After outcries from the public, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection 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.”
In October, the DEP sent a letter claiming that the agency’s intention to leaving the north basin of the Jerome Park Reservoir empty didn’t require an environmental impact study.
The spokesman added that if required to facilitate a capital project, the basin might be drained temporarily.
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.
Elected officials and activists are pleased with the latest decision. Though some feel it’s too good to be true.
“We have heard from DEP that they will give priority to keeping the reservoir filled, however we are waiting to see this is writing,” said Debra Travis of Friends of Jerome Park.
“They have not rescinded their negative declaration,” she added.
Co-chair of the Community Board 8 Environment and Sanitation Committee Robert Fanuzzi shares Travis’ sentiments and wants to know if the letter the DEP sent saying the basin didn’t need to be filled will be rescinded.
“I’m reading the report that the DEP is reconsidering its plan for the Jerome Park Reservoir north basin and look forward to hearing more at the next meeting,” he said.
The next environment and sanitation committee meeting is in February.
Councilman Andrew Cohen said he and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz heard the cries from the community and advocated on their behalf. Cohen told the Bronx Times it would have been an eyesore to leave the basin empty.
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 co-ops 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.”