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58   WATERWAYS
A GREENER, GREATER NEW YORK PLANYC
59
                                     Credit: NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation
 Together we can
 Continue implementing grey infrastructure
 upgrades
 Use green infrastructure to manage stormwater
 Remove industrial pollution from waterways
 Protect and restore wetlands, aquatic
 systems, and ecological habitat




60   WATERWAYS
We turned our backs on many of our waterways
over a hundred years ago, hid them behind           Few people realize that the Atlantic delivers
buildings and highways, and then for too long       impressive swells to New York City during
poisoned and choked them. Now, once again,          hurricane season, a time when some gorgeous
we are embracing them and remembering that          surfing can be observed on the gritty shores of
they were the city’s founding asset and great       Far Rock. As a mother of two, what draws me into
glory. The reason we’re all gathered here at this   the sea is not the thrill but the joy and serenity
particular spot on the North American coast is      I feel catching waves under the rising sun before
because the water pulled us here.                   most people in the city have even risen from bed.
Tony Hiss // Manhattan                              Jungwon Kim // Brooklyn




                                                    Not only does capturing stormwater prevent our
                                                    harbors from becoming polluted, but it becomes
I live and work around the Bronx River, and I’ve    a precious resource for greening the spaces
been learning how to use the river for              where we live. I painted a mural in Cypress Hills,
education and for recreation. We’ve worked          where captured stormwater sustains community
hard to have this place revitalized and             gardens. These gardens provide better air for
everything I do is basically centered on the        our children to breathe and healthy, local food
community and the river.                            for our communities to eat.
Andre Rivera // Bronx                               Katie Yamasaki // Brooklyn



                                                                                 A GREENER, GREATER NEW YORK PLANYC   61
                              Waterways
               Improve the    Water surrounds New York City, and the story of
                              our harbor in many ways reflects the history of
                                                                                     A lot has changed since then. Throughout the
                                                                                     20th century, the City built 14 plants that today
             quality of our   our city. The Hudson, East, Harlem, and Bronx
                              Rivers, Jamaica Bay, and the Upper and Lower
                                                                                     are capable of treating 100% of the 1.1 billion
                                                                                     gallons of sanitary waste that New Yorkers
                waterways     New York Bays have physically defined the city         generate every day in dry weather. The City’s
                              and supported trade, industry, diverse ecologi-        efforts were helped by landmark federal legis-
                to increase   cal communities, and recreation. Our water-            lation that included the 1972 Clean Water Act,

          opportunities for   ways, as much as any other element of the city,
                              distinguish our people and neighborhoods.
                                                                                     which for the first time established pollution
                                                                                     discharge standards and made grants available
            recreation and    When Henry Hudson arrived over 400 years ago
                                                                                     to meet them. The City’s efforts have continued
                                                                                     even after federal grants ended in the 1990s.
           restore coastal    in what is now New York City, he encountered a
                              land filled with forests, wetlands, and an abun-
                                                                                     We have invested more than $6 billion in harbor
                                                                                     water quality improvements since 2002 alone.
              ecosystems      dance of nature. During storms, this undevel-
                              oped land naturally filtered rainwater into pris-      In 2011, we are poised to certify system-wide
                              tine waterways teeming with aquatic life.              attainment of Clean Water Act secondary
                                                                                     wastewater treatment standards for the first
                              New York City’s transformation into a global           time ever. And water quality in New York Harbor
                              center of industry and commerce dramatically           is cleaner now than at any time in the last cen-
                              and irrevocably altered this natural environ-          tury. Over 130 square miles, or 95%, of New
                              ment. People drained coastal marshes, ponds,           York Harbor is available for boating. New York-
                              and streams to make room for development.              ers also have access to swimmable waters adja-
                              After a series of cholera outbreaks in the 1840s,      cent to the city’s 14 miles of public beaches in
                              city leaders invested in sewers to remove              the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.
                              sanitary sewage and discharge it directly into         More than 116 square miles, or 75%, of the New
                              waterways. Their vision proved to be a wise            York side of the harbor meets pathogen stan-
                              expenditure, and by the late 1860s, the threat         dards for swimming.
                              of cholera from wastewater in the streets sub-
                              sided. Nonetheless, the quality of our water-          Despite these major improvements, we con-
                              ways became progressively worse. Eventually,           tinue to face four primary challenges to the
                              wastewater treatment plants were built near            quality of our waterways. First, while our
                              bathing beaches, but construction didn’t keep          wastewater treatment plants can handle all
                              up with need in every waterway.                        of the volume the city generates on a dry day,
                                                                                     the treated water released from our plants still
                              Industrialization also degraded our waterways.         contains comparatively high levels of nutrients,
                              Wetlands were filled, and many waterways were          such as nitrogen. These don’t pose a public
                              deepened and their edges hardened with bulk-           health risk, but they can impair water quality
                              heads and piers to support navigation and man-         by depleting the dissolved oxygen that fish and
                              ufacturing. Oil refineries, factories, and shipyards   other aquatic life need to survive.
                              clustered along our tributaries, and their waste
                              products were often dumped into the water.             Second, the majority of our sewer system
                              While manufacturing declined after World War II,       accepts both sanitary and stormwater flows.
                              the health of the waterfront continued to suffer.      There are design limits on the amount of storm-
                              For decades, stretches of waterfront sat largely       water flows the plants can handle without
                              abandoned while historic pollution seeped              threatening the effectiveness of the wastewa-
                              deeper into the soils and surrounding waters.          ter treatment process. To protect treatment




