The Ridgewood Reservoir has not served as a drinking water asset for New York City since 1989, and has not been in full service since the Eisenhower administration in 1959.
And the city Parks and Recreation Department, which now controls the three basins and the land surrounding them in Highland Park, has told representatives of Community Board 5 that structural changes are coming that will make it a reservoir in name and memory only.
“Parks will be decommissioning the reservoir,” CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano said at the board’s monthly meting on March 13 at Christ the King Regional High School in Middle Village.
Part of that process, he said, will be to breach portions of the walls separating basins 1 and 2 and basins 2 and 3 with 4-foot-high,14-foot-long gates.
Another gate, this one 11 feet high and 10 feet wide, will be constructed between the third basin and Vermont Place to the west.
CB 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri said there will be some delays before that can happen.
“When they were built 120 or 150 years ago, those walls were considered to be dams,” Arcuri said. “So now the rules say they have to decommission those as dams. One problem is that in this day and age, nobody knows how to do that simply.”
Arcuri also said board members have a problem with the proposed design of the gate on Vermont Place.
“We’re concerned that the homeless and other people might be able to get past that gate and try and stay in the park,” Arcuri said.
Parks and Recreation officials could not be reached for comment on CB 5’s concerns or a timeline for further construction.
Following the update, one board member asked Arcuri and Giordano if the gates would prevent floodwaters from running out of the old basins and onto Vermont Place during or after a significant storm.
Arcuri has been told by parks officials that they would not.
“But they also said that would only be an issue in the event of a flood of Biblical proportions, at which point flooding on Vermont Place wouldn’t be our biggest problem,” Arcuri said.
Parks and Recreation has been refurbishing and repaving the walking path around the reservoir for more than a year. Workers have been adding modern electric lights with period design lampposts, and have been both replacing old stone staircases and augmenting the new ones with handicapped-accessible ramps.
Still undecided is whether or not the city will convert at least some of the reservoir area to ballfields, as favored on the Brooklyn side of the border, or keep it for passive recreation and educational use, which is preferred in Queens.