The Ridgewood Reservoir is a 50 acre cultural and ecological treasure located in NYC Park’s Highland Park on the border of Brooklyn and Queens. NYC H2O, a not-for-profit organization focused on water infrastructure and education, has promoted protecting the historic site while increasing community access and stewardship of the Reservoir through tending pollinator gardens, offering community and birdwatching tours, and cleanups.
NYC H2O’s commitment to the site has expanded access to community members, even as it has identified and called attention to forgotten resources within the Reservoir, nurtured biodiversity, and educated a broad and inclusive public on the wonder of an underappreciated civic resource. Much of this has taken place recently by providing socially distanced activities at the Reservoir to keep necessary work under way to improve safe access. Community use of the Park tripled in the last 12 months since it is one of the few large greenspaces available to residents of Cypress Hills, East New York, Brownsville, and other surrounding neighborhoods.
NYC H2O’s sustained rehabilitation of the East Causeway between the eastern basins of the Ridgewood Reservoir now offers stellar views of an impressive natural ecosystem and treasured public resource. It will be open to the general public on the weekends starting on June 12 from 9am – 7pm.
History: The Reservoir was built in 1859 with two basins to serve the rapidly growing borough of Brooklyn; a third basin was added later to support further growth. A causeway between these basins is still lined by a largely intact original decorative fence, identical to the fence encircling the Central Park Reservoir. This East path is the forgotten sibling of the previously restored West Causeway, located between the two western basins.
Community Stewardship & Civic Engagement: The stewardship of community members and initiative of NYC H2O, has led to the removal of debris, the maintenance of pollinator gardens, and the safeguarding of a rediscovered unique route through Highland Park. NYC H2O worked closely with NYC Parks on this project and appreciates all their efforts, especially from Gardener Mike Feder, Deputy Administrator Joe Block and Administrator Portia Dyrenforth (and acting director for the Forest Park Trust), who were integral to making this possible.
Facilitating Access: In collaboration with the NYC Parks Department, NYC H2O is opening the gates to the East Causeway on a trial basis in June of 2021. NYC H2O hopes to capture the public imagination about the potential of the East Causeway.
Further Work On Site: Additional work is needed to fully rehabilitate this civic resource including restoring missing sections of the fence, installing public seating for viewing a stunning vista complete with migrating birds and rare flora, augmenting the safety of the route, and lastly, further leveling of its walkway surface. Protecting the freshwater pond in the middle basin is a priority since it is a stopping place for migratory birds on the Atlantic Flyway.
Call to Action: If you are moved by the beauty of this site and support equity in offering all New York residents access to high quality greenspaces, support NYC H2O in establishing the East Causeway of the Ridgewood Reservoir as an inviting and fascinating nature walk. We need to raise the funding to finish realizing the full potential of this civic treasure. NYC H2O has brought over 5,000 students to the Reservoir to learn about science and water ecology outdoors. To partner with NYC H2O or to donate to this initiative, please contact: [email protected].