Years ago, the New York State Lottery enticed gamblers to play its games with the slogan, “All you need is a dollar and a dream.”
The Parks Department has a dream (in fact, three dreams) for transforming the long-abandoned and naturally-reforested Ridgewood Reservoir into a natural preserve and public park— but not a dollar by which to make any of those dreams a reality.
Decades have passed since the Ridgewood Reservoir was last used as a source of drinking water for the people of Brooklyn. Constructed in 1858, it was relegated to a backup supply about a century later, then drained and taken out of the city water system entirely in 1989.
Over the last 24 years, the reservoir has been left abandoned, and nature took its course and reforested the site into something of an ecological wonder. Since 2004, when the Parks Department took control of the site from the Department of Environmental Protection, a debate has ensued as to what to do with this 55 acres of greenspace adjacent to Highland Park.
The Parks Department, through a consulting firm, has concocted three wishes for the Ridgewood Reservoir which will be presented publicly by Community Board 5’s Parks Committee next Thursday night, June 27, in Glendale.
Wish One is to let the area “go natural” and limit public access so as not to disturb the flora and fauna. One of the few concessions would be providing some access to the largest of the reservoir’s three basins so visitors can view the ecology of the area .
Wish Two would be for the public to get a little closer to the three basins which used to be vessels that stored 154 milliion gallons of water. This includes guided tours into the easternmost basin (considered to be the most ecologically sensitive area of the site) and floating docks in the center basin—which still holds water—to allow the public to navigate the lake with canoes and kayaks.
Wish Three calls for an eight-acre lawn created on the reservoir’s largest basin, fitted with three regulation baseball diamonds and one regulation soccer field, similar to that found near the Sheep Meadow in Central Park. It would also include a rock climbing wall and an aquatic-themed playground for children.
But as Parks Department representatives told Board 5’s Parks Committee on Monday, June 17, there’s presently no cash available for any of these wishes—or a combination of these wishes—to come true. This makes us wonder, then, what the point of this exercise really is.
These concepts sound wonderful, but if there’s no cash in the city’s coffers to make anything happen, then perhaps its time to give the private sector a chance. Maybe some developer could construct there a giant ferris wheel similar to the one proposed for Staten Island.
It would undoubtedly destroy the ecology of the reservoir, but developers have the money for making their dreams come true. Too often, the city seems to offer concepts, master plans and visions which sound great, but never seem to become a reality .
Let’s not spoil the Ridgewood Reservoir or offer false hope to the people in the community that want to see something marvelous there. A plan without action—or money—is useless.