The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New York City Department of Environmental Protection met on a rooftop of the Brooklyn Navy Yard this windy Tuesday morning to announce an agreement on an enforcement order to improve water quality in New York Harbor waters.
Approximately $2.4 billion will go toward green infrastructure projects and $1.4 billion toward grey infrastructure, using new technologies to manage stormwater before it enters the sewer system and by extension relieve impaired water bodies, such as the Gowanus Canal.
"This is a historic moment," Peter Lehner, the executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council enthused. "This is a fundamental change in how the city is choosing to deal with water. The rain is a resource! We can use it to create greenways. It is going to make a huge difference in the water quality, and it is going to happen quickly. This is an amazing moment for New York and for the rest of the country."
Through the implementation of bioswales, blue and green roofs, rain gardens, and porous pavement, the city estimates that approximately 1.5 billion gallons of CSO flows will be removed annually by 2030 before entering the sewer system.
In fact, the site of the conference—Building 3 at 63 Flushing Avenue—was chosen to promote the future rooftop garden that will be installed there by Brooklyn Grange, as the project is representative of others that will be developed in target areas.
"This kind of approach is the type of project that will be witnessed throughout the Gowanus Watershed," New York City Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland told Patch. "We want to absorb the rain and prevent it from getting into the canal."
In fact between 4th and 5th Avenues already have proven effective. "We just installed those in October," said Strickland. "They haven't been through a spring season yet. But the vegetation looks strong."
Tuesday's announcement comes on the heals of a request for proposals released on Monday by the DEP for three separate engineering and design services contracts to create green infrastructure master plans within three combined sewer watershed areas: Gowanus Canal, Flushing Bay, and Newtown Creek.
The total cost of the design contract for the approximately 775-acre Gowanus Canal and part of Newtown Creek is $4,000,000.
"We're going to get responses to the design RFP in less than a week," said Strickland. "That will help us select the sites. We're on a search for available curb space and sidewalk space, and of course the soil has to be right in order to absorb the rainfall."
When there is too much water in the system, it bypasses treatment centers and goes directly into the canal along with toxic materials that get swept up from the surrounding area. By the time the materials biodegrade, they suck the oxygen out of the water causing fish to suffocate and in effect become a dead waterway.
"I am enthusiastic about green infrastructure as one important step in our effort to improve water quality in the Gowanus Canal. This is a great opportunity for DEP and community stakeholders to work closely together to implement real sustainable solutions," said Councilmember Brad Lander in a released statement.