A second public access event for the Jerome Park Reservoir in two years has access advocates looking to the future.
The NYC Department of Environmental Protection is continuing a pilot program that will see the public gain access to the scenic water body, albeit under tight security, on Saturday, November 19 and Sunday, November 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Visitors will be subject to a security check; no bags, cameras or cell phones will be allowed inside, according to DEP.
Walking or jogging on the road around the perimeter of the approximately 93-acre reservoir, which is otherwise off limits to the public, will be permitted.
Meanwhile, access activists and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz continue discussing possible future uses for parts of the reservoir, including parkland at its perimeter sometime in the future.
Dinowitz said that currently the DEP has not budged in terms of a regular usage.
“We want access to the reservoir; we don’t want to swim or boat there, but we would like people to be able to get closer to the water,” said Dinowitz, adding he understands a reservoir’s water supply has security needs.
Around the reservoir are two fences, and in between there’s room for a public path, said the assemblyman.
In addition, there is a pathway on top of a retaining wall that separates the reservoir into two separate basins that he believes could be eventually used by the public.
“This is our goal, and it is a long-term goal,” in terms of granting this type of access, said Dinowitz, adding “We have a tremendous resource in the Bronx, and we want the community to be able to enjoy it.”
Gary Axelbank, who’s a member, along with assemblyman, of the Access to the Jerome Park Reservoir subcommittee of the Croton Filtration Monitoring Committee, expressed reservations about the weekend event.
He said that during an earlier pilot event in November 2015, some of the visitors were intimated when they saw DEP Police with automatic rifles at the check in.
“You were standing there staring at people watching you in combat gear and automatic weapons; I thought it was a little over the top,” said Axelbank, adding that he understands the need for security and would never want anything to happen to our water supply.
Axelbank said that for this year’s event, members of the committee asked DEP if they could put the rifles in a guardhouse or out of sight so they were less visible, but the request was denied.
Community activist Karen Argenti, of the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, also said that she personally felt that the rifles at last year’s event were “overkill.”
A DEP spokesman stated in an email that the agency is happy to partner with the elected officials and the community for the event. He stressed the importance of security.
“Jerome Park Reservoir is an active part of the city’s critical water supply infrastructure, in close proximity to distribution, and therefore DEP is taking the necessary and appropriate security measures this weekend, as required by DEP Police,” he stated.