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Revamped City Plan Would Preserve Ridgewood Reservoir

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | September 8, 2014 1:14pm
 The Ridgewood Reservoir is located on the Brooklyn–Queens border and is part of Highland Park.
The Ridgewood Reservoir is located on the Brooklyn–Queens border and is part of Highland Park.
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

QUEENS — The state and the city are considering a plan that would allow Ridgewood Reservoir to remain untouched and preserve its ecosystem.

The man-made structure, a historic source of water supply, surrounded by lush greenery, and located in Highland Park, has become a battleground in recent months.

Local park lovers and several elected officials disagreed with a Parks Department plan to build breaches, which would allow flood waters to drain, and roads at the site of the reservoir, while also cutting down nearly 500 trees.

The $6 million plan, the Parks Department said, was meant to comply with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation regulations, put in place after Hurricane Katrina.

The goal was to address the potential for flooding in the area of the reservoir, which the state DEC classified as a “high hazard” dam.

Under that classification, a failure of the reservoir could result in "widespread or serious damage...such that the loss of human life or widespread substantial economic loss is likely."

It was not clear when or why the Ridgewood Reservoir was given that classification.

Earlier this year, local activists started a petition protesting the plan and have garnered nearly 1,000 supporters as of Sept. 8.

In July, several elected officials, including Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, Rep. Grace Meng and state Assemblyman Mike Miller sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressing their concern that the proposed work would affect the park’s ecosystem.

“We are deeply concerned these changes will significantly harm the natural and largely undisturbed habitats of the animals that currently live there," the letter reads.

But last Wednesday, the Parks Department said that it has decided not to pursue the plan and is working to get the site reclassified as a “low hazard” dam.

The Parks Department said the new plan would eliminate the need to build culverts and roads in the park.

Lori Severino, a spokeswoman for the DEC, said the agency "will carefully consider the anticipated reclassification request.”

Local activists said they welcome the new plan.

“It makes sense and it should have happened originally,” said Gary Comorau, president of the Highland Park/Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance, a local advocacy group that promotes the site.

“It’s so spectacular,” he said about the park. “You don't feel like you're in New York City and we want to keep it this way.”

Several years ago, the park also underwent renovations which included repaving of pathways. A new handicap-accessible ramp was also added.

"After having recently invested millions to revitalize the Reservoir, it would be a crime [to] destroy and disturb the thriving natural wildlife," said Crowley, who called the site an "ecological gem."