For decades, New Yorkers have been blocked from accessing the Jerome Park Reservoir in the Bronx, but in a surprising move, the city announced plans to open the space. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.
It's been 20 years since the public has been beyond the fences sealing off the shimmering waters of the Jerome Park Reservoir. The Department of Environmental Protection says that will change come fall.
The agency will test opening the space for a few hours over a handful of days for running, walking, guided tours and student science programs.
"They can see how the reservoir works, talk about how it works within the broader context of the Croton Watershed," said Eric Landau, associate commissioner of public affairs with the DEP.
While the pilot will provide access to the Jerome Park Reservoir, the DEP says it will be heavily policed and supervised because the agency says this reservoir isn't like others nearby.
The more famous Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park stopped supplying drinking water decades ago, but the water in the Jerome Park reservoir comes from the city's upstate watershed, ends up in city homes and apartments and therefore, has been off limits. Although a massive filtration plant is being built nearby, the DEP says it's not enough to protect the water.
"The filtration plant will take out certain things, but not everything, and because the water is so close to distribution and therefore so close to the tap, we have to be hyper-vigilant about its safety and security," Landau said.
The community and DEP have long debated the need for such tight security. Residents argued the fences don't seem to protect much. Under the DEP's compromise, a task force of community members and elected officials will plan the pilot program and explore future public access.
"Provide something that they have been asking for, while at the same time, balancing the security that we really feel very, very strongly about," Landau said.
Residents who have long wanted this are ready to accept the olive branch and say this is a move in the right direction.
“We have had many missteps. We had many things happen that we didn't like. But as a first step, this is a very good first step," said Gary Axelbank, a Bronx resident.