62   WATERWAYS
plants, the system has safety valves, known as
combined sewer outfalls. Similarly, combined
sewer outfalls are necessary in some locations
because of limited capacity in the sewer system
itself. These discharge excess sanitary and
stormwater flow—otherwise known as Com-
bined Sewer Overflows (CSOs)—into the city’s
surrounding waterways during heavy rains.

While CSOs are the largest source of pollu-
tion entering our waterways, the number and
potency of these events has dropped dramati-
cally over the last 30 years, limiting water qual-
ity impairments to our smaller tributaries. Since
1980, we have increased our rate of CSO cap-
ture from 30% to over 72%. The portion com-
posed of sewage has continued to decrease
from 30% by volume in the 1980s to 12% in
2010. However, we still discharge an estimated
30 billion gallons of CSOs each year.

Third, some of our waterways are severely
impaired by contaminated sediments that leach
pollutants deposited decades ago. These legacy
contaminants continue to degrade coastal
ecosystems that never fully recovered from
the levels of pollution and development that
occurred during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Fourth, we also face challenges to our remain-
ing natural areas within our waterways. The
construction of bulkheads and hardened shore-        Our plan for waterways:
lines and the dredging of channels have signifi-
cantly altered tidal wetlands, aquatic habitats,     Continue implementing grey infrastructure upgrades
and hydrology. For the Hudson-Raritan Estuary         1 Upgrade wastewater treatment plants to achieve secondary treatment standards
as a whole, including New York City, only 14          2 Upgrade treatment plants to reduce nitrogen discharges
square miles of coastal wetlands remain from
an estimated 100 square miles when Henry
                                                      3 Complete cost-effective grey infrastructure projects to reduce CSOs and
Hudson arrived 400 years ago. We must protect
                                                        improve water quality
remaining wetlands and restore them where             4 Expand the sewer network
they can make the greatest long-term contri-          5 Optimize the existing sewer system
bution to water quality and the ecosystems
necessary for the harbor to thrive.                  Use green infrastructure to manage stormwater
As a harbor city, the waterways that surround         6 Expand the Bluebelt program
and adjoin the five boroughs are among our            7 Build public green infrastructure projects
greatest assets. Improving the quality of our         8 Engage and enlist communities in sustainable stormwater management
waterways will enhance the quality of life for
New Yorkers. Cleaner waterways will provide           9 Modify codes to increase the capture of stormwater
additional recreational opportunities and sup-       10 Provide incentives for green infrastructure
port the public access provided by our water-
front parks. Removing pollution from contami-        Remove industrial pollution from waterways
nated waterways will benefit local ecosystems        11 Actively participate in waterway clean-up efforts
and provide economic opportunities for sur-
rounding neighborhoods. A healthy harbor will        Protect and restore wetlands, aquatic systems, and ecological habitat
provide benefits not just for the people enjoy-
ing nature, but also for the other species that
                                                     12 Enhance wetlands protection
call this region home.                               13 Restore and create wetlands
                                                     14 Improve wetlands mitigation
                                                     15 Improve habitat for aquatic species




                                                                                                       A GREENER, GREATER NEW YORK PLANYC   63
Our Plan
We are one of the world’s great waterfront
cities—a series of islands and archipelagos,




                                                                                                                                                       Credit: NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection
with 520 miles of waterfront. But we have yet
to fully realize the promise of our waterways as
a source of recreation and inspiration. To fulfill
this potential, we must improve the cleanliness
of the water itself.

