Highland Park, Brooklyn

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Highland Park is a park located on the Brooklyn-Queens border. The name is also applied to the Brooklyn neighborhood to its south, commonly regarded as part of the East NY neighborhood.

Highland Park was created on the land immediately surrounding Ridgewood Reservoir that was purchased by the City of Brooklyn in 1891 under the jurisdiction of the Highland Park Society. Between 1901 and 1905 the Brooklyn Department of Parks began improving the area, originally known as Ridgewood Park, with several structures, a rustic bridge, roads, footpaths, a flower garden and a new lake and fountain. In 1905, the City expanded the park by purchasing the Schenck estate just to the south of the Reservoir. The final expansion occurred in 1906 with the purchase of a third parcel to the west from the Department of Water.[1]

From its earliest days, the park has been a recreational haven for residents of both Brooklyn and Queens. It ultimately included football fields, baseball fields, tennis courts and (in the winter) a frozen pond for skating. An aquatic garden was added in 1907 and a children's farm garden in 1915. The park is home to The Dawn of Glory World War I monument by sculptor Pietro Montana (dedicated 1925). In 1991 the western section of the park was renamed the Vito P. Battista Playground in memory of Vito Piranesi Battista, a local educator and member of the New York State Assembly.

Ridgewood Reservoir, which received water from Ronkonkoma, Long Island, was made obsolete by expansion of the New York City's Catskill and Delaware water systems upon the consolidation of New York City and Brooklyn, although it remained in service until 1959. Access to New York City's water supply was a driving force behind Brooklyn's vote to combine with New York City. The third basin was used as a backup reservoir with water from the Catskill system until it was finally decommissioned and drained in 1989. The fenced-in basins returned to a natural state, becoming home to a birch forest and grassy marsh and hosting a wide variety of flora and fauna.

In 2004, the reservoir was turned over to the Department of Parks and Recreation for integration into Highland Park.[2] In October 2007, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe quietly unveiled a contract to breach one of the reservoir basins and clear 20 acres (81,000 m2) for ball fields.[3] However, on June 26, 2008, New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. rejected that contract for the new development, citing concerns about the environmental impact, increased truck traffic and the vendor selection process.[4]

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