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Photo by Anthony Giudice/QNS
The Ridgewood Reservoir will receive added environmental protection as a registered historic place.

The Ridgewood Reservoir may soon be receiving more protection thanks to the efforts of a local nonprofit that has been taking Brooklyn and Queens students on field trips to the site.

At a hearing on Dec. 7, the New York State Historic Review Board voted unanimously to add the Ridgewood Reservoir to the New York State Register of Historic Places. As a registered historic place, the reservoir would receive measures of protection from federal or state projects through a notice, review and consultation process.

NYC H2O, a nonprofit that provides education programs on New York City’s water system and ecology, wrote the Historic Register application for the reservoir. They’re also seeking similar designation on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The Ridgewood Reservoir is a majestic place that deserves to be listed on the National Historic Register as a cultural and ecological treasure to be discovered by generations to come,” said Matt Malina, executive director of NYC H2O, at the hearing. Since 2014, NYC H2O has brought 3,000 Brooklyn and Queens students on free water ecology and engineering field trips to the reservoir.

Malina added that advocating for the future of the site would not be possible without support from local elected officials, community leaders and organizations. Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez, who wrote a letter in July to outline her support for the reservoir being designated as a wetland, also testified at the hearing.

“For years, our community has been fighting to preserve the Ridgewood Reservoir, and today’s accomplishment is an important milestone,” Velázquez said. “The reservoir is a piece of living history that transcends generations of New Yorkers.”

Located in Highland Park, the reservoir was first constructed in 1858 and held 154 million gallons of water to provide for the growing population of Brooklyn. It served as a water supply for Brooklyn for 100 years until the borough was linked to the New York City water system. It was then used as a backup water supply until it was decommissioned in 1990.

While it was inactive, the reservoir became naturally reforested, transforming into a wetland with more than 100 species of birds, some of which are listed as threatened or of special concern. In 2004, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg transferred ownership of the land from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection to the Parks Department.

Speculation grew that the Parks Department would redevelop part of the Ridgewood Reservoir for new athletic fields, prompting a movement along local residents to have the site preserved. Plans for developing one of the reservoir’s three basins were ultimately abandoned, and the Parks Department improved pathways and lighting around the site, giving residents more secure access to the reservoir.

The application to list the site on the National Register has been submitted to the National Park Service, and could be approved as soon as April of 2018.

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