New York Plants Curbside Gardens to Soak Up Storm-Water Runoff

The Green Infrastructure initiative is set for a major expansion that will bring thousands of gardens to neighborhoods across the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens in the coming months.

The gardens, part of a suite of various green infrastructure options, are typically built into sidewalks, with curb cuts that let storm water flow among the shrub roses and black-eyed Susans.

The goal, according to the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, is to soften the “impervious urban landscape” of asphalt and concrete and absorb rainfall that might otherwise funnel into the combined sewer system.

Once completed, the administration said, New York City’s gardens are expected to capture more than 200 million gallons of storm water each year that might otherwise run into waterways like the Gowanus Canal, Flushing Bay or Newtown Creek.

(NEW YORK, NY – November 13, 2014) – The gardens appeared suddenly along an industrial corridor of Brownsville, Brooklyn — one, two, a half-dozen — as if airlifted from a cul-de-sac upstate.

At first, local residents stopped to inspect the sidewalk oddities. Pictures were snapped and posted on Facebook. At least one young suitor pilfered the contents of a plot and handed them to a girlfriend.

Soon, the whole neighborhood knew: At the sensory junction of moldering garbage heaps, a wholesale onion vendor and the crunching aluminum of a scrap yard, there were, apparently, flowers.

What has been largely unknown is why.

In what officials have billed as one of the most ambitious programs of its kind in the United States, New York City has, with little fanfare, embarked on a roughly 20-year, $2.4 billion project intended to protect local waterways, relying in large measure on “curbside gardens” that capture and retain storm-water runoff.

Begun as a pilot program under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — about 250 of the gardens are already in the ground — the initiative is set for a major expansion that will bring thousands of gardens to neighborhoods across the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens in the coming months.

The goal, according to the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, is to soften the “impervious urban landscape” of asphalt and concrete and absorb rainfall that might otherwise funnel into the combined sewer system. (During heavy rain, storm water can exceed the capacity of the city treatment plants. Overflows are discharged into local waterways to avoid flooding the plants, which can harm water quality.)

Once completed, the administration said, New York City’s gardens are expected to capture more than 200 million gallons of storm water each year that might otherwise run into waterways like the Gowanus Canal, Flushing Bay or Newtown Creek.

Excerpted from the New York Times

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