Tag Archives: Department of Environmental Protection

The city has a crush on your old toilet — literally


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

toilet

BY ASHA MAHADEVAN

Waste not, want not.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is looking for contractors to crush 200,000 toilets so the city can put the porcelain bits to other uses.

The DEP announced in May of this year that it is launching a $23 million program to replace 200,000 inefficient toilets in up to 10,000 buildings across the five boroughs. An inefficient toilet can use up to five gallons of water per flush, compared to a high-efficiency toilet, which uses only 1.28 gallons or less per flush.

But what to do with all the old fixtures?

The city intends to use the crushed porcelain in the reconstruction of sidewalks and bioswales, landscaped areas built to absorb storm water.

The porcelain from the toilets will create a flat, compact layer on which the city can lay the concrete for the sidewalk, according to Christopher Gilbride, a DEP spokesman. It will also replace the crushed stone in bioswales.

The project is still in its planning stages and the DEP has not yet identified which sidewalks and bioswales will be reconstructed with the crushed porcelain.

The effort, according to Gilbride, is part of a larger departmental initiative to reduce demand for water in the city by 5 percent before the city shuts down the Delaware Aqueduct for repairs in 2021.

The step will help ensure that the city has enough drinking water supply while the Delaware Aqueduct, which supplies about half of the city’s drinking water, remains shut for eight to 10 months.

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Sinking Lindenwood street being repaired


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

A sinking street in Lindenwood that has caused hazardous situations for drivers and residents for years is now being repaired by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The street, located at the corner of 157th Avenue and 79th Street, was caving in and a one-foot deep sinkhole formed near the catch basin on the corner.

For years, residents say they have been making complaints about the street but nothing has been done until The Courier first reported the story on Oct. 14.

The street began to worsen after an April 30 flooding disaster, residents also said. The Spring Creek sewer overflow facility, maintained by the DEP, malfunctioned during a major rainstorm that night causing the sewers in Lindenwood to back up, flooding the streets.

Joe Thompson, a resident and president of the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol, was shocked on how fast the response was to the sinking street.

sinkingstreet-624x416

“I have never seen a response this quick before,” said Thompson, who submitted a 311 complaint three weeks ago about the hole but never got an answer. “It’s another positive closure for the renewal of our quality of life here in Howard Beach.”

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Goldfeder tells DEP to rid southern Queens of sewer odors


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder

Southern Queens is the home of the highest concentration of odor complaints in the borough, according to 311 data, which prompted one local elected official to try to clear the air on this issue.

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder is urging the Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner, Emily Lloyd, to step up efforts and remove debris from catch basins the area, many of which are now leaving foul odors around the neighborhoods.

“Our families shouldn’t have to hold their breath waiting on DEP to clean our sewers,” said Goldfeder. “Debris left by Sandy continues to clog our catch basins and sewers causing standing water and foul odors.”

The report was compiled by the website, BrickUnderground and apartment data site AddressReport, and included a list of the 10 smelliest and 10 least smelly neighborhoods in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan by using data from odor-related complaints that 311 has received.

Five of the borough’s top 10 sites were in southern Queens and included the neighborhoods of Lindenwood, Neponsit, Howard Beach, Bayswater and Broad Channel.

Goldfeder sent a letter to DEP asking them to do a comprehensive review of the sewers in southern Queens and implement a schedule to regularly maintain the problematic ones.

“We have once again earned an awful distinction that could have been avoided,” Goldfeder noted.  “Sandy recovery must remain a priority for every city agency to ensure our infrastructure is updated and prepared for future storms. I strongly urge DEP to immediately investigate all the catch basins in our communities and ensure they are properly maintained to prevent flooding and foul odors.”

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Stringer starts to make offers to settle flood claims


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

SALVATORE LICATA

The city comptroller has begun making offers to Lindenwood residents who suffered damaged to their homes due to the April 30 malfunction of the Spring Creek sewer facility, which is run by the city’s Department of Environmental Protection.

