Just after we went to press on our September 2014 issue, word came that the Commissioner of the State Department of Environmental Protection had responded to a joint letter sent to him by several elected officials regarding the preservation of the Ridgewood Reservoir.
In the letter, Commissioner Joseph Martens stated that the NYC Parks Department was in the process of submitting an application to have the reservoir reclassified from a “Class C High Hazard” Dam, to a “Class A Low Hazard” Dam (previously, the low hazard classification was Class D). The reclassification would render unnecessary the flooding mitigation plan to cut culverts in the walls and pave roads through the basins, which means that the habitats within the basins would be spared from destruction. Martens indicated that the DEC planned to approve the application once all paperwork was submitted.
The commissioner also said that the DEC was finally reviewing the request by the community to have the basins mapped as official wetlands on the state inventory, and he expected that all three basins will be covered. This request had been sent to DEC in 2010. Wetlands determination would further protect the basins from future development plans.
The next step is to get the funding that was to be used for the destructive project reallocated for positive changes in the park. Activists have identified a nature center, a park ranger station removal of invasive species and planting of native species as priorities.
Kudos to the Highland Park-Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance, area civic organizations, Community Board 5, local elected officials and all the volunteers that worked on preserving the Ridgewood Reservoir. Their hard work has paid off, and future generations will benefit from their diligence in protecting our natural environment.