The State Historic Review Board voted unanimously earlier this month to add the Ridgewood Reservoir to the New York State Register of Historic Places, setting the stage for the National Park Service to list the site on the National Register early next year.
The Ridgewood Reservoir is a 50-acre natural oasis that straddles diverse communities on the border of Northeastern Brooklyn and Southeastern Queens.
The site, which the city’s Parks Departmnet now oversses,It was built in 1859 to supply the once independent City of Brooklyn with high quality water. The ambitions of Brooklyn’s builders in the face of their city’s growth created an expanding reservoir system that routed water from Queens and Nassau counties.
Its increasingly vast scale still did not suffice to quench the needs of the fourth largest city in the country. Water thus helped drive Brooklyn’s 1898 consolidation with New York City. The Reservoir itself only became obsolete with the addition of new reservoirs in the Catskills in the 1950s.
By 1989, it was mostly drained. Since then, nature took its own course and has provided New Yorkers with a perfect case study of ecological succession. A lush and dense forest has grown in the two outside basins –each with a unique variety of flora– while a freshwater pond with waterfowl sits in the middle basin. That pond is on the path of the Atlantic Flyway and is an important source of freshwater to migrating birds.
The move to put it on the National Register under the auspices of the National Park Service drew wide political support in both Brooklyn and Queens.
“The Reservoir is a piece of living history that transcends generations of New Yorkers. What was once a feat of engineering is now home to a diverse array of flourishing wildlife. This history deserves to be cemented on the New York State Register of Historic Places and with the National Park Service,” said U.S. Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-Queens, Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan).
State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., a member of the New York State Senate Committee on Environmental Conservation, agreed. “The New York State Historic Review Board’s unanimous decision to place the Ridgewood Reservoir on the New York State Register of Historic Places is a major victory for the reservoir, the surrounding community and individuals who come to enjoy what nature has created there. Now, the reservoir will be preserved for generations to come,” he said.
His colleague, State Sen. Michael Gianaris, added, “The Ridgewood Reservoir is a environmental gem for the residents of both Brooklyn and Queens [that] will be preserved for future generations to enjoy.”
“As a strong supporter of preserving the Ridgewood Reservoir, my thanks to NYS Parks for adding this wonderful site to the Historic Registry list” said Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan. “Thank you to Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYS Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey, Queens Community Board 5, NYC H2O and all of the residents and organizations that have advocated for the reservoir over the last decade. Both with the wetland designation and its recent addition to the historic registry list shows that our great state recognizes the importance of preserving the Ridgewood Reservoir in its entirety for future generations”.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz called the Ridgewood Reservoir an engineering marvel in the 19th century and merits recognition as a landmark in urban history, engineering history and environmental history.
The reservoir offers insight into the environmental history of Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau County, and as such is an invaluable opportunity to study nature,” Katz said.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said he have always believed that it is important to protect our cultural treasures.
“The Ridgewood Reservoir is a landmark in engineering history and one of the most important examples of 19th century urban infrastructure in the City of New York. I’m proud to have supported the listing of this site to the NewYork State Register of Historic Places, which will preserve this wetland as an excellent environment to study nature and Brooklyn’s history for future generations,” said Adams.
Assemblyman Mike Miller called the listing a great victory for the community and area activists and elected officials.
“We have advocated and supported this mission because the Ridgewood Reservoir is a cultural and ecological treasure. The Reservoir contains over 100 species of birds and wildlife. This special listing for the reservoir will forever protect it from development and preserve it for generations to come,” said Miller.