“As of this week, the comptroller’s office has started making offers of settlements to flooding victims, while inspections of additional homes continue,” a spokeswoman from City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office said.

It was unclear how many offers were made or whether any were accepted.

Victims were urged by Stringer during a community meeting in May to make sure they filed claims.

“Engineers from his office moved swiftly through the area and inspected more than 100 homes alleged to be damaged by that flood,” the spokeswoman said.

 

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DEP prolonging wait for compensation in Lindenwood flooding


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

SALVATORE LICATA

The Department of Environmental Protection has blocked compensation for Lindenwood homeowners whose homes were flooded after a screw-up at a plant run by the agency, residents charged.

The April 30 rainstorm, which caused major flooding to homes that border Spring Creek, was due to a malfunction in the Creek’s sewer overflow facility, operated by the DEP.

The agency has taken blame for the mishap but, despite the assurances of politicians, residents who were affected have yet to see any money from the government, which has many of them outraged.

“Where’s our check?” shouted residents to DEP officials at a meeting of the Howard Beach Lindenwood Civic Association Tuesday night. “It’s your fault.”

The DEP went door to door handing out claim forms to the flood-affected residents. But the money cannot be disbursed until the DEP submits its final report assessing damages suffered and liability.

The agency sent Stringer a preliminary report on June 19, nearly two months after the flood.

The DEP said it needs to check the water elevations to see where the flooding occurred and said there may be further delay because of liability issues involving some independent contractors.

Until both issues are resolved, the DEP cannot fully assess who suffered from the flood and who is liable, said DEP Deputy Commissioner Vincent Sapienza.

Even though no claims have been looked at yet the DEP is still urging residents who have not filed one to do so immediately.

“There is a 90 day period after the storm to file a claim,” Sapienza said. He added that no matter how long the reports take to process this is the only way residents could possibly receive a compensation check.

Since the flooding occurred the DEP has changed protocol on how to handle large storms that may cause an overflow of the system, Sapienza said. They will now have workers at the facilities, such as the one at Spring Creek, who can override the computerized system and open the flood gates. This allows untreated water to flow into Jamaica Bay, which normally happens when the facility overflows, thus relieving the system.

 

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Fresh Meadows residents, pols worry about sinking street


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


Residents and politicians are complaining about a cracked and sinking street in Fresh Meadows and are calling for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to repair it.

The middle of 179th Street between Union Turnpike and 75th Avenue has sunk a few inches after underground support for the roadway collapsed, which residents have been complaining about since last May.

Local politicians and civic leaders said the issue is getting worse and it creates a problem for pedestrians and drivers. Councilman Rory Lancman and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic will hold a press conference Monday to rally the DEP to fix it.

“DEP needs to figure out what’s going on in a timely matter, and homeowners shouldn’t be penalized,” Rozic said. “The DEP needs to take responsibility.”

Cars driving on the street avoid the noticeable dip in the road and vehicles are parked at a slanted angle, the Courier observed during a recent trip to the site.

The city agency has examined the collapse and found that its sewer line underneath the road is not the problem, but it may be a leak from a resident’s private sewer line that caused the issue, Community Board 8 District Manager Marie Adam-Ovide said at a recent meeting. The DEP is currently trying to find the source of the problem.

“DEP has not identified any issues with the city’s water or sewer infrastructure and we have also investigated a number of private water and sewer service lines,” a spokesperson for the agency said. “There are also a number of private lines we have not been able to gain access to. Once we identify the source of the cave-in we will ensure repairs are made and the street is repaired.”

The DEP has made quick fixes to the sinking street in the past, but residents are upset that they have had to deal with the problem for so long. During the press conference elected officials are expected to urge the DEP to find a long-term solution.

“We want things to happen sooner [rather] than later, and it took a long time for it to [get] to this point,” Adam-Ovide said.