That is why we will upgrade our wastewater
treatment plants. We will increase their capac-
ity and improve the quality of the water they
discharge. We will ensure that all 14 of the          Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant
City’s wastewater treatment plants will meet
monthly secondary treatment standards for the
first time since the standards were established
in 1972. We will also cut nitrogen discharges
                                                     Continue implementing grey                            To further improve water quality, we are in the
                                                                                                           midst of a $5 billion upgrade to the Newtown
into Jamaica Bay, the East River, and Long Island    infrastructure upgrades                               Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. This mas-
Sound by 50% by 2020 in order to minimize neg-                                                             sive upgrade will increase treatment capacity
ative effects on aquatic ecosystems.                 The NYC Green Infrastructure Plan includes a          from 620 million gallons per day (mgd) to 700
                                                     hybrid of green and grey approaches, and we will      mgd for a plant that serves approximately one
We will make cost-effective “grey infrastruc-        continue to implement those grey infrastructure       million residents within a 15,000 acre drainage
ture” investments such as upgrading and con-         upgrades that are underway and are cost-effec-        area. In 2011, we will certify that the Newtown
structing new detention facilities and pumping       tive. We will complete the expansion and modern-      Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant—the larg-
stations. These traditional strategies will reduce   ization of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treat-        est of our plants—meets the effluent discharge
the impact of CSOs around some of our more           ment Plant and upgrade other plants to decrease       requirements of the Clean Water Act. Once the
polluted waterways, but they alone will not suf-     nitrogen discharges into sensitive natural areas.     certification process is complete, it will be the
ficiently raise the quality of our waterways to      We will construct cost-effective holding facilities   first time that all 14 of the City’s wastewater
desired levels. We will address the root cause       for CSOs and upgrade other grey infrastructure        treatment plants meet secondary treatment
of CSOs by making a transformative investment        to improve water quality in our tributaries. We       standards since they were established in 1972.
in green infrastructure that captures or detains     will also maintain and upgrade our sewer system
stormwater before it can enter and overwhelm         to support existing communities, accommo-
the sewer system.                                    date new growth, and reduce pollution. We have        INITIATIVE 2
                                                     embarked on a massive investment program to
In 2010, we launched the NYC Green Infra-                                                                  Upgrade treatment plants to reduce
                                                     enhance the quality of our waters and assure the
structure Plan. It will supplement traditional       health of our residents.                              nitrogen discharges
approaches with a $1.5 billion, 20-year effort
to improve water quality by making the city                                                                Although not harmful to humans, high levels of
greener and more permeable. This invest-             INITIATIVE 1                                          nitrogen can impair coastal ecosystems. Nitro-
ment, combined with targeted cost-effective                                                                gen can cause algae blooms that rapidly deprive
                                                     Upgrade wastewater treatment                          the water of oxygen under certain environmen-
grey infrastructure, will reduce CSOs by 40%. It
will save ratepayers more than $2 billion if the     plants to achieve secondary                           tal conditions, typically in late summer.
plan is implemented rather than an all-grey          treatment standards
approach. Green infrastructure will not only                                                               We will complete $770 million worth of upgrades
improve the quality of our waterways. It will        Treating more than a billion gallons of wastewater    at the Bowery Bay, Tallman Island, and Wards
also clean the air, lower energy demand, reduce      a day is an enormous undertaking. Our massive         Island wastewater treatment plants to reduce
carbon emissions, increase species habitat and       wastewater treatment plants—which New York            nitrogen discharges into the East River by more
property values, and reduce the city’s vulner-       City pioneered in the early 20th century—are          than 50%. We will also reduce the nitrogen dis-
ability to the impacts of climate change.            equipped to handle twice the volume of flow that      charged into Jamaica Bay by nearly 50% over the
                                                     would occur on a normal day of dry weather.           next 10 years. In February 2010, we reached an
We must also address contaminants that have                                                                agreement with the New York State Department
lingered for decades. By working with our fed-       For the last 40 years, the City has increased its     of Environmental Conservation (State DEC),
eral and state partners, we will ensure that our     wastewater treatment capacity and enhanced            the Natural Resources Defense Council, and
most contaminated tributaries are cleaned up.        the level of pathogens that are removed through       other environmental groups under which we
Similar partnerships will help us support eco-       the treatment process. The substantial improve-       will dedicate $100 million to install new nitro-
system protection and restoration efforts.           ment in the quality of effluent, or the water that    gen control technologies at certain wastewater
                                                     leaves these plants, is one of the main reasons       treatment plants in Jamaica Bay and another
Through the initiatives outlined below, we           that the water within the harbor is cleaner than      $15 million for marshland restoration proj-
will improve the quality of our waterways and        at any other point over the past 100 years.           ects. These investments, made in concert with
create a healthier habitat for fish and wildlife.                                                          $95 million the City has already committed for
Our efforts will help to ensure that we can more
fully enjoy the waters that surround us.



