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Bioswales for a Greener B’wick.

Runoff Devices Also Clean Up Newtown Creek

Eco-friendly water trapping devices installed around Bushwick will keep more than a million gallons of polluted stormwater from entering the Newtown Creek, city officials stated during a press conference on Monday, June 3, announcing the completion of thegreen infrastructure” project.

Shown standing in front of one of the new bioswales on Grove Street in Bushwick are (from left to right) City Council Member Diana Reyna, Venetia Lannon of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland and Rory Christian of the New York City Housing Authority.

Nineteen bioswales-described by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as “curbside gardens that are specifically designed to collect and absorb stormwater from the street and sidewalk”-have been implanted into sidewalks along Grove Street between Wilson Avenue and Goodwin Place, near the Hope Gardens Houses.

“This is our third neighborhood pilot program and these 19 bioswales are adding to our network of green infrastructure, as envisioned in the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan, that will improve the health and cleanliness of Newtown Creek and other local waterbodies,” DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland said during the press conference held near one of the Grove Street bioswales.

Strickland was jointed at the event by Venetia Lannon, regional director of the DEC, and City Council Member Diana Reyna.

“These green infrastructure projects also green the neighborhood, provide shade in the summer time, clean the air and make the streets a more enjoyable and welcoming place,” Strickland added.

In a statement, DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens said the bioswales, by taking the place of previously “impervious surfaces,” offer “ecological benefits for cleaner wa- terways and a more sustainable community.” The project is part of the DEP’s compliance with a “modified consent order” issued by the DEC to improve green infrastructure and reduce the amount of stormwater discharged from the city’s sewer system into waterways.

“The improvements DEP will make in the area to manage storm water runoff will enhance the quality of life for the residents of Hope Gardens Houses and the surrounding community and will contribute to making New York City more sustainable for years to come,” added John B. Rhea, chairman of the New York City Housing Authority.

City Council Member Diana Reyna added that the bioswales are “an incredibly innovative way to address street flooding, reduces sewer overflows into Newtown Creek and green the neighborhood.”

Also praising the project was Kate Zidar, executive director of the Newtown Creek Alliance, who said the project was “a key component of a watershed-based restoration of Newtown Creek.”

The Bushwick bioswales were the third such pilot project undertaken by the DEP to reduce combined sewer overflows into bodies of water around New York City. During periods of heavy precipitation, stormwater may be discharged into the Newtown Creek and other waterways if there is too much water in the system.

The DEP selected the Bushwick location since it is part of the Newtown Creek tributary area and the sewers in and around Grove Street all drain into a single pipe. Similar bioswale projects have been previously completed in tributary areas of Jamaica Bay and the Hutchinson River.

Similar to tree pits, bioswales are much large in size and are dug deep into the ground. The devices sit on top of five feet of backfill which includes engineered soil and small stones, making the ground porous and more adept at absorbing water naturally. The bioswales also have curb cuts which allow stormwater to enter and exit.

During a typical rain storm, each bioswale is designed to handle 2,244 gallons of rainwater. Large plants around the bioswale also aim to improve the device’s ability to trap water and keep it out of the sewer system.

Prior to the installation of the bioswales, the DEP installed in October 2011 a monitoring device in the sewer pipe below Wilson Avenue and collected 19 months of baseline data. This data will be used in an analysis to compare normal and peak water levels in the pipe in the months after the bioswales are in operation.

The bioswales were installed as part of the DEP’s NYC Green Infrastructure Plan, which includes a proposed $2.4 billion in investments over the next 20 years-through public and private financing-to install eco-friendly devices around the city. The plan also calls for another $2.9 billion over the next two decades to upgrade the existing sewer and water infrastructure.

In Bushwick, the DEP is working with NYCHA to install a “rain garden” at the heart of the Hope Gardens complex which is expected to collect over 900,000 gallons of stormwater annually through porous pavement and retention systems.

Additional information on bioswales-and how members of the public can properly maintain them- will be provided at a workshop on Wednesday night, June 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the Hope Gardens Community Center, located at 422 Central Ave. in Bushwick. The session is being organized by the DEP, NYCHA and MillionTreesNYC.

For additional information, visit www.nyc.gov/dep or call 311.

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