 

 

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New city guide to flood preparedness released


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

ERIC JANKIEWICZ

Homeowners in New York City can now turn to a new source on how to protect their homes against Sandy-like storms. The city’s Department of Environmental Protection released a new guide Tuesday to help homeowners protect their properties and valuables against flooding from heavy rainfall and sewer backups.

In the department’s three-page guide, “Homeowner’s Guide to Flood Preparedness,” homeowners can find information about flooding problems and tips on prevention. While the illustrated guide provides many useful tips for homeowners, it wouldn’t help with extreme flooding that many communities in the city were hit by during Superstorm Sandy.

The guide can be found on the city’s website, www.nyc.gov.

Some of the issues addressed in the guide are installing check valves to prevent sewer backup, using barriers to block water from flowing into low-lying driveways and installing proper roof drainages.

“One of the consequences we are already seeing from climate change is an increase in the frequency and intensity of rain events that can result in flash flooding in low-lying areas of New York City,” the department’s Commissioner Emily Lloyd said in a statement. “However, there are steps homeowners can take that will help prevent flooding and this new guide is full of important information that will help New Yorkers protect their properties.”

The new flood preparedness guide was rolled out Monday at a meeting of nearly 300 members of the Empowered Queens United in Action and Leadership (EQUAL) organization at St. Catherine of Sienna Catholic Church in Saint Albans. The organization is made up of congregations located in southeast Queens, Sunnyside and Woodside. It was formed to empower community members to get directly involved in efforts to improve the quality of life in their communities.

 

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NYC DEP proposes lowest water rate increase in 9 years


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BathroomFaucetH1001_X_th_B

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is proposing a 3.35 percent water rate increase, the lowest hike in nine years.

The “reduction was achieved through internal cost-cutting measures and by redirecting part of the excess rental payment that had been adding to ratepayers’ bills,” according the DEP.

Photo courtesy of DEP

The DEP also said Wednesday that for the first time it is recommending freezing the minimum charge for customers that use fewer than 100 gallons per day. The charge would be $1.27 per day.

“By cutting costs, refinancing higher interest debt, and reducing the rental payment, we are able to deliver the lowest rate increase in nearly a decade, and the 25 percent of single family homeowners who use the least water will not receive any increase at all,” said DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd.

For the average customer, the new water rate would mean that a typical single-family homeowner will see an increase from $992 a year to $1,025 a year for water and sewer bills (based on an average consumption of 80,000 gallons of water per year), according to the DEP.

Following the proposal and public hearing, the New York City Water Board is responsible for establishing the rate.

The board has scheduled a public hearing in Queens for Tuesday, May 20 at 7:00 p.m at the Bayswater Jewish Center, 23-55 Healy Ave., Far Rockaway.

 

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Astoria Park gets new trees for green-friendly Five Boro Bike Tour


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

More than 30,000 bicyclists will pedal into a greener Astoria Park this May.

Volunteers from nonprofits Bike New York, the New York Restoration Project and other organizations, as well as local and city officials came together on Earth Day to plant 64 trees at the park, which will be one of the major rest areas for the 37th TD Five Boro Bike Tour.

“It’s our way of giving back to the environment and to the park,” said Beth Heyde, senior events manager for Bike NY.

Out of the 64 trees, which included 12 different species, 20 were placed Tuesday on the route bicyclists have taken throughout the park for years during the bike tour.

“It feels so good to give back to this park that has been giving us so much for 37 years,” said Kenneth J. Podziba, president and CEO of Bike New York, who was born in Howard Beach. “We love Astoria Park so much, we love Queens so much.”

The Five Boro Bike Tour is scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 4, and begin in Lower Manhattan.

This year Bike NY’s bike tour, which allows 32,000 cyclists to wheel through all five boroughs on streets free of traffic, will be the city’s first sporting event and the nation’s second cycling event to be certified as sustainable by the Council for Responsible Sport after making the tour environmentally green.

