Ridgewood Reservoir plans met with mixed reaction

Ridgewood Reservoir Conceptual Master Plans_Page_4
Photos courtesy of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

Residents are riled up at a plan to transform the Ridgewood Reservoir, saying they prefer to preserve the 150-year site in its natural state.

Representatives from the Department of Parks and Recreation presented three concepts of the master plan for the reservoir at a public meeting hosted by the Park Services Committee of Community Board (CB) 5 on June 27 at the St. Pancras School.

Contrary to neighbors’ pleas, the presentation showed dramatic changes to the reservoir to allow more people to enjoy the green space.

“I would like to see the Ridgewood Reservoir kept in as natural a state as possible and become an environmental center,” said CB5 District Manager Gary Giordano. “[For] any recreational activities, we would like to see Highland Park improved.”

The reservoir, situated near the Brooklyn-Queens border in Highland Park, was used to supply water to Brooklyn starting in the 1850s. Three basins make up the more than 50-acre space, which was officially decommissioned in 1990, according to the Parks Department.

In the first concept plan presented, the public will only have access to the third basin, while the other basins will be locked and opened only for maintenance. There will be stone paths weaved through basin three and the gatehouse between basins one and two will be restored and turned into a ranger station. There will also be viewing platforms around basin two, where a large pool of water currently sits.

The second plan includes all modifications from the first, but adds access to the first basin. A rock climbing wall and a meadow area will be placed in basin three, a boardwalk in basin one and a boat dock in the second basin.

The final concept features the most access. This plan will contain all the mark-ups of the first two plans, plus baseball fields, a comfort station and a waterworks-themed adventure playground in the third basin.

The first plan was the most favorable to residents because it allows very limited access to the public.
“Whatever needs to be done, I prefer A,” Middle Village resident Joy Fieldstadt said. “It’s the least invasive and it’s the least development. There are existing ball fields [in Highland Park] and there are existing playgrounds there. If there was money, I would like to see the Parks Department put it into that.”

Residents are concerned because they don’t want the nature in the area disturbed. The reservoir is home to plant life such as Sweet Gum, Black Cherry and Grey Birch trees and wildlife such as Red-Shouldered Hawks and Short-Eared Owls.

The reservoir is currently closed while it undergoes Phase 1, part of Mayor’ Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative. Phase one includes new lighting, pathways, stairs and an access ramp.

Parks Department representatives did not have a price tag for any of the plans, saying they “didn’t want to stifle creativity by putting limitations.”

While the plans have been presented, nothing is set in stone until residents can get public officials to allocate money.