Jerome Park Reservoir Still Off Limits

Bronxites who want access to the area around the Jerome Park Reservoir won’t be getting it in the near future, and they’re not happy about it.

The Department of Environmental Protection issued its latest report on the state of the reservoir in late March. Despite overwhelming public demand for access to its waterfront, the DEP said that will not be possible until 2013, at the earliest, when the nearby Croton Filtration Plant project is complete.

Community groups, however, say they had been promised recreational access to the area around the reservoir in 2004, and have grown tired of waiting.

Access proponents envision a public track along the perimeter of the reservoir that can be used for jogging, or simply leisurely strolls similar to what currently exists in Central Park.

The main difference between the Jerome Park Reservoir and Central Park, according to the DEP’s report, is that Jerome Park is still functioning, and is expected to be after the completion of the Croton facility.

“The JPR is and will continue to be an important and active part of New York City’s water supply system,” the DEP’s report said. “The risks to the security of the water supply system and to the challenges of operating the JPR would be increased to some extent by public access.”

Once the Croton Filtration Plant is completed, about 30 percent of the city’s water supply will go through the Jerome Park Reservoir.

In 2004, former DEP commissioner Christopher Ward said that the agency planned to open Jerome Park Reservoir to the public. Two commissioners later, that no longer seems to be an immediate priority.

“Opening the reservoir and the building of the Croton Plant were supposed to happen together,” said Anne Marie Garti, President of the Jerome Park Conservancy. “They’re not opposed to each other. That was the plan.”

The most recent DEP plan calls for a three day “Jerome Park Reservoir Access Pilot” program. The program would allow the reservoir-side area to be open for an undetermined amount of time over the course of three days.

The dates of the program have not been determined either, only that they will come after the completion of the Croton Plant.

The Jerome Park Reservoir was built in 1906. It was originally open to the public, but was closed for security purposes during World War II and hasn’t been open since. After the DEP’s most recent plan, Garti doesn’t see much changing.

“There’s no difference,” Garti said. “The reservoir’s not going to be any different. They’re not going to build anything at the reservoir.”

Fernando Tirado, district manager for Community Board 7, which borders the reservoir, said water access has been a long-standing issue for his constituents.

“It has been going for at least three years, as long as I’ve been here,” Tirado said. “It’s a pretty consistent request and a pretty consistent concern. The DEP has done a good job letting us know when things are happening. They just aren’t listening to the needs and concerns of people in the community.”

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