Vol. 20,  No. 6 March 22 - April 4, 2007


New Jerome Park Reservoir Path in Works
Location the Subject of Debate


As a meeting scheduled for later this week about a new recreational path around the Jerome Park Reservoir approaches, the city and some community members are clearly not on the same track.

The reservoir, which is bordered by Goulden, Sedgwick and Reservoir avenues, is receiving $5 million worth of improvements. The money, earmarked for a path of some kind around the reservoir is part of the parcel of $200 million in park projects that Bronx politicians received in return for supporting the construction of the filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park.

Residents, who have begun to mobilize on the issue, want decorative landscaping, benches and more lighting around the Jerome Park Reservoir. 

Those will likely end up being in the final plan, but other ideas are hitting choppier waters. Anne Marie Garti, president of the Jerome Park Conservancy and a leader of the successful fight in the 1990s to keep the filtration plant out of the reservoir, wants a jogging and walking path along the water’s edge.

The city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), however, says that’s a non-starter.

Public access so close to a source of drinking water poses a security threat, the DEP says, and the path should be built outside of the 8-foot security fence that separates the reservoir area from the city sidewalk. There is a second fence that runs along the edge of the water.

“The recreational path belongs along the water and that’s what the community decided with lots of time and meetings,” Garti said.

She added that the DEP’s plan does not take into consideration the Lehman College parking lot on the east side of the reservoir or how, in some places, the grass outside of the security fence is only a few feet wide.

“Instead of gaining access to the reservoir, we’re being asked to give up our sidewalks,” Garti said.

"Residents, Garti says, are willing to make sacrifices in order to have a path close to the water. People could have access only during certain hours of the day, for example, and at only one entry point with passes given out by security guards and a no-bag policy.

“We’re bending over backwards,” Garti said. “We’ll let ourselves be searched even.”

Garti also thinks the city is breaking its promise to residents after Chris Ward, former DEP commissioner, told an audience at Bronx High School of Science in April 2004 that a track would be installed at the reservoir.

Ian Michaels, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection, has heard this accusation before.

“There’s no one here at the agency that knows anything about a promise to put the running track inside the fence,” Michaels said.

Sonya Lappin, a member of the Jerome Park Conservancy, said the DEP’s decision to keep the path outside of the park is a double standard.

“They’re not giving us the consideration that they would give Central Park people,” Lappin said.

But Michaels said that Central Park has not been used for drinking water since 1993 and therefore does not require the same level of security.

Garti points to upstate reservoir areas like the Kensico located 15 miles north of New York City, where area residents are allowed to boat and fish.

“We’re just trying to get what everybody else has,” Garti said. “People can get to those reservoirs with vehicles. We’re talking about people running around it or walking around it.”

Michaels said the upstate reservoirs were built on the condition that they would have recreation access. Officers protect upstate reservoirs and the water in all in-use reservoirs is tested daily.

“We’re concerned about security everywhere,” Michaels said.

The distance the water must travel from the upstate reservoirs to those who use the water is also a method of protection, as is the size of the reservoirs upstate. Jerome Park Reservoir holds less than 800 million gallons, whereas the Pepacton Reservoir in the Hudson Valley holds 140 billion gallons.

“Having more water is definitely a defense,” Michaels said.

He also added that the filtration plant, being built in Van Cortlandt Park, is not a guaranteed protection from all contaminants put into the Jerome Park Reservoir.

Lappin, who is on the board of directors at Scott Tower in Bedford Park, said she worries that the disagreement over the path will mean nothing gets done.

“If [the path] is the sole issue that keeps them from doing any work, let’s have some alternatives,” Lappin said. “I don’t want them to have an excuse to do nothing.”

According to Cristina Deluca, a Parks Department spokesperson, design work on the path, wherever it ends up, will begin in May and last until March 2008. Construction will begin in December 2008 and end a year later.

Ed. note: A Parks Department scoping meeting to discuss design ideas for the path around the reservoir is scheduled for this Friday, March 23 at 1 p.m. People will meet at the corner of Goulden Avenue and East 205th Street.

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