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The Breakdown

The Breakdown: NYC Curbside Gardens to Relieve Stress on Waterways

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Green infrastructure techniques go beyond beautification and help relieve stress on watersheds caused by storm run-off. 

The News
Hundreds of curbside gardens have sprouted up in the industrial neighborhoods of Brooklyn, New York, and they aren’t the result of a beautification project. New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection has committed to a 20-year, $2.4 billion project utilizing green infrastructure to protect New York’s waterways. The project will install thousands of curbside gardens in New York City boroughs Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, and is expected to absorb more than 200 million gallons of storm run-off per year. There are 250 gardens currently installed, and more are scheduled for installation in the outer boroughs in the next few months.

What It Means
Urban areas are particularly prone to waterway pollution due to the lack of undeveloped ground for rainwater to be absorbed into and filtered through naturally. Instead, rainwater is jettisoned though a sewer system and filtered in filter plants before being released into the waterways. When storms produce an amount of water that will overwhelm the plants, the unfiltered overflow is released directly into the waterways at sewer outflow points, resulting in polluted rivers, canals, bays, and creeks.

Projects similar to New York’s have already been developed and implemented in cities around the country. Philadelphia’s Green City Clear Waters program has implemented curbside gardens, tree trenches, rain barrels, and permeable paving to lessen the city’s storm water run-off problem. Portland’s Gray to Green program and other cities' programs have gained recognition, but none of them have been as ambitious as the New York project. This project is the most expansive stormwater planter project America has seen to date, and will aim to showcase green infrastructure as a viable solution for relieving the stress on American sewer systems and waterways alike.

What You Can Do:

  • Voice your opinion. Support the use of green infrastructure by telling your friends and family about the benefits. Share this story on your social networking sites and get the info out there!
  • Cut back on water usage. Find out your water consumption using this Water Footprint Calculator and take the pledge to cut back.
  • Utilize green infrastructure at home. Installing rain barrels and strategic landscaping are two ways to reduce your water consumption and alleviate the stress on local flood zones and sewer systems.
  • Reach out to your local legislature. By telling your town’s leaders that you support green infrastructure, you’re taking the first step to get projects like this in your community!

The New York Times
Philadelphia Water Department
National Geographic
United States Environmental Protection Agency

Which type of green infrastructure do you have at home and in your city? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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About the Author
Morgan West
Morgan West
Morgan West works for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. more
  • susan l. 7 years ago
    Good read