened or Endangered in New York State, have been observed in Ridgewood Reservoir. Omitted is the fact that those three species were found in Basin 3. One of those species was found only in Basin 3. Two of the species are wetland species one of which being an obligate wetland species. Clearly, Basin 3 contains a highly treasured freshwater wetland which DoPR's planNYC and NYSDEC ECL Article 24 were created to protect.

If this application is to be submitted prior to long awaited wetland mapping from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), DoPR could use the map produced by certified wetland delineator, Mickey Cohen, in his 2009 wetland delineation of Ridgewood Reservoir. That map, which is simply a mark up of DoPR's own geodetic survey map, would be far more accurate. But DoPR should be urged to push NYSDEC for wetland mapping. For years we have made several request including a 2013 formal request and in a 2014 response to Congresswoman Velazquez et al., NYSDEC Commissioner Martens promised field work would start in the fall of that same year. Unless something has happened in the last two weeks, no one from NYSDEC has done soil samples, a requirement for wetland mapping. I should note that Kenneth Scarlatelli, the current NYSDEC Regional Natural Resources Supervisor, has indicated NYSDEC would be holding a hearing in July in which it’s finding would be made public and that the required soil samples would be done by then. I find Mr. Scarlatelli refreshingly forthright and have no reason to doubt him, despite NYSDEC’s past history of delays.

In the community listening session hosted by NYCH2O, Queens Borough Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, announced the welcome news that DoPR has officially taken the plan for building active sports facilities off the table. However, when pressed for details or even a general understanding of what the new plan would be, we were told that we would have to wait until the June 21 meeting.

I urge everyone who can make it, to attend these extremely important meetings. We must push DoPR to correct the contradictions and omissions in the CEA application. We must push NYSDEC to conduct the science required by its own rules. In the last year there have been numerous community meetings hosted by NYCH2O in which the public has been united in seeing Ridgewood Reservoir developed as an historic site and wildlife refuge. Please join us in getting the job done.

Stephen R. Nanz

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Former Mayor Bloomberg's Wetlands Initiative

Wetlands mapping of the Ridgewood Reservoir by the NYS Department of Environment Conservation has been one of the community's major objectives for 10 years. The NYSDEC, for unknown reasons, has been dragging their feet on this. Below is a document from 2009 by then Mayor Bloomberg. It covers some very important issues, many of the same arguments we've been using for years. From the summary page:

Wetlands are an important component of the City’s vision for a greener, greater future set out in PlaNYC. Wetlands help improve water quality and control floods by trapping pollutants, capturing stormwater runoff, sequestering carbon dioxide, moderating storm surges, providing habitat for local and migratory birds, fish and other wildlife, and creating a unique opportunity for New Yorkers to observe wildlife and to undertake other quiet, contemplative recreation. For those reasons, the City owns and manages thousands of acres of wetlands as open space, and the National Park Service controls extensive tracts of wetlands in and around Jamaica Bay and Staten Island. Other wetlands within the city are protected by Federal and New York State regulations, but the scope and vigor of those protections is uncertain.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

A Vision for the Reservoir

NYC H2O, working with Raft Landscape, has developed an interesting vision for the future of the reservoir. Check it out at this link. I recommended browsing some of their other projects on the linked website.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Public Notice for CEA Designation

PUBLIC HEARING – Notice is hereby given that a Public Hearing will be held by the City of New York Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) to accept comments on the proposed designation of the Ridgewood Reservoir, located in Highland Park, Queens, as a Critical Environmental Area. The Public Hearing will be held on Wednesday, June 21, 2017 at 6:00 p.m. at St. Pancras School, 68-20 Myrtle Avenue, Glendale, NY 11385. The Ridgewood Reservoir is a former water supply reservoir located within Highland Park, straddling the Brooklyn-Queens border. The reservoir has been substantially drained for many years and consists of three basins separated by embankments and surrounded by a perimeter pathway. 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 New York City and serves as an important ecological, historic, and public recreation resource. In recognition of its exceptional character, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation proposes to designate the reservoir as a Critical Environmental Area (CEA). Once an area has been designated as a CEA, the potential impacts on the characteristics of the CEA become relevant areas of concern for specific consideration during State Environmental Quality Review Act review of future projects in or substantially contiguous to the area. Copies of the CEA Justification Report and Environmental Assessment Statement can be obtained by contacting the lead agency at the following address: Owen Wells, Director of Environmental Review New York City Department of Parks and Recreation The Arsenal, Central Park 830 Fifth Avenue, Room 401 New York, New York 10065 Telephone: 212-360-3492 Fax: 212-360-3453 Email: Oral and written comments on the proposed CEA designation can be submitted at the Public Hearing. Written comments will also be accepted by NYC Parks at the above address, fax number, or email address until 5:00 PM on Wednesday, July 5, 2017. This Notice of Public Hearing has been prepared pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act, Article 8 of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law and its implementing regulations found in Part 617 of 6 NYCRR (SEQRA).

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Community Listening Sessions

From NYC H2O:

Ridgewood Reservoir
Community Meetings
Tuesday May 23 @ 7pm: PS 68, 5909 St Felix Ave, Glendale
Thursday June 1 @ 7pm: North Brooklyn YMCA, 570 Jamaica Ave, Brooklyn

Join us for a community listening session to envision an exciting new future for Highland Park's historic Ridgewood Reservoir. NYC H2O and its collaborating organizations are actively seeking input from community members to discuss future possibilities as well as address present challenges around the Reservoir. NYC Parks has worked with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to reclassify the Ridgewood Reservoir to Class A "Low Hazard," a new designation that allows it to be preserved as a natural and cultural treasure for the community.

These meetings are being organized by NYC H2O with the following community organizations: Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation; East New York Farms; North Brooklyn YMCA; Highland Park Ridgewood Reservoir Association; Community Board 5 Queens and Community Board 5 Brooklyn; 75th and 104th Precincts; Queens Borough President’s Office; Brooklyn Borough President's Office; Brooklyn Bird Club; Queens County Bird Club; NYC Audubon, along with New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

RSVP for 5/23 at 7pm at PS 68

RSVP for 6/1 at 7pm at N Brooklyn YMCA

(646) 926-0368

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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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