64     WATERWAYS
                                                                                                                                                      CASE STUDY
                                                                                                                                                      Nitrogen
                                                                                                                                                      The quality of some of our waterways can be
                                                                                                                                                      affected by nitrogen that enters our waterways




                                                                                                      Credit: NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection
                                                                                                                                                      through discharges from wastewater treatment
                                                                                                                                                      plants and other sources such as stormwater
                                                                                                                                                      runoff. Although it poses no threat to human
                                                                                                                                                      health, high levels of nitrogen can deplete
                                                                                                                                                      dissolved oxygen in the water, inhibiting fish
                                                                                                                                                      habitation. Other chemicals such as de-icing
                                                                                                                                                      fluids can have the same effect.
                                                                                                                                                      This effect is a problem in those waterways
 Paerdegat Basin CSO Facility                                                                                                                         where tidal or other natural flushing actions
                                                                                                                                                      have been compromised; nitrogen has been
                                                                                                                                                      identified as one contributor to the recurring
nitrogen control upgrades in Jamaica Bay, will        We will implement other CSO-related grey infra-                                                 water quality problems in jamaica Bay, the
significantly improve the health of one of New        structure projects to improve water quality. We                                                 East River, and Long Island Sound. As part of
York City’s most valuable ecological areas.           will invest $50 million to reactivate the Gowanus                                               our efforts to improve water quality, we have
                                                      Canal Flushing Tunnel. The tunnel was opened                                                    committed to reduce nitrogen discharges into
                                                      nearly 100 years ago, but has not operated at                                                   jamaica Bay and the East River by 50%.
INITIATIVE 3                                          its full capacity since it fell into disrepair in the
Complete cost-effective grey                          1960s. It brings oxygen-rich water from the But-                                                Traditional nitrogen removal processes require
                                                      termilk Channel, which is fed by the East River,                                                large, capital upgrades that are energy intensive
infrastructure projects to reduce                     into the canal to improve overall water quality                                                 and have high operating costs. But there are
CSOs and improve water quality                        and mitigate the effects of CSOs. The existing                                                  new technologies available that can cost-
                                                      single pump will be replaced with three pumps,                                                  effectively remove nitrogen by supplementing
Over the next 20 years, we will invest $2.9 billion   increasing the daily flow of water into the canal                                               existing infrastructure. We will introduce two of
to construct cost-effective grey infrastructure       by 40%. We will also complete an in-water aera-                                                 these technologies, SHARON and ARP, to begin
projects that reduce the amount of untreated          tion system in Newtown Creek and a destratifi-                                                  removing nitrogen from wastewater treatment
water discharged into our waterways. We               cation facility at Shellbank Creek.                                                             plant discharges.
will implement two categories of grey invest-
ments—infrastructure that reduces the volume                                                                                                          The SHARON, or Single Reactor System for High
of CSOs and other projects that improve the                                                                                                           Ammonia Removal Over Nitrate, process uses
                                                      INITIATIVE 4                                                                                    heat to raise bacterial activity to a level where
water quality in waterways impacted by CSOs.
                                                      Expand the sewer network                                                                        nitrogen-rich wastewater can be treated more
In some areas where it is cost-effective, we will                                                                                                     efficiently in a single reactor. Within the reactor,
                                                      To support current residents and future growth,                                                 ammonia oxidizing microorganisms transform
reduce CSO volumes by building large detention
                                                      we will prioritize the extension of sanitary and                                                nitrogen by-products into a gas, which is then
facilities that capture and hold CSOs and pump
                                                      storm sewers to neighborhoods throughout the                                                    trapped and removed from the facility. We
back wastewater to a treatment plant when
                                                      five boroughs that need additional capacity.                                                    have been operating one of the two vessels
storms pass. We recently completed a reha-
bilitation of the 20-million gallon CSO detention                                                                                                     for about a year at the Wards Island Waste-
                                                      On the Rockaway Peninsula, we have spent                                                        water Treatment Plant. Once SHARON is fully
facility at Spring Creek and a new 43-million         almost $55 million to construct separate
gallon facility at Flushing Bay. In 2011, we will                                                                                                     operational it is expected to reduce the nitrogen
                                                      storm sewers since 2002. This investment has                                                    discharge load by 10,000 pounds per day.
complete a 50-million gallon facility at Paerde-      improved water quality and reduced flooding
gat Basin that will capture 1.7 billion gallons of    and sewer backups. We will target Southeast                                                     We will install the Ammonia Removal Process
CSOs per year. This will enable Paerdegat Basin       Queens for separate sewer projects to increase                                                  (ARP) at the 26th Ward Wastewater Treatment
to achieve a greater than 90% attainment of           capacity and reduce street flooding. We will                                                    Plant in jamaica Bay. ARP combines flash
existing dissolved oxygen standards and 100%          also finish key projects on the South Shore and                                                 vacuum distillation with ion exchange to
attainment of existing pathogen standards.            Mid-Island of Staten Island, in Hunts Point in the                                              remove an estimated 90% of nitrogen from
                                                      Bronx, and in the Springfield Gardens, Maspeth-                                                 filtrate streams. When the installation is
Also in 2011, we will complete a 5-million gallon
                                                      Middle Village, and Hunters Point neighbor-                                                     completed by 2014, the ARP technology
CSO facility at Alley Creek in Queens. We will
                                                      hoods in Queens.                                                                                should reduce the plant’s nitrogen load
increase the capacity of the Avenue V Pump-
                                                                                                                                                      by an additional 3,000 pounds per day.
ing Station in Brooklyn from 20 mgd to 30 mgd.        We will also invest in High Level Storm Sewers
This will help reduce CSOs and increase oxygen        (HLSS) to keep water out of our combined sewer                                                  SHARON and ARP are good examples of how new
levels in Coney Island Creek. We will increase the    system. HLSS partially separate the flow in com-                                                technologies are making it possible to remove
capacity of the existing Gowanus Canal Pumping        bined sewer areas by capturing 50% of rainfall                                                  nitrogen using less energy and fewer chemicals.
Station from 20 mgd to 30 mgd. Together, these        and diverting it into our waterways through                                                     These technologies will lessen the tradeoff that
grey infrastructure projects will reduce CSOs by      permitted outlets. We will build HLSS in the                                                    has existed between improving the quality
more than 8.2 billion gallons a year.                 Throgs Neck area of the Bronx, the Gowanus                                                      of our waterways and reducing greenhouse
                                                      neighborhood of Brooklyn, and in the Laurelton                                                  gas emissions.
                                                      neighborhood of Queens.


