[Video: Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. talks about how the DEP's limited access plan for the Jerome Park Reservoir is unacceptable.]
A group of concerned local residents, community leaders and elected officials gathered on a terrace overlooking the Jerome Park Reservoir today to demand better public access to the reservoir's perimeter.
Echoing community frustration with the city’s proposal to allow residents a mere three days of access to the Jerome Park Reservoir two years from now, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. publicly invited the city’s commissioners of Parks and Environmental Protection to a public hearing at Amalgamated Houses on June 2.
The hearing stems from a meeting of the Croton Facility Monitoring Committee (FMC) in March where members of the committee -- mainly the chairs of the surrounding community boards -- decided that they had little if any influence over the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and thought their concerns would be taken more seriously if raised by the borough president.
Instead of access inside the reservoir, the city is planning to spend $3.8 million “to construct a stone jogging trail parallel to the existing sidewalk,” according to the Parks Department. In the first phase -- which would include seating, plantings, fencing, lighting, adult fitness equipment, and reorganized dog runs and basketball courts -- a path would be constructed along the northern section of Sedgwick Avenue.
Joining Diaz at today's press conference and in the fight for access were Councilman Oliver Koppell, Assemblyman Jose Rivera, Assemblyman Jeffery Dinowitz, State Senator Gustavo Rivera, members of various neighborhood improvement associations, and members of Community Boards 7, 8 and 12.
“It is amazing in an age where the city doesn’t have enough money for firehouses…the DEP spent thousands of dollars and years to produce a report that basically said nothing,” said Father Richard Gorman, Chairman of Community Board 12 and a member of the FMC. “This reservoir belongs to us,” he added.
Dinowitz said, “DEP’s ridiculous proposal to give the public very limited access for a few days in the year 2013 is an insult to our community.”
Diaz added that the reservoir is a historically significant part of Bronx heritage.
“This community treasure has been left unused for far too long,” Diaz said. “It is time for the collective voice of the northwest Bronx to be heard, and for the DEP to develop a plan for real community access to the Jerome Park Reservoir.”
Speakers at the press conference pointed out that other communities are granted better access to their reservoir grounds.
“In different parts of the state, in Putnam County, you see people enjoying the beauty of their reservoirs," Gorman said. "Why is it that we in the Bronx are not trusted to enjoy the beauty that God has given us?"
“If it’s good enough for Central Park, it’s good enough for the Bronx,” Gustavo Rivera added.
Diaz acknowledged that there are legitimate security concerns, saying we live in a post-9/11 society. Still, “We can have the best of both worlds,” Diaz said, suggesting that public access and public safety are both possible.
The hearing on reservoir access will be June 2, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in the Amalgamated Houses' Vladeck Hall, 74 Van Cortlandt Park South, at Hillman Avenue. Diaz is encouraging all to attend. “It’s time for the voices of the northwest Bronx to be heard,” he said.
--with reporting by Jordan Moss