What once provided water for Brooklyn, now delivers peace and quiet for New Yorkers, and a habitat for a variety of wildlife. 

It’s the Ridgewood Reservoir, which sits on the Brooklyn-Queens Border at Highland Park. The East Causeway of the reservoir, with its original fencing from 1858, is now open weekends thanks to the work of the Parks Department and not-for-profit environmental education group NYC H20. 

What You Need To Know

  • The Ridgewood Reservoir opened in 1858 to provide water for the then city of Brooklyn

  • After more than 100 years of service, it was decommissioned and drained

  • The reservoir is now part of Highland Park on the Brooklyn/Queens border
  • The not-for-profit NYC H2O helps the Parks Department maintain the area and brings students and the community there to learn about water, nature and wildlife

"We bring students and families and community groups out to natural places like the beautiful Ridgewood Reservoir to teach about nature, water ecology and the water system, and to give people an appreciation for it and why they should care about it,” said Matt Malina, the executive director and founder of NYC H2O. 

Fed by 13 reservoirs reaching out east through Queens and Nassau Counties, the reservoir was built in 1858 to provide the then city of Brooklyn with water. It provided water for 100 years, and was last used in the 1960s when it was drained. Two of the basins have become forests again, the middle basin a freshwater pond.

"It's home to ducks, dragon flies and other birds and there are also dozens of species of birds that come through on their spring and fall migrations,” said Malina, who also noted that if you look closely there are even Italian Wall Lizards that call the area home. 

Parks and NYC H20 also work to maintain the reservoir by weeding and planting native species to welcome pollinators.

"They've helped buttress plantings here by weeding it all year round and planting new plants, so it's very biodiverse and thick with the kind of native plants that we want here,” said Portia Dyrenforth, the highland park administrator for the Parks Department. 

NYC H20 was hard at work through the pandemic maintaining this gem that looks more like the Catskills than the city. Student programs where mainly virtual, but they hope to bring back field trips in the fall. Find out more at here.