A residential street in the Rockaways is the first in the city to be redesigned with groundbreaking infrastructure methods to absorb stormwater and reduce tidal flooding from Jamaica Bay.
The city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced on Sept. 6 that construction on a $1.2 million project that transformed three roadway medians into green infrastructure “sponges” that mitigate chronic flooding on Beach 67th Street between Almeda and Thursby Avenues in Arverne have been completed.
“Transforming these medians into working green infrastructure that absorbs stormwater helps reduce any flooding along Beach 67th Street while also protecting nearby Jamaica Bay,” DEP Commissioner Rohit Aggarwala. “In just the last several years we have constructed more than 12,000 similar installations that absorb stormwater and beautify neighborhoods across the city. We will continue to aggressively expand this critical work that is making our city more resilient to the changing climate.”
The completion of the project was announced just as forecasters began to warn of a potential hurricane threat to the East Coast forming in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Lee was upgraded to a hurricane on Wednesday with the potential to become a category 4 hurricane by the weekend, but it is too early to predict the storm’s path.
“As peak hurricane season nears, these new green infrastructure sponged in Arverne are a welcome addition to the Rockaway community, which we know is extremely prone to strong storms and coastal flooding,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “Every new median helps as we leave no stone unturned to mitigate flooding and protect our shoreline communities.”
Work included removing the old median curbs, trees, plantings and the accumulated trash. Stormwater storage vaults and drains were installed five feet below the surface and covered with stones and engineered soil – all elements designed to maximize the amount of stormwater that the median will be able to contain. Modeling shows that the new medians will absorb approximately 90,000 gallons of stormwater annually.
“Resiliency is essential to the health and safety of our communities, especially on the Rockaway Peninsula,” Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers said. “I applaud DEP’s efforts to expand green infrastructure in our community and improve our stormwater management systems, and I look forward to further investments in the resiliency and sustainability of the Rockaway community.”
The landscape work includes the addition of native plants, shrubs, ornamental grasses and perennial wildflowers, which will also help absorb stormwater and enhance the aesthetic value of the surrounding area. To ensure that stormwater drains into the medians, the project included reconstructing the sidewalks and curbs, and resurfacing of the roadways to properly pitch them. Openings along the curb of the new medians also allow stormwater to drain into the planted areas and the subsurface detention systems.
“The completion of this green infrastructure project in Arverne is a significant step in our efforts to combat increased flooding that is devastating to residents of southeast Queens,” State Senator James Sanders said. “We are in the midst of a climate emergency, and this is the type of action that is needed. Investing in green infrastructure is not just about environmental sustainability, but also about protecting our communities for generations to come.”
Additional large concrete medians in the borough, including Queens Village, will be transformed into resilient green infrastructure medians, with additional sites in the planning and design stages. Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson hopes to see the DEP expand the green infrastructure “sponges” to other locations in southeast Queens.
“I am delighted to see the realization of the Arverne Medians Green Infrastructure Project, transforming underutilized roadway medians into green infrastructure,” Anderson said. “This innovative project is the first of its kind here in New York City and I am proud to welcome green infrastructure here in the Arverne region of my district. As we grapple with the impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels and flash flooding, these modifications will be vital for working-class families of color here in Assembly District 31. I strongly urge the Department of Environmental Protection to expand this innovative infrastructure project to include the Rockaway Peninsula and all communities across Southeast Queens that are vulnerable to flooding.”