The nonprofit has partnered with the city’s Department of Environmental Protection to provide riders with fresh city drinking water, eliminating the use of plastic bottles during the bike tour. Riders will also receive a kit that includes a compostable bike ID plate, recyclable bibs and a reusable helmet cover.

“Today is the first step in the right direction,” Podziba said during the April 22 tree planting. “We’re improving Astoria Park. We don’t just want it to be one year; we want to do this every year.”

 

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Newtown Creek sludge project nearing completion


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Jeff Stone

JEFF STONE

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is celebrating the end of a month-long project in Newtown Creek that, if successful, will eventually make the water running through Ridgewood, Maspeth and Greenpoint much more inviting.

DEP crews have been traveling through the contaminated creek since the end of March, cleaning up silt, industrial waste and untreated sewage overflow that has been left largely undisturbed since the 1970s. The project, which is expected to be fully complete by no later than the end of April, aims to make Newtown Creek passable for a new fleet of DEP sludge vessels that will transport wastewater from elsewhere in the city to a new facility deeper inland.

Sludge vessels can be seen six days a week traveling through the East and Hudson Rivers, transporting sludge (semi-solid material leftover from industrial wastewater or sewage treatment) to decontamination facilities. Those facilities then extract any harmful materials and dump the clean water back into rivers around the metro area.

Yet, despite its status as one of the most contaminated bodies of water in the city, Newtown Creek is not currently equipped with its own dewatering plant. Sludge from the area is transported through a pipeline under the East River to a wastewater treatment plant in Greenpoint. City officials hope to soon use that valuable Brooklyn real estate for affordable housing and a new park, but the first step in removing the treatment facility is cleaning Newtown Creek.

Step one, for the most part, is finished. Environmental officials said that barges will be taking their final trips through the area using sonar technology to ensure that a new fleet of sludge vessels will be able to travel through without incident.

“Most likely there will be a few spots where they have to touch up and lay a fresh layer of sand down,” a DEP representative said Friday. “The barge and dredge machinery will be on Newtown Creek for at least another week or so, but the majority of the work will be completed by this weekend.”

Before the project began last month, DEP officials and nearby residents were concerned that the stirred-up silt bed would omit a smell of rotten eggs into the spring air. The very notion was enough to prompt a flurry of social media activity from Queens and Brooklyn residents alike. None of the dire predictions came to pass, though, thanks to the crews’ round-the-clock reliance on air and water quality monitors.

“The fact that there’ve been two complaints and all of our monitoring indicates that we’re well within our acceptable limits, everything has gone smoothly,” the spokesman said.

Work at Newtown Creek is a symptom of a citywide effort to equip designated priority areas like Gowanus Canal, Jamaica Bay, Flushing Bay and the Bronx River with green infrastructure. The city will spend $2.4 billion over the next 20 years on treating wastewater and rain overflow before it enters New York’s waterways.

 

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Artist behind 5Pointz banner hopes to open dialogue on gentrification


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Andy Kim

A duo of Brooklyn artists hope their recent stop in Long Island City will help open the door to a solution.

Artists gilf! and BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) collaborated on Sunday to put a large yellow caution tape, about 3 feet wide and a few hundred feet long, around the Jackson Avenue side of the building which was once home to 5Pointz, with the words “Gentrification in Progress.”

Gilf!, who just goes by her artist name, said it was sad to see the 5Pointz group fight for so long to keep the graffiti mecca alive and in the end just watch it be whitewashed. She believes small businesses are what bring character to New York City, and she has been speaking out against gentrification for a while.

The artist said she had been speaking with BAMN about wanting to create a piece for 5Pointz and following another one of her shows against gentrification, the duo made it to Long Island City.

“I hope people will talk about what gentrification means to them and if it’s something that affects them. And if it is, what are they willing to do about it,” gilf! said. “I use my art to facilitate the dialogue that I think is important or is being swept under the rug.”

