Bioswales plan is shortsighted

By Bob Harris

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) just held a press conference in Fresh Meadows concerning bioswales or rain gardens, as the city calls them. He repeated his view that homeowners should have the right to opt out of city installed bioswales at the curb in front of their homes.

A score of civic association leaders came out to support Avella’s views.

The house in front of which the press conference took place happens to be my own. My wife, Edna, and I have been frustrated by the way this whole bioswale activity has taken place. When green lines and green letters appeared on the sidewalk in front of my house, we didn’t know what they meant. It took us weeks to find out about the bioswales.

Edna attended two public meetings on the issue and participated in a round-robbin phone call on the issue over several months. She was told that since we had sprinklers in the area designated for a bioswale, we could be exempt. Months later, red and orange letters appeared on the sidewalk, which we eventually found out meant that the gas, sewer and water lines for our house and the adjacent houses ran right through this area. How could the city possibly dig up this area for a rain garden?

Sen. Avella had gotten the EPA to agree not to put any bioswales into his district until the issue was clarified and decided. Then about a month ago, a Suffolk-based drilling company started drilling test bores in the neighborhood by pounding pipes into the ground to determine what type of soil was there in order to determine if a 10-foot deep bioswale could be dug in that location. We held them off for a week, with Edna sitting at the curb. She left finally after they called the police on us we had to back off.

During the process, we discovered that in the gutter next to the curb, a 3-foot square cemented area with a man hole in the middle was a Con Ed special electrical installation. How could the EPA dare to let this company drill near it? How could they even dare think of putting a bioswale near this installation?

Some of the civic leaders spoke about their concerns and frustration over the way this whole project has been handled. Some spoke about finished bioswales they have noticed with the grasses and bushes dead, with trash and dog droppings in them. People just don’t trust the city to keep these areas clean. Just look at the way the tree pits of many of the trees that have been planted in the past few years on center malls and sidewalks have been neglected.

If only the city had been preventing people from cementing or bricking over their front, side and back yards there would be enough areas for rain water to drain into the ground.

Now, we are told that the EPA will only let people with medical issues opt-out. Wow!

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