Greening the Parks: Incorporating Green Infrastructure into New York City’s Parks
- Dahlia Thompson PE, Waqas Saeed PE - Hazen and Sawyer
- John McLaughlin - New York City Department of Environmental Protection
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) has implemented a green infrastructure program as part of a consent order with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to reduce storm water runoff from entering into New York City’s combined sewer system. In addition to a large right-of-way green infrastructure program, NYCDEP is also working with other city agencies to design and construct green infrastructure on city owned properties to meet their goal. Parks, public schools, and public housing projects are three main locations that NYCDEP is exploring as potential sites to implement on-site green infrastructure.
Since 2009, Hazen and Sawyer has worked with NYCDEP to construct green infrastructure within New York City Parks, utilizing the green infrastructure to manage runoff from impervious surfaces within the parklands, as well as capturing runoff from adjacent streets. Currently, Hazen is completing green infrastructure designs at seven ultra-urban parks in Brooklyn and Queens, working closely with NYCDEP and NYC Parks to develop designs that maximize stormwater capture and minimize disturbance to the parks, integrate into the park aesthetic (or pair with additional funding to do larger park upgrades), and are easily maintainable. For instance, at Park Slope Playground, which is jointly operated with a neighboring school, a synthetic turf field will be installed to replace a portion of the school yard, surrounding by a track, aided by funds from the local city council member. Key features included trench drains and pavers surrounding the field to avoid sediment accumulation on the surface of the field, removable catch basin inserts in the trench drain to serve as a sump that can be easily emptied, while still connecting the trench drain to the storage layer below the field.
Parks that were selected as priorities for green infrastructure typically featured predominantly impervious surfaces, often featuring playground equipment, painted games and basketball courts. As a result, the approach has typically been to maintain existing uses, prioritizing subsurface storage, while complementing with surface expressions where it is compatible. At Boerum Park, for example, bioretention was incorporated into an empty tree pit along the perimeter, while a larger subsurface storage practice was added to the basketball court, with care to ensure cleanout structures are outside the playing area.
Existing utilities, subsurface soil conditions, protection of existing trees, and location of clean out structures in relation to playing fields were all issues that factored greatly into the design process.
Next steps include initiated the design process at several more parks within the CSO areas of the city, as well as expanding the green infrastructure program to the separately sewered areas of the City, where it will support the MS4 program. Hazen is currently working on the designs of two parks in southeast Queens, one of the MS4 portions of the City, and the focus in these parts is less on volume reduction and more on water quality improvements.
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