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Photo Flash: NYC Parks Cuts Ribbon on Highland Park Renovated Paths

NYC Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White today joined Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, Assembly Member Rafael Espinal, and members of community boards in both Queens and Brooklyn, to cut the ribbon on renovated paths through Highland Park and around the park's Ridgewood Reservoir. The $6.92 million construction project was funded by Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC initiative and also includes new fencing, pathways, lighting plantings. Scroll down for photos!

"Highland Park has long been one of the City's best places to catch a glimpse of native and migrating birds or to enjoy the changing foliage," said Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White. "Thanks to nearly $7 million invested by Mayor Bloomberg, it is now a great place to exercise, and even more accessible to all New Yorkers. I encourage everyone to visit and see all that their local parks have to offer."

After active use of the Ridgewood Reservoir stopped in the 1960s, it became home to a unique ecosystem, including more than 100 species of birds. The first phase of improvements, including new lighting, restored pathways, wheelchair-accessible entry points, and new fencing, was completed earlier this summer. Parks is currently working with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation on plans to decommission the reservoir's dam, required as a result of new safety regulations instituted Hurricane Katrina. Conceptual master plans are also being created for further improvements to park infrastructure, including possible locations for pedestrian networks, active and passive recreation, playgrounds, and educational opportunities.

Highland Park and the Ridgewood Reservoir sit on a ridge with dramatic views of the Rockaways, Atlantic Ocean and nearby communities. It was acquired in pieces over time by the City of Brooklyn, Parks, and The Highland Park Society. The first purchase was in 1856 when the City of Brooklyn purchased the Snediker's cornfield to start the construction of the 50-acre Ridgewood Reservoir. This Reservoir was important as the population in Brooklyn was growing and there was a need for more water. The Reservoir was built in 1858 and held 154 million gallons. In 1889, the Reservoir was the last link in the aqueduct system that originated in Nassau County. In 1891, the land surrounding the reservoir, which in now Upper Highland Park, was purchased by the City of Brooklyn. Jurisdiction for this parcel was given to The Highland Park Society. This parcel helped to buffer the Reservoir from the pollutants generated by cemeteries and garbage plants.

In 1894, an iron fence was built around the Reservoir and ornamented with electric lamps.

The Reservoir operated as a water supply for Brooklyn from 1858 to 1959. In 1917, New York City Tunnel #1 was completed and brought water from north of the city, and in 1936, Tunnel #2 was completed. With the development of the Catskill aqueduct for New York City, Basins One and Three were drained. From 1960 to 1989, Basin Two was used as a backup water supply for Brooklyn and Queens. In 1990, the Department of Environmental Protection decommissioned the site. In 2004, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced its transfer to Parks, as well as plans to develop the site into a public park.

Photo Credit: Malcolm Pinckney / NYC Parks

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