Queens Civic Association leaders voice concern about bioswales

By Bob Harris

State Sen. Tony Avella just held a press conference in Fresh Meadows concerning bioswales, or rain gardens as the city calls them. He again stated his view that homeowners should have the right to opt-out of having the city build a bioswale at the curb in front of their houses. A score of civic association leaders with other supporters came to support his views.

The house in front of which the press conference was held happens to be mine. 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 in front of my house on the sidewalk, 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 a round robin 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 in his district until the issue was clarified. 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 to see if a 10-foot deep bioswale could be dug in that location. We held them off for a week by Edna sitting at the curb, but she left finally and after they called the police on us, we had to back off.

We discovered during the press conference that right in the gutter next to the curb, a three-foot square, cemented area with a manhole 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 rainwater 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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