By Gina Martinez
Flushing residents want to opt out of the city’s bioswales program.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and state Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz stood in front of Christie Ling’s 200-15 36th Ave. home Friday and protested the mayor’s and the Department of Environmental Protection’s refusal to offer a full opt-out for their bioswale project.
Avella said the DEP agreed to stall installation of bioswales in his district after community opposition but still continued soil testing to determine the viability of the program for the area. But the senator is now asking that the Department of Environmental Protection stop soil drilling while a full opt-out continues to be discussed.
According to Avella, the soil testing process is incredibly invasive and sounds more like an “oil drilling operation than an environmental test.” The invasiveness of the soil testing has only furthered the community’s opposition to the program, with some homeowners even claiming damage was done to their property.
Bioswales are green infrastructure installations cut into the pavement to absorb rainwater and remove some of the burden from the sewer system. The DEP said the ultimate goal of the bioswale project is to clean up waterways, including Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay. Residents in northeast Queens have not responded well, though, contending the program has been forced on them without much input. There have been complaints about random green paint markings on the sidewalk, which are to keep track of where a bioswale might be installed.
“It’s incumbent upon the city and whatever agency is involved to reach out to the community, involve the elected officials, the civics and community boards into what the process is because nobody knows that block better than the people that live there,” Avella said. “Unfortunately, the city and the Department of Environmental Protection moved ahead with this project with almost no community involvement.”
The DEP tested the soil in front of Ling’s home weeks ago. Ling believes she and her neighbors should have choice whether or not a bioswale is installed in front of their homes.
“We are simply asking that the city give us an opt-out provision for this bioswales program,” she said. “We’re not asking to kill the program completely, but we do not want the city to shove this down our throats where eventually this bioswale becomes the responsibility of a homeowner.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart