DEP reverses position on Jerome Park Reservoir

DEP reverses position on Jerome Park Reservoir
Residents have filed a petition with the DEP to not keep the basin of Jerome Park Reservoir empty.
Schneps Media Jason Cohen

After outcries from the public, the DEP has now changed their tune on keeping the Jerome Park Reservoir basin empty.

According to a DEP spokesperson, “the DEP has heard the concerns of the community and their elected officials and we are happy to report that we will make it a priority to keep water in Jerome Park Reservoir’s North Basin.”

Prior to this decision, residents and activists started a petition last week demanding a full basin.

Some of the groups that started the petition include Jerome Park Friends and Neighbors, Fort Independence Park Neighborhood Association and Bronx Council for Environmental Quality.

“Why are we against emptying the North Basin of the Reservoir?” the petition reads as the community groups outline their reasons:

• The beauty of the Jerome Park Reservoir is a central feature of our neighborhood.

• Its beauty increases the property values of homes and coops in our community.

• A full reservoir supports our health by cooling our air; an almost-empty basin breeds mosquitoes and other insects.

• The plan to cover the historic wall of the reservoir with concrete will ruin its historic character.

“We ask . . . that the Department of Environmental Protection rescind their Modified Negative Declaration on CEQR 17DEP022X. We ask that the agency consider alternatives to draining the North Basin, and continue to keep the Jerome Park Reservoir’s North and South Basins full of water.

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 Community Board 8 Environment and Sanitation Committee rejected the DEP’s modified negative letter of declaration regarding the reservoir.

In January 2018, DEP announced the start of a $15 million project to rehabilitate gatehouses, install new, lower fencing and upgrade security infrastructure at the reservoir.

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.

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.

Co-chair of the committee Robert Fanuzzi said the committee passed a resolution on Tuesday, January 14 against the negative declaration and calls for the DEP to explain why the basin needs to be empty.

“We’re appalled that the state historic preservation office would sign off on a change that would alter this historic resource,” Fanuzzi said.

The online version of this story was updated on Friday, January 24.

More from Around NYC