2018-02-14 / Front Page

Ridgewood Reservoir Now Listed on the National Register of Historic Places

The National Park Service moved rapidly to add the Ridgewood Reservoir to the National Register of Historic Places on February 2, 2018. The Reservoir was listed on the New York State Historic Register on December 7, 2017 with Federal approval initially anticipated for April, 2018.

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. Since 2014, NYC H2O has brought 3,000 Brooklyn and Queens students on free Water Ecology and Engineering field trips to the Ridgewood Reservoir to experience New York City’s water system up close and learn to appreciate their city’s reliance on natural and engineered systems for clean water.

NYC H2O’s Executive Director Matt Malina testified at the New York State hearing that, “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. In the course of bringing a new generation of New Yorkers to visit and experience the site, we realized that that we had become stakeholders in advocating for its preservation. The support of elected officials, community leaders and organizations has been critical to preventing its demolition and in advocating for its future.”

“For years, our community has been fighting to preserve the Ridgewood Reservoir, and today’s accomplishment is an important milestone,” said Congress Member Nydia M. Velázquez. “The Reservoir is a piece of living history that transcends generations of New Yorkers. What was once a feat of engineering is now home to a diverse array of flourishing wildlife. This history deserves to be cemented on the National Register of Historic Places.”

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., a member of the NYS Senate Committee on Environmental Conservation, agreed. “Having the Ridgewood Reservoir recognized on the New York State Historic Register back in December, and now having it listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is an amazing achievement.” “I am pleased to see that the National Park Service moved so quickly to place the Ridgewood Reservoir on the list, officially preserving its natural beauty, its historic context to Brooklyn and Queens, and its educational importance to students for future generations. Congratulations again to NYC H2O and all the advocates who fought for the preservation of the reservoir. My thanks to all who worked tirelessly on protecting the Ridgewood Reservoir.”

His colleague, NYS Senator Michael Gianaris, added, “The Ridgewood Reservoir is an environmental gem for the residents of both Brooklyn and Queens that will be preserved for future generations to enjoy.”

The historic Ridgewood Reservoir is a 50-acre natural oasis that serves diverse communities on the Brooklyn/Queens border. The Reservoir is located today in Highland Park, which is run by the New York City Parks Department. It was built in 1859 to supply the once independent City of Brooklyn with high quality water. Its increasingly vast scale still did not suffice to quench the needs of the fourth largest city in the country. Water thus helped drive Brooklyn’s 1898 consolidation with New York City. The Reservoir itself only became obsolete with the addition of new reservoirs in the Catskills in the 1950s.

By 1989, it was mostly drained. Since then, nature took its own course and has provided New Yorkers with a perfect case study of ecological succession. A lush and dense forest has grown in the two outside basins—each with a unique variety of flora—while a freshwater pond with waterfowl sits in the middle basin. That pond is on the path of the Atlantic Flyway and is an important source of freshwater to migrating birds from nearby Jamaica Bay.

Today we see a 19th-century feat of engineering whose intact, large basins are surrounded by parkland. The Ridgewood Reservoir provides us with a cautionary and ultimately inspiring tale as to how citizens can work together to protect a site whose adaptive reuse ensues from its being reclaimed by nature.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said, “The Ridgewood Reservoir was an engineering marvel in the 19th century and merits recognition as a landmark in urban history, engineering history and environmental history. The reservoir offers insight into the environmental history of Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau County, and as such is an invaluable opportunity to study nature.”

“As a strong supporter of preserving the Ridgewood Reservoir, my thanks to NYS Parks for adding this wonderful site to both Historic Registry lists” said Assembly Member Catherine Nolan. “Thank you to Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYS Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey, Queens Community Board 5, NYC H2O and all of the residents and organizations that have advocated for the reservoir over the last decade. It is important to preserve the Ridgewood Reservoir for future generations”.

“The recent listing of the Ridgewood Reservoir on the National Register of Historic places is wonderful news and a great victory for the community and area activists along with myself and the other elected officials. We have advocated and supported this mission because the Ridgewood Reservoir is a cultural and ecological treasure. The Reservoir contains over 100 species of birds and wildlife. This special listing for the reservoir will forever protect it from development and preserve it for generations to come,” said NYS Assembly Member Mike Miller.

“I have always believed that it is important to protect our cultural treasures. I’m proud to have supported the listing of this site to the New York State Register of Historic Places, and now the National Register of Historic Places, both of which will preserve this wetland as an excellent environment to study nature and Brooklyn’s history for future generations. We thank NYC H2O for taking the lead in writing the Historic Register proposal,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

Said NYC Council Member Rafael Espinal, “I congratulate NYC H2O and all those who worked hard to make sure this treasure is placed on the National Register of Historic Places so that it may be preserved and maintained. This designation is a true testament to the beauty, history, and value of the Ridgewood Reservoir.”

“While the Reservoir no longer provides necessary water supply to residents, it stands as a testament to the ingenuity of New Yorkers, who, when faced with a problem like a water shortage, undertake stunning engineering and urban planning projects in order to create solutions. I am so grateful for the efforts of local advocates, under the leadership of NYC H2O, in securing protection for this incredible site,” said City Council Member Robert Holden.

“We are thrilled that the Ridgewood Reservoir has been recognized by the National Park Service for its unique historic value, ecological richness, and exceptional character,” said NYC Parks’ Queens Borough Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. “NYC Parks is fully committed to working with the community to further enhance the reservoir and preserve the site as natural open space.”

The NY State and National Historic Register filing is available for download here: http://www.nych2o.org/ridgewood-reservoir-historic-register.html. The National Historic Register approval is listed here: https://www.nps.gov/nr/listings/20180202.htm.

Historic and contemporary photos of the Reservoir can be viewed at www.drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B2tlHSn1_l6FdlhPbHUtbWR4eUk?usp=sharing

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