City doles out grants to Qns. businesses for green makeovers

A diagram of the Queens College project that will divert runoff from storms into a strip of vegetation and keep rainwater out of the city's overburdened sewer system. Image courtesy state Department of Environmental Protection
By Joe Anuta

The city wanted a way to prevent sewage from flowing into waterways like the borough’s Newtown and Flushing creeks, so it awarded three Queens organizations money to alleviate the problem by improving their concrete sidewalks and roofs.

The city Department of Environmental Protection gave out roughly $600,000 in grants for the new projects, which will capture excess rainwater during storms. Typically, that rainwater flows into the city’s antiquated sewer system and mixes with wastewater, often causing a cocktail of pollution to overflow into New York Harbor.

“Green infrastructure is an innovative approach to reducing polluted stormwater runoff and sewer overflows while enhancing urban communities,” said state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens.

Instead of the water running over the concrete surfaces, the three businesses will let Mother Nature absorb some of the burden.

AWISCO Welding Supplies, at 55-15 43rd St. in Maspeth, will be getting a 15,000-square-foot green roof designed by Highview Creations LLC.

“We are pretty anxious to start this project,” said Eric Dalski, owner of Highview Creations. “We think its going to do a world of good.”

Dalski will carpet the roof with specially engineered soil and then grow a type of rugged plant that can survive in extreme wet or dry conditions.

The plants have the ability to suck up hundreds of thousands of gallons of rainwater a year, which means that water will stay out of the borough’s touchy sewers.

In addition, the greenery will cut down on the company’s heating and cooling bill, since the plants will act as insulation during the winter and the photosynthesis process will take heat off of the building during the summer.

“There are a lot of economic benefits,” Dalski said. “I don’t see why this would ever be looked down upon.”

Flushing will be the site of two projects.

The Bowne House Historical Society, at 37-01 Bowne St., commissioned a state-of-the-art tree pit.

The organization currently has a roughly 100-foot-long pit that runs along Bowne Street, but a team from eDesign Dynamics will install a cistern underneath the pit, which will capture runoff that would also otherwise get into the city’s sewer system.

Water that flows into the cistern will feed wetland plants that will grow amid the trees.

“This is one example of a way to capture the stormwater and alleviate the toll on the [city’s] facilities by slowly infiltrating the water into the soils,” said Amanda Bayley of eDesign Dynamics.

The project is a small one, but Bayley said she hoped it would catch on in Flushing, since it is an area going through a development boom.

Queens College is the third borough organization to receive a grant.

The college will also be constructing a green sidewalk in a few common areas on campus, where water will flow into a sort of median between concrete walkways.

Citywide, the DEP gave out $3.8 million to 15 organizations. It estimates the projects will capture as much as 5.8 million gallons of stormwater a year.

Newtown Creek was named a federal Superfund site last year. It is one of the most polluted waterways in the country.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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