Members of the Community Board 8 Environment & Sanitation Committee are are concerned that an NYC Department of Environmental Protection decision will impact the ambience of the borough’s landmarked reservoir.
In October, the DEP sent a letter claiming that leaving the north basin of the Jerome Park Reservoir empty didn’t require an environmental impact study.
On Wednesday, November 20, the committee rejected the DEP’s modified negative letter of declaration regarding the reservoir.
DEP announced the start of a $15 million project to rehabilitate gatehouses, install new, lower fencing and upgrade security infrastructure at the reservoir in January 2018.
Work on the project began late in 2018, will continue through 2021 and will help to ensure the long-term reliability of the city’s Croton water supply system.
However, in June, DEP representatives told the committee that the project would require the northern basin to remain permanently empty, so that it can be used as an emergency storage basin for treated water discharge from the Croton Water Treatment Plant.
The board didn’t agree with this assertion and passed a resolution stating the absence of water threatens the historic, scenic, and aesthetic value of the Jerome Park Reservoir and constitutes a potential environmental study.
According to Anne Marie Garti, a co–founder of the Jerome Park Conservancy, the relationship between the DEP and the community has been strenuous. The reservoir was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
She pointed out that the DEP is mandated by law to conduct an environmental study and its proposed changes to more than 30 acres of open space is contrary to the Croton Water Treatment Plant and Final Environmental Impact Statement and all documentation received by CB8 and the State Historic Preservation Office prior to 2019.
Also, before gaining approval from the SPHO and CB8, DEP failed to inform them that it intended to keep the north basin empty.
“There are laws that agencies have to comply with,” she said to the Bronx Times. “The DEP is not doing from our perspective what it is legally obligated to do.”
Garti, who is a lawyer, said she is ready for a fight in court if needed. She said there is no issue with them trying to fix the eastern wall, but reiterated, that it is necessary to do an environmental study.
“They’re attempting to circumvent by saying that there wouldn’t be significant impact,” Garti explained. “They opened themselves up to a legal challenge.”
Committee chair Robert Fanuzzi shares her concerns.
“The community board doesn’t understand why there have been so many difficulties with the eastern wall and keeping the basin empty,” Fanuzzi said. “We don’t see the connection and the city agencies are being mislead. We believe there is an impact by keeping it dry. We don’t agree with the negative declaration.”
He said the hope is the members of the DEP will attend the next meeting.