Old Brooklyn Waterworks Bike Tour

November 2, 2013
Ridgewood Reservoir

Michael Miscione, the Manhattan Borough Historian, led a bicycle tour on Nov 3, 2013 of the now defunct water supply that served the once-independent City of Brooklyn. 

View a map of the tour’s routeThe historic Ridgewood Reservoir was at the center of the now defunct water supply system that served the once-independent City of Brooklyn. The system, which was built in stages in the 19th century to support Brooklyn’s growth. Fresh water from Queens and Long Island was brought to the Reservoir which supplied Brooklyn. It was largely, but not completely abandoned after Brooklyn was consolidated into NYC in 1898; the Ridgewood Reservoir was last used as a Reservoir during the 1960s droughts. The system’s components — pipes, reservoirs, pumping stations, and wells were dismantled, built over or re-purposed. Its 3 basins and gatehouse remain; one has fresh water and is a critical site for nearby Jamaica Bay bird migration; the other two basins each tell a different story of ecological succession based on soil, water and other factors.

NYC H2O has brought over 1,00 adults and 2,500 public school students on field trips to the Ridgewood Reservoir to learn about New York’s water ecology. Today, the Reservoir is becoming a unique cultural and ecological asset for New York City’s school children.

Explore our Ridgewood Reservoir Flora Guide.

The Waterwoks Systems of Long Island 1903 USGS A.C. Veatch
Ridgewood Reservoir November 2, 2013 Heidi Stener
Ridgewood Reservoir November 2, 2013 Headi Steiner
“View of Brooklyn City Water works” 1859 Kraetzer
Ridgewood Reservoir 1924 NYC GIS
Michael Miscione narrating the tour at Ridgewood Reservoir Steve Nanz
NY Times 3 January 1897
Brooklyn Daily Eagle January 5, 1900
NY Times December 26, 1897
Brooklyn Daily Eagle January 12, 1900
Puck Magazine November 1893
Brooklyn Daily Eagle January 13, 1900
Well at 145th Street, Queens The ‘Groundwater System’ will be tapped again when the DEP has to drain the Delaware Aqueduct for maintenance.
Ridgewood Reservoir Gatehouse History and Description of the Water Supply of the City of Brooklyn 1896 by I.M. De Varona
Ridgewood Reservoir Pumping Station ~1858 NYPL
Average Daily Water Supply for the City of Brooklyn, “The Brooklyn Water-Works” by Arthur S. Tuttle 1898 (page 76)
Per Capita Daily Water Supply for the City of Brooklyn, “The Brooklyn Water-Works” by Arthur S. Tuttle 1898 (page 120)
Population on the City of Brooklyn 1840 – 1898, “The Brooklyn Water-Works” by Arthur S. Tuttle 1898 (page 120)
Brooklyn Daily Eagle July 12, 1891

Catskill Aqueduct connected into the Ridgewood Reservoir in 1917. Department of Water Sewer Gas & Electric Annual Report 1917

_Brooklyn Daily Eagle November 23, 1891
(The BK Aqueduct broke at Liberty Avenue and Crescent Street)
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Map of Kings and Queens Counties in 1852. The City of Brooklyn merged with the City of Williamsburgh and the Town of Bushwick in 1854 to pool their resources so that they could buy out the private Williamsburgh Waterworks Company and start to build a municipal water system.

1852 M Dripps
Brooklyn in 1873 showing the towns of New Utrecht, Flatbush, New Lots, Gravesend, and Flatlands, NYPL digital collections

The ‘Groundwater System’ of Queens is currently not being tapped. It will be used again when the DEP has to shut sown the Delaware Aqueduct for repairs because it has been leaking 30 millions gallons a day for 20 years. Up until May 2013 the wells were being monitored by the USGS. This contract was terminated in May. DEP provided no update on its plans for future monitoring of the wells.
See  NOTICE May 1, 2013 — Funding dropped for USGS monitoring network in the five boroughs of New York City

1.  George B. Brainard, “The Water Works of Brooklyn 1873  on Google Books
2.  Brooklyn’s Thirst, Long Island’s Water: Consolidation, Local Control, and the AquiferJeffrey A. Kroessler
3.  Brooklyn Daily Eagle Almanac 1895
4.  “The Hempstead Storage Reservoir of Brooklyn,” 1878 Samuel McElroy
5.  The Brooklyn Water Works And Sewers. A Descriptive Memoir  1867 D. Van Nostrand
6. The Civil, Political, Professional and Ecclesiastical, History and Commercial and Industrial Record of the County of Kings and the City of Brooklyn N.Y. from 1683 to 1884   by Henry R Stiles
7.  Report of the Standing Committee on Water: And Communications of W.J. M’Alpine and J.B. Jervis, Esqs. Engineers, on the Subject of Water for the City of Brooklyn8. Mount Prospect Reservoir January 2015 Bowery Boys
9. Save the Ridgewood Reservoir
10. East NY Project 11.  Video from Save the Ridgewood Reservoir12. History and Description of the Water Supply of the City of  Brooklyn 1896 by I.M. De Varona13. The Brooklyn Water-Works  by Arthur S. Tuttle. Tuttle, Arthur S. (Arthur Smith), 1865-1949.14. The Water Carnival in Brooklyn: Five Mile of People in ProcessionThe Family Herald May 4, 185915. The third basin was completed in 1891.  Brooklyn Daily Eagle 18 Feb 189916. Documents and Plans submitted by the Water Committee to the Common Council of the City of Brooklyn for the year 185417. The Civil, Political, Professional, and Ecclesiastical, History … of the City of Brooklyn from 1683 to 1884 by Henry R. Stiles18. A Wilderness, Lost in the City

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