                                                                                                                                                         A GREENER, GREATER NEW YORK PLANYC           65
                                                                        Credit: NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection




                                                                                                                                                                                             Credit: NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection
 City workers cleaning sewers                                                                                           Staten Island Bluebelt



INITIATIVE 5                                         Built-up sediment and debris within portions                                                Green infrastructure improves the quality of
                                                     of our sewer system are of similar concern.                                                 waterways by using vegetation and other fea-
Optimize the existing sewer system
                                                     138 miles of large intercepting sewers con-                                                 tures on buildings, roads, and parks to absorb
Building new sewers that separate stormwater         nect the system to the wastewater treatment                                                 and retain stormwater. By considering all sur-
from wastewater is an effective, but expensive       plants. For our system to operate at full capac-                                            faces of our environment as opportunities to
solution to CSOs. The most cost-effective way        ity, these interceptor sewers must be clear of                                              enhance drainage, we can reduce the amount
to reduce CSOs is to optimize the existing sewer     any blockages or potentially damaging debris.                                               of stormwater runoff that reaches our sewers
network. In the large areas of the city where        In spring 2010, we launched an effort to clean                                              immediately after a rainfall. Our use of green
the combined sewer system is well-established,       the entire interceptor sewer network within two                                             infrastructure to manage stormwater is part of
we will optimize the sewer system by repair-         years, beginning with the neighborhoods with                                                a comprehensive approach to a complicated
ing catch basins, fixing tide gates, and cleaning    the most severe flooding issues. We are also                                                problem. The benefits will be immediate and
interceptor sewers.                                  using sonar and video surveys to catalogue the                                              come at a lower cost.
                                                     extent and location of sediment and impacted
Catch basins help control flooding from heavy        areas. We will establish a permanent program
rains. When built with special hoods, they pre-      to maintain the maximum capacity of this vital                                              INITIATIVE 6
vent street debris from reaching our sewers.         infrastructure once the initial cleaning and reha-                                          Expand the Bluebelt program
Our 144,000 catch basins are an important            bilitation is complete.
part of the sewer system that prevents block-                                                                                                    Using green infrastructure to manage storm-
ages and keeps trash off our beaches. We have                                                                                                    water is not a new concept for New York City.
established a system to prioritize repairs by risk   Use green infrastructure to                                                                 In fact, since the early 1990s we have relied
and set targets for catch basin repair time. More                                                                                                upon wetlands and natural areas in our Bluebelt
than 2,350 catch basins are in need of repair. By    manage stormwater                                                                           system in Staten Island to absorb stormwater
2014, we will inspect all catch basins and seek                                                                                                  runoff, thereby eliminating the need for costly
                                                     Trying to reduce CSOs entirely with traditional
to substantially eliminate the repair backlog.                                                                                                   storm sewer systems. Using natural systems in
                                                     grey infrastructure would be very expensive.
                                                                                                                                                 place of traditional sewers has saved taxpayers
The tide gates that cover CSO discharge points       Nor would it maximize the water quality gains
                                                                                                                                                 $80 million in infrastructure costs, raised prop-
are also in need of repair. Damaged tide gates       we can make with public funding. Therefore,
                                                                                                                                                 erty values, and restored damaged habitats.
allow wastewater to leak out and corrosive salt      we will shift some of our investment dollars
                                                                                                                                                 The Bluebelt system is a successful model of a
water to leak in. To combat this problem, we         to a more sustainable approach that not only
                                                                                                                                                 cost-effective sustainable stormwater manage-
will continue to implement a tide gate reha-         improves the quality of our waterways, but also
                                                                                                                                                 ment strategy that provides multiple benefits in
bilitation survey that inspects 25 tide gates per    provides multiple additional benefits.
                                                                                                                                                 addition to improving water quality.
month. We will make repairs as needed in order
to ensure maximum CSO storage and treatment
plant productivity.


