While the NYC Department of Environmental Protection reversed its plan to keep the Jerome Park Reservoir basin empty, a letter sent to Community Board 8 on Monday, Febuary 3 revealed the agency may not be fully committing to the community’s demands .
The letter stated that DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza has set a new agency policy requiring a minimum of approximately five to eight feet of water in the north basin year round.
According to the DEP, this amount of water will cover infrastructure at the bottom of the reservoir while also providing enough free space in the basin to capture water from the New Croton Aqueduct if the filtration plant shuts down for an emergency.
Upcoming work will require drainage of both basins to access, repair and fix the section of the wall that runs along the Old Croton Aqueduct.
During the construction period, at least one basin will be kept filled. The NYS Historic Preservation Office and the NYC Public Design Commission have signed off on these plans.
However, local environmental groups are not on board with the plan.
“I am not happy that the water in the north basin will be only five to eight feet,” said Karen Argetni of the Bronx Council for Environmental Equality.”
Argenti blasted the DEP for not having made arrangements for an emergency situation when it originally built the $4 billion Croton Filter Plant.
“For them to say they need it now, after six years of the plant being up and running, is really bad planning,” she said.
Meanwhile, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who grew up across the street from the reservoir, said this project has been a personal issue to him for many years. The assemblyman said he has mixed feelings on the DEP’s plan.
Dinowitz is glad the DEP responded to the public outcry, but feels it did not go far enough to resolve the community’s complaint.
“I understand that DEP wants to plan for overflow and emergency conditions at the Croton Filtration Plant, but frankly this should have been something they thought about several decades ago when the agency was taking away our parkland in the first place,” Dinowitz stated.
“I think the consensus in our community is that anything less than a restoration of a reasonable amount of water at a reasonable height in the reservoir, meaning water that is clearly visible from adjacent buildings and parks, is unacceptable,” he added.
In October 2019, the DEP sent a letter contending that the agency’s intention to leave the north basin of the Jerome Park Reservoir empty didn’t require an environmental impact study.
The spokesman also stated that if required to facilitate the 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.