She also said she hopes the piece, which was taken down about 36 hours later, will open a door for discussion and bring different people together to come up with an answer.

“If anywhere in the world is going to come up with a solution for this, it’s going to be New York,” she said.

After a long fight to save 5Pointz, years of art was erased overnight last year. The owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, the Wolkoff family, ordered the action to be taken in November. Rallies were held throughout that same month to save the site, including a gathering only three days before the whitewashing, requesting the building, with its art, be landmarked.

Since the whitewashing, the demolition process has slowly begun, with signs of asbestos removal crews at the location.

Although residents have called the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and 3-1-1 with complaints, a DEP spokesperson said that all work being done is in compliance with regulations.

Asbestos abatement is taking place on the side located at 45-50 Davis St. by contractors hired by the buildings’ owners. DEP inspectors issued one stop work order, for less than 24 hours, after an inspection on March 2, for minor corrections, said the spokesperson. The issues were corrected and the order was lifted the following day.

Since then, DEP inspectors have gone and supervised the work being done, as a normal procedure.

“We have been there a few times because we keep receiving complaints about it,” the DEP spokesperson said. “But everything has been in compliance there.”

 

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South-eastern Queens to get more sewers to alleviate flooding


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

FILE PHOTO

South-eastern Queens neighborhoods, which have long suffered from perpetual flooding, may see some immediate relief after the city announced it would work quickly to create new storm sewers and upgrade catch basements.

A multi-year, $6 billion sewer-upgrade plan to manage the area’s flooding was announced earlier this year, but the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has initiated smaller, targeted projects to control the issues in the interim, including new storm sewers and catch basin upgrades.

“I am very much looking forward to these essential improvements,” said City Councilmember Donovan Richards. “For far too long, large sections of southeast Queens have had to deal with sub-par sewer systems and I eagerly await the relief these new initiatives will bring.”

Storm sewers and 14 new catch basins were installed on 111th Avenue between 155th and 158th Streets and 113th Avenue between 156th and 157th Streets in South Jamaica. There are currently a number of other flood-prone locations under consideration for similar upgrades, according to the DEP, which will be approved in 2014.

These targeted sites are being chosen based on input from elected officials, community groups and 311 flood reports.

“Ground water and flooding issues within southeast Queens cannot be resolved without total cooperation from all involved and we must stay vigilant to ensure the funding continues,” said City Councilmember Leroy Comrie.

More than $383 million have been used over the last ten years to continue to extend the area’s sewer system and the DEP has allocated an additional $380 million for the next ten years.

 

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Sewage project could impact South Ozone Park traffic


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the DEP

Jamaica Bay is getting a clean-up, but it will require years of work.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) proposed to spread a citywide project to South Ozone Park next August to prevent untreated sewage from ultimately making its way into the bay.

Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) result from the combination of this domestic sewage and industrial wastewaters with storm water. The project, once completed, will monitor this, and consists of adding higher level sewer separation, wet weather stabilization, drainage basins and more in the event of a future storm.

Currently, plans are in preliminary stages. There will be period for public comment, and the DEP is working with the DOT on road closure potentials.

According to proposal plans, once construction begins, 126th Street between South Conduit Avenue and 150th Avenue will be closed for one year, as will the 150th Avenue westbound lane.

Additionally, the Belt Parkway’s on-ramp near 150th Avenue will be closed for 22 months, and one eastbound lane will be closed for one year during nighttime DOT work hours.

North Conduit Avenue near 150th Avenue will also experience various lane closures for up to two years. A traffic analysis concluded that the left lane can be closed for two months, and the second lane closed at night for two, one-month periods.

The green space between the Belt Parkway and North Conduit Avenue will be closed for two years.

There are also additional flagging areas for trucks, and temporary, short-term closures for truck unloading.

