It’s no secret that stormwater runoff is a serious contributor to pollution in NYC waterways, especially in areas in southern Brooklyn and Queens. In East New York, a lower-income neighborhood in Brooklyn, old and overburdened sewers release foul odors and wastewater into Jamaica Bay. In an effort to combat this, the Department of Environmental Protection has selected East New York as the location for a sustainable experiment in stopping stormwater runoff. Rather than relying solely on expensive sewage systems and treatment facilities, the DEP is planting gardens, trees, and a wetland to attack the problem at its source.
The DEP has complete 13 similar pilot projects all throughout Brooklyn and Queens, three of which are in East New York. The new project is part of an overall comprehensive plan to improve the city’s economy and standards of living through green infrastructure. Building gardens is not only a more cost effective way to combat stormwater runoff than by expanding facilities, but it also creates new green spaces for neighborhoods.
The new tree pits are each 20 feet long, and they are home to extra thirsty trees like black gum that soak up a lot of water. The pits, each costing $40,000, are filled with designer absorbent material, and they can each hold up to 1,000 gallons of water. The $275,000 wetland will be located next to the Spring Creek MTA Bus Depot. The 18,000 square foot space will have a shallow basin for holding water and a meadow drainage area with more than 30 different types of plants. The green space will be able to hold 21,000 gallons of water.
“Green projects are essential for bringing 21st-century jobs to East New York.” said City Councilman Charles Barron in a report by Crain’s New York. He has started to encourage residents to apply for grants, for projects like constructing porous pavement or installing rain barrels.
Despite being one of the poorer neighborhoods in New York City, East New York is home to an abundance of green initiatives. One of the most impressive being the East New York Farms, run by director Sarita Daftary. The farm has 60 neighborhood gardeners and more than 30 interns, plus it partners with five upstate farmers. The produce is sold at two community markets.
The Farms began 13 years ago, and Daftary says that community members embraced green projects so long ago out of necessity to address issues like poverty and pollution. “People often think that a low-income community would be less interested in greening and sustainability. But our community, and ones like ours, need to be the most concerned,” Daftary told Crain’s.
Green projects such as these have so far proven very successful throughout NYC. Promoting similar green initiatives, whether through green technology or gardening, will not only help solve many citywide environmental issues, but will also create a more beautiful and prosperous city.