NE Queens civics sound off about bioswales

By Bob Harris

In its November 2016 newsletter Maria DeInnocentis of the Civic Association of Utopia Estates questions the city building bioswales at the curbs in their community. Green markings indicate that the Department of Environmental Protection is considering putting a bioswale, or “rain gardens,” at that location.

They are marked off by green lines and look like a long tree pit which is dug deep into the ground and filled with permeable soil and a layer of gravel. It can have grasses or bushes or trees in it with a low fence on the sidewalk side. It is designed to let rainwater into the pit so less rain water goes into the sewers during a storm.

With the help of state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Assembly member Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing), a meeting was held with civic leaders and legislators and DEP Acting Commissioner Vincent Sapienza Sept. 27. The civic leaders had many questions such as who will be responsible for maintaining the 5-by-10 or 20-foot long bioswale in front of a person’s house or in front of a store.

How will people with babies or elderly people get in or out of a car parked next to a bioswale even if there is no fence on that side of the area? Who will maintain the structure? What will homeowners do if someone falls on the fence and sues them? Why is the DEP pushing bioswales when the DOB doesn’t stop people from paving over front and backyard lawns? Why can’t people opt out of these things in front of their homes?

Since this meeting there has been a conference call conversation with the same people and the same questions but no answers. With the help of Avella the DEP agreed to held off on building new bioswales while they evaluate the agency’s policies.

The November-December 2016 Auburndale Civic Association Voice featured an article by Henry Euler on that September meeting with the DEP. The article described what happened at the meeting and mentioned that homeowners were unhappy that they had not been notified about the project prior to those green markings being placed in front of their homes.

It seems that all this is because of a ruling by New York state which requires municipalities to decrease the runoff of rainwater after a storm.

The October 2016 newsletter of the West Cunningham Park Civic Association had an article by Elaine Young that explained those cryptic green markings at our curbs. She told about the bioswale proposals by the DEP. She made the point that people and shopkeepers have spent thousands of dollars to replace their sidewalks and now the DEP will be tearing them up to put in these pits.

There is also concern that some of these proposed projects are right where there sprinkler systems or natural gas lines are located. Another comment made was that many of our curbs are old so any new curbs will make our old curbs look bad.

There is the suggestion that if the city would loosen up the soil in our current tree pits, then water could be absorbed better in the current tree pits.


It is good to have developed a criminal justice and prison system so dangerous people can be tried and locked up in a prison so they can’t hurt other people.

However, our criminal justice system is being abused. Private industry has started operating jails, which are used as a way to make money for the operators. Also, the justice system is used as a way to make money. It employs police of all kinds to arrest people. People are stopped for things like changing lanes without signaling or having a broken tail light. The police then use this stop to search the car or people and look for anything illegal. People are given a fine and also made to pay court fees, which they often can’t afford. About 80 percent of the people being held on Rikers Island cannot afford to pay bail.

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