66       WATERWAYS
                                                                                                            Building on the Sustainable Stormwater Man-
                                                                                                            agement Plan, we released the NYC Green Infra-
                                                                                                            structure Plan in 2010. The plan provides an
                                                                                                            implementation strategy for launching a source
                                                                                                            control program. We committed $187 million in
                                                                                                            fiscal years 2012 through 2015 to immediately
                                                                                                            begin implementing the plan. At the same time,
                                                                                                            we are seeking approval from the State DEC
                                                                                                            and the United States Environmental Protec-
                                                                                                            tion Agency (EPA) to modify existing regulatory
                                                                                                            agreements necessary to fully implement the
                                                                                                            plan. We are working with the State DEC to inte-
                                                                                                            grate green infrastructure into the current CSO
                                                                                                            program and in the Long-Term Control Plans
                                                                                                            that will be completed for 13 waterbodies by
                                                                                                            2017. Each Long-Term Control Plan will under-
                                                                                                            take a detailed examination of the level of green
                                                                                                            infrastructure investment necessary to meet
                                                                                                            water quality standards.

                                                                                                            To implement sustainable stormwater source
                                                                                                            controls across the city, we will work through an
                                                                                                            interagency Green Infrastructure Task Force. We
                                                                                                            will exploit opportunities provided by planned
                                                                                                            public infrastructure projects. We will develop
                                                                                                            approved specifications for source controls in
                                                                                                            commonly-used applications. We will streamline
                                                                                                            design and permitting processes for the incor-
The Bluebelt system is composed of streams,            of source controls throughout our built environ-     poration of source controls in public projects.
ponds, and wetland areas that treat and detain         ment, we will capture rainwater before it enters
stormwater prior to its release into the harbor. It    our over-burdened sewer system.                      We are prepared to spend $1.5 billion on green
provides effective stormwater management for                                                                infrastructure over the next 20 years. This
more than 14,000 acres of Staten Island, or about      In 2008, the City undertook a comprehensive          investment, combined with cost-effective grey
one-third of its total land area. In effect, we have   study of the costs and benefits of adopting city-    infrastructure investments, will reduce CSOs by
reshaped the natural environment to filter drain-      wide source control scenarios in the streets,        40%. Through these investments, we will cap-
age from buildings, lots, and streets, instead of      sidewalks, private and public buildings, and         ture the first inch of rainfall on 10% of impervi-
constructing sewers through which this runoff          parks. The result was a Sustainable Stormwa-         ous surfaces within combined sewer areas. The
would be sent to surrounding waterways.                ter Management Plan that was the first in the        budget includes funding for maintenance and
                                                       country to analyze the location and feasibility      operations to ensure that green infrastructure
This same strategy can be applied in other             of source controls in a dense, ultra-urban envi-     continuously performs as designed. Implement-
lower-density areas with key natural features.         ronment on a citywide basis. The plan included       ing the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan, rather
In Staten Island, we will expand the Mid-Island        a rigorous analysis of capital and maintenance       than an all-grey approach, will save New Yorkers
Bluebelt to Oakwood Beach, New Creek, and              costs and potential benefits of widespread           more than $2 billion.
South Beach. We will also expand the use of            source controls. It concluded that many would
this approach in parts of Queens and other             be just as effective as traditional CSO controls,
boroughs where it is cost-effective and there is       for a fraction of the cost.                          INITIATIVE 8
sufficient space.                                                                                           Engage and enlist communities
                                                       One major initiative of the Sustainable Storm-
                                                       water Management Plan was to implement 30            in sustainable stormwater
INITIATIVE 7                                           pilot projects that would test promising source      management
                                                       control technologies in New York City. There
Build public green infrastructure                                                                           Incorporating green infrastructure within neigh-
                                                       are several demonstration projects underway.
projects                                               Swales and stormwater-capturing tree pits            borhoods is best accomplished by working with
                                                       allow water to pool in underground holding           the people who live there. Because of differences
New York City experiences a tremendous volume          areas until it can dissipate. Blue roofs slow roof   in soils, slopes, and adjacent land uses, solutions
of runoff from rooftops, streets, and other imper-     water from draining too quickly and overwhelm-       in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn may
vious surfaces every time it rains. To address         ing storm sewers. Permeable pavement allows          be different from solutions in the West Village of
the root cause of runoff—impermeable surfac-           water to seep through and be absorbed into the       Manhattan. This creates both the need and the
es—we must design, build, and maintain storm-          ground rather than becoming runoff. By 2013,         opportunity for innovation. Local communities
water source controls, or small installations that     we will complete these pilot projects by collect-    can also provide essential stewardship support
control stormwater where it meets impervious           ing monitoring data and publishing the findings.     for green infrastructure installations.
surfaces. By implementing a distributed system