“You do not make an omelet without breaking a few eggs,” said Betty Braton, Community Board 10 Chair. “There are roadway concerns, there will be traffic issues. It’s a lengthy project and they’re trying to do it within a compressed time frame.”

Construction is projected to end by February 2017, and will reduce the volume of CSOs to Jamaica Bay basins by 24 percent.

Despite a busy construction scene, Braton said the benefit in the long-term will be a clean Jamaica Bay after any future storm.

 

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DEP fixing pipe that led to flooding in Howard Beach


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo via Facebook

A flood-prone intersection in Howard Beach will finally see relief. Cross Bay Boulevard and 165th Avenue was long the site of collected storm water, creating a potentially dangerous situation for patrons at nearby Russo’s on the Bay.

“It wasn’t safe,” said Frank Russo, the catering hall’s owner. “In the winter time, that section would ice over. Other times, it was a puddle of water. It actually went over the sidewalk.”

Crews from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) were performing regular cleaning of the neighborhood sewer system when they found the pipe that connects the intersection’s catch basin to the sewer line was broken, according to a spokesperson.

They could not determine for how long the pipe had been broken. Repairs are currently underway and will be completed this week.

“There definitely was an issue there,” Russo said, adding that local elected officials helped push the project. “But they’re fixing the problem.”

 

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Community concerned with city’s solution to deal with sewer overflow


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Department of Environmental Protection

Middle Village resident Pat Kannengieser is worried the city’s new solution to reduce sewer overflow will become her problem.

As part of its Green Infrastructure plan, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is getting ready to install hundreds of “right-of-way bioswales,” sidewalk gardens built to absorb storm water.

Kannengieser was told two bioswales will be built on the sidewalk in front of her house on 61st Road. She is afraid she will be left to maintain them and that she will not be able to park there.

“These are nice things, but they are not practical everywhere in the state of New York,” Kannengieser said. “The parking in our area is so pathetic.”

Bioswales consist of a city tree, flowers and plants on top of five feet of soil specially engineered to absorb water naturally. By sucking in rainwater, they help keep the sewers from overflowing.

Currently, 72 percent of storm water goes unabsorbed in the concrete jungle that is New York. It goes straight into the sewer system via catch basins in the streets and travels to 14 treatment plants around the city.

The plants can handle about 2.5 billion gallons of water a day, but during heavier storms such as Sandy, the water can pass that limit. The result is untreated discharge in people’s homes and in bodies of water around the city.

The Green Infrastructure plan was passed in 2010, with $2.4 billion dedicated to natural solutions to beautify and clean waterways. Those solutions include the bioswales.

“Bioswales are an important part of our growing network of green infrastructure that will absorb storm water naturally and improve the health and cleanliness of our local waterways,” a DEP spokesperson said.

There are about 100 bioswales around the city already and agency expects to set up 500 by the end of the year and thousands more over the next few years, the official said.

The DEP formed a partnership with the Parks Department and the Department of Transportation to erect the gardens.

To respond to Kannengieser and other residents’ concerns, the DEP will fund special crews in the parks department which will maintain each site regularly by cutting trees and picking up garbage.

The agency said the bioswales will not reduce parking spots, since they are on the sidewalk, and a chunk of every curb will remain so drivers that park in front of a bioswale can get out of their cars.

 

“They have to do it correctly, where it’s going to have the least negative impact,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board (CB) 5. “It’s important that they do a good job to maintain the bioswales and not put another burden on the property owner.”

The first sets of bioswales were implanted in Brooklyn near the Gowanus Canal early last year, but residents there are thrilled with the gardens.

“When it comes to the DEP bioswales, our biggest problem is that we don’t have enough of them,” said Brooklyn CB 6 district manager Craig Hammerman. “No complaints, only envious squeals.”

Giordano said DEP representatives will make a presentation on the bioswales at CB 5’s next public meeting on September 18.

FAQ-Green Infrastructure Plan

DEP ROWB Renderings_Final 1

 

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