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NYC DEP Completes Building Renovation At Ashokan Reservoir

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The New York City Department of Environmental Protection held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday to celebrate completion of a renovated building at the Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County.

The four-story building was constructed in 1961 to serve as a water quality laboratory and office. Its use as a lab ceased when DEP finished its new Kingston laboratory in 2008, but the building continued to house engineers, watershed maintenance staff and other DEP employees. DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza:

“Over the past couple of years, DEP spent about $10 million to turn this former, what was a laboratory into now a modern office building that will help staff run and manage programs for the Ashokan Reservoir, Schoharie Reservoir and the watershed lands that surround them,” Sapienza says.

The building was rededicated for a noted water scientist.

“The name on the front of the building, it had traditionally, since 1964, been called the Ben Nesin Laboratory,” Sapienza says. “And now you’ll see on the building it’s the Ben Nesin Building.”

Nesin served as the director of New York City’s water quality laboratories from 1945 until his death in 1964. The building was originally known as the Catskill Laboratory before it was dedicated as the Ben Nesin Laboratory in 1964. Nesin began working for the New York City Department of Water Supply, Gas & Electricity, a predecessor to DEP, as a chemist in 1927. One of Nesin’s nieces attended the rededication ceremony. Norma Nesin says she was in high school when her uncle died, but recalls overhearing a number of conversations.

“He didn’t use the word ‘terrorism.’ He worried about saboteurs. That was the term that was used back then,” Nesin says. “And he wanted to make sure that the water supply was always monitored and kept pure.”

Sapienza says the refurbished building has all new windows and doors.

“It has a new energy efficient system for heating and air conditioning. The front entrance was reconfigured. It’s now ADA accessible, as you can see from the ramp. It has all new plumbing and electrical systems,” says Sapienza. “The asbestos and the lead that were in the building from 1961 have been removed. And it’s much brighter. When you go inside, you’ll see all new LED lighting.”

Again, Norma Nesin.

“I’m very proud to be standing here with my cousin Sandra, and we really appreciate that this is continued,” says Nesin. “And we’re just thankful that it’s acknowledged, all of the things that he did.”

DEP spokesman Adam Bosch:  

“Last year, we made the announcement for what we call the Ashokan Century Program. So we’ve been going through the supply now since the 1990s, going reservoir by reservoir to upgrade dams, valve chambers, spillways. And, after Schoharie Reservoir is done, which we’re working on now, Ashokan Reservoir is next,” Bosch says. “So when that work begins, and the design work has already begun, but when that work continues and the eventual construction work begins, a lot of the folks who manage that project are based here in this building. And so this will be a particular hub of activity as that work gets going in the mid-2020s.”

The Ben Nesin building on Route 28A in the Town of Olive will house about 35 employees, or about half of the so-called campus, which includes a police precinct.

Nesin established systems to control pollution in the watershed, and oversaw investigations related to metals, herbicides and other potential pollutants. In the 1960s, Nesin was sent to Israel to help with various water supply challenges, including the potential development of the Jordan River as a source of drinking water.

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