                                                                                                                    A GREENER, GREATER NEW YORK PLANYC     67
CASE STUDY
Enhanced Tree Pits
Since 2008, we have launched over 30 green
infrastructure pilots ranging from bioswales along
roadways to green roofs on public buildings. These
projects provide specific data on costs, maintenance
needs, and the effectiveness of various forms of




                                                                                                                                                                             Credit: NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection
green infrastructure. This information will help
implement green infrastructure citywide.
Some types of green infrastructure, such as
enhanced tree pits, take familiar elements of our
urban environment and redesign them so that they
are able to capture stormwater. Traditionally, street
trees were planted in heavy soils within confined
pits that restricted root growth and provided limited
soil moisture and oxygen levels. This leads to            Enhanced tree pit in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn
stunted growth, damaged sidewalks, and does little
to capture stormwater runoff. Using enhanced tree
pits will not only improve stormwater management         for conveyance to storm sewer catch basins. These                  closely monitored to measure the storage of storm-
but also improve the health and growth of our            pits also include native plants, subsurface storage,               water and to form the basis of our planning efforts.
street trees.                                            and specially-engineered soil to filter pollutants and             Already, these pilots have been copied in standard
Enhanced tree pits use inlets to capture stormwater      absorb greater quantities of stormwater runoff.                    designs for bioswales and enhanced tree pits that
runoff from the sidewalk and funnel it into the soil                                                                        can be used in most Department of Transportation
                                                         By using enhanced pits, our street trees will grow                 and Department of Design and Construction road
where it can be absorbed by tree roots and infiltrate.   larger, absorb more stormwater, sequester more
The enhanced tree pits are bigger at 100 square feet                                                                        reconstruction projects.
                                                         carbon, and provide more environmental co-benefits.
compared to 25 square feet for a traditional pit. Two    Healthier trees provide a larger cooling effect, ad-
curb cuts allow stormwater to enter the pit from the     ditional habitat, and higher property values. So far,
street and allow overflow to travel back to the street   we have installed five enhanced tree pits that will be




