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Two murals highlighting nature unveiled at Highland Park’s Ridgewood Reservoir

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Jasmine Huang, a rising 9th grader from Fresh Meadows and Brooklyn-based artist Kate Nielson painted their public artworks on NYC H2O’s onsite storage container at the entrance to the Ridgewood Reservoir’s footpath in early July. (Photo courtesy of NYC H2O)

Two new murals highlighting nature have gone up at the entrance to the Ridgewood Reservoir footpath off of the Jackie Robinson Parkway greeting Highland Park visitors. 

The two winning artists of a competition — Jasmine Huang, a rising ninth-grader from Fresh Meadows and Brooklyn-based artist Kate Nielsen — painted their public artworks on NYC H2O’s onsite storage container in early July. 

The artworks highlight the unique natural environment and infrastructure of Highland Park which straddles the Brooklyn/Queens border. These colorful new public artworks provide a bright reminder of what makes the green space so important for Brooklyn and Queens residents. 

(Photo courtesy of NYC H2O)

Highlighting the unique natural environment and infrastructure of Highland Park which straddles the Brooklyn/Queens border, these colorful new public artworks provide bright reminders of what makes this green space so important for Brooklyn and Queens residents.

“The new murals on NYC H20’s volunteer trailer are a vibrant and welcome addition to the park, reflecting its natural beauty with the colorful birds and history of Highland Park’s Ridgewood Reservoir,” said Portia Dyrenforth, NYC Parks Forest & Highland Park administrator. “We hope these murals will inspire all who see it to volunteer and care for this incredible resource.” 

After the Parks Department agreed to allow the shipping container, NYC H2O launched the mural contest in April to bring attention to the Ridgewood Reservoir, a historic landmark that is now surrounded by restored walkways, spaces landscaped with natural plant species, and pollinator gardens. 

NYC H2O uses the shipping container to store the tools used by its work crew and community volunteers to protect and improve the Park, which offers critical green space and ecosystem services to surrounding communities. 

The smaller mural covering the shipping container’s doors, painted by Huang, evokes the human connection forged by our interdependence on clean water in an urban setting. 

“The Ridgewood Reservoir is so peaceful and calming,” Huang said. “I hope that whoever sees the mural feels touched and overwhelmed by the world that surrounds them. Flowers, leaves, and a starry night sky, representing peace and rebirth, surround a city skyline and illustrate the enduring natural features that persist even in densely populated cities like NYC.” 

Artist Jasmine Huang’s painting represents peace and rebirth. (Photo courtesy of H2O)

The larger mural, painted by Nielsen, depicts some of the 175 bird species, including cardinals and red-wing blackbirds, that pass through on migratory routes or call the Reservoir their home year-round. 

Titled “To the Birds,” the brightly-colored artwork shows the birds interacting with vines, trees, and historic reservoir infrastructure, invoking a sense of rewilding, a theme Nielsen enjoys exploring in her art practice. 

Artist Kate Nielson’s painting illustrates birds’ interaction with vines and trees. (Photo courtesy of NYC H2O)

“When I think about water and New York, I think of it as a precious and fragile resource. We are lucky to have enough of it, but we have to figure out how to keep it clean enough to be a sustainable and renewable resource for generations to come,” Nielson said.

The piece celebrates the journey of NYC’s water supply as well as the journey the many bird species take within and while passing through NYC. 

With the start of the pandemic, the Park’s use tripled, and City Council Members Sandy Nurse, Jennifer Guitérrez and Bob Holden supported NYC H2O’s work with neighborhood youth and communities. 

“Highland Park and the Ridgewood Reservoir are gems and these murals make them even more enjoyable. Congratulations to the contest winners. It’s a great idea to encourage NYC artists of any age. NYC H20 does important work,” Holden said.  

According to Guitérrez, the Ridgewood Reservoir is a hidden gem for the residents of District 34 and New York City. 

“NYC H2O’s stewardship is unique in its constant dedication to community engagement at every turn,” Guitérrez said. “These beautiful new murals are just another example of how they enrich not just the space itself, but the surrounding community. I’m proud to help fund and support their efforts.” 

Nurse added that Highland Park and the Ridgewood Reservoir provide New Yorkers with a unique open green space with opportunities for recreation, as well as vital natural spaces that support urban ecosystems. 

“We are excited to see this beautiful mural on the new shipping container that highlights the various bird species that visit our park,” Nurse said.  

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