Ulises Rivera, a Bushwick resident, has been visiting the Ridgewood Reservoir, a natural gem and former water source within Highland Park, for over 40 years. On this particular morning, he rode his bike and was getting exercise by doing laps around the park’s track. Rivera, who is 76, said he’s shared his enthusiasm for nature by taking both his children and grandchildren to the park through the years.
Highland Park’s reach is vast, with an emblematic central reservoir that makes you feel far from the city. This is surprising, given that the park is surrounded by major boulevards and highways, including the Jackie Robinson Parkway.
To facilitate access to the park among these busy roads, the city is installing pedestrian infrastructural improvements at the intersection of Vermont Place and Highland Boulevard, a key pedestrian access point. After receiving specific complaints and support from local community boards, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is installing a series of improvements at the intersection. According to DOT’s planning report, three people were seriously injured in car accidents at the intersection between 2014 and 2018.
These improvements include a concrete sidewalk, which DOT is finishing up by the end of the year, as well as crosswalks and adjustments to traffic signal changes, which DOT plans to install by summer 2022. According to Queens Community Board 5’s 2021 community needs statement, parks are a fundamental need for residents in a crowded city. Given this reality, activists and government officials want to work on expanding and improving park access for all New Yorkers. Understanding that safe access to parks and nature is fundamental to the general well being of its residents, the city is taking steps to improve pedestrian access around the Ridgewood Reservoir.