One way of encouraging innovation is by provid-          Plans. Community engagement will ensure that                       To ensure that private investment in source con-
ing grants to local groups to develop and imple-         our investments provide the greatest benefits to                   trols keeps pace with public investments, we
ment green infrastructure projects that are right        both local communities and the city as a whole.                    will tighten existing requirements for stormwa-
for their neighborhoods. In 2009, we awarded                                                                                ter management on all new development and
$2.6 million to five projects through the Flushing                                                                          redevelopment. By further limiting the rate at
and Gowanus Green Infrastructure Grant Initia-           INITIATIVE 9                                                       which stormwater can be released from sites,
tive. This program targets projects in the Flush-        Modify codes to increase the                                       developers and owners will invest in green infra-
ing Bay or Gowanus Canal CSO drainage areas                                                                                 structure and other source controls. Based on
to fund construction of a green roof, vegetated
                                                         capture of stormwater                                              development trends, we estimate that an addi-
swales, bioretention basins, and treatment wet-                                                                             tional $900 million of green infrastructure will
                                                         Modifying design codes is another effective way
lands. In early 2011, we launched a new $3 mil-                                                                             be built over the next 20 years.
                                                         to incorporate sustainable source controls and
lion Green Infrastructure Grant Program to fund
                                                         other forms of stormwater management within                        We will strengthen requirements for captur-
efforts by private property owners, businesses,
                                                         our built environment.                                             ing stormwater from construction sites. Under
and not-for-profit organizations to install storm-
water source controls within combined sewer                                                                                 federal and state regulations, construction
                                                         Since the 2007 release of PlaNYC, we have
drainage areas. We expect to expand the Green                                                                               sites over one acre must reduce the amount of
                                                         made several key changes. Through zoning
Infrastructure Grant Program in coming years.                                                                               stormwater runoff they generate. These rules
                                                         amendments initiated by the Department of
                                                                                                                            have little effect in New York City where most
                                                         City Planning, new commercial parking lots are
Grant programs are just one of the ways we will                                                                             construction sites are well below one acre. To
                                                         now required to include perimeter and interior
partner with local stakeholders to shift to more                                                                            close the gap, we will propose local legislation
                                                         green infrastructure. Buildings in lower density
sustainable stormwater management. We have                                                                                  mandating that smaller construction sites follow
                                                         districts are no longer allowed to pave over their
formed the Green Infrastructure Citizens Group,                                                                             additional requirements to reduce stormwater
                                                         entire front yards. New developments citywide
which is open to the public and headed by the                                                                               runoff. Better stormwater management at con-
                                                         must plant street trees and, in lower density
Green Infrastructure Steering Committee, made                                                                               struction sites will reduce the amount of dirt
                                                         areas, provide sidewalk planting strips.
up of civic organizations, environmental groups,                                                                            and debris that washes into the sewers.
developers, engineers, and design profession-            These measures will allow less stormwater to
als. They will meet regularly to ensure that their                                                                          We will evaluate opportunities to detain storm-
                                                         enter the sewers. They will increase or protect
input factors into future planning and implemen-                                                                            water on rooftops. Blue roofs are one of the
                                                         the amount of permeable surfaces that absorb
tation efforts. In partnership with the State DEC,                                                                          source controls with the greatest potential to
                                                         rainfall and help reduce CSO events and local
we will seek public input into future regulatory                                                                            increase stormwater capture rates at low cost.
                                                         flooding by slowing the rate of runoff. We will
decisions through meetings of these groups and                                                                              Blue roofs, or rooftop detention systems, are a
                                                         build upon these measures by improving storm-
through waterbody-specific advisory groups                                                                                  detention technique whereby a flow restriction
                                                         water management practices on private sites in
leading up to the creation of Long-Term Control          several key ways.



68      WATERWAYS
                                                                                                                                          Citywide Costs of CSO Control Scenarios
                                                                                                                                          2011 – 2031

                                                                                                                                                               GREEN STRATEGY                   GREY STRATEGY

                                                                                                                                              $7                                                     $6.8

                                                                                                                                              $6
                                                                                                                                                                     $5.3
                                                                                                                                                          $0.03
                                                                                                                                              $5                     $0.9                            $3.9




                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Source: NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection
                                                                                          Credit: NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection
                                                                                                                                              $4                                 $2.4
                                                                                                                                                                     $1.5
                                                                                                                                              $3

                                                                                                                                              $2
                                                                                                                                                                     $2.9                            $2.9
                                                                                                                                              $1


                                                                                                                                                   Green Infrastructure Public Investment
                                                                                                                                                   Green Infrastructure Private Investment      Optimize Existing System
 Blue roof pilot project in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn                                                                              Potential Tanks, Tunnels, & Expansions



device around drains holds back water while the                         INITIATIVE 10                                                                                       We will use the results of this pilot to deter-
storm surge passes, and then slowly releases                                                                                                                                mine whether and to what extent a stormwater
                                                                        Provide incentives for green
the water out to the sewers. We have success-                                                                                                                               charge could be applied more broadly through-
fully built blue roofs on new schools throughout                        infrastructure                                                                                      out the city. We will also evaluate the feasibility
the city, but we have not yet proved that blue                                                                                                                              of creating a crediting program that would give
roofs could be cost-effectively installed on exist-                     Much of the existing impervious urban land-                                                         property owners an incentive to install approved
ing buildings. We are currently piloting blue roof                      scape will not be redeveloped and is not con-                                                       green infrastructure technologies in exchange
systems on existing buildings. We will study                            trolled by the City. Many private property                                                          for reduced stormwater fees.
the results to determine whether we will adjust                         owners lack either the incentive or the means
codes to require blue roofs on existing buildings                       to install sustainable source controls on their                                                     We will continue encouraging the private sector
in the future.                                                          own. By realigning incentives, we will enable                                                       to incorporate green infrastructure into their
                                                                        residents, businesses, and property owners to                                                       property through our Green Roof Tax Abate-
We will address the inconsistent rules and regu-                        partner with us in our effort to reduce CSOs and                                                    ment. This program, which was passed by the
lations that are an impediment to incorporating                         clean up our waterways—efforts that benefit all                                                     New York State Legislature in 2008 and imple-
sustainable source controls within sidewalks.                           New Yorkers.                                                                                        mented by the City in 2009, provides an abate-
Well-designed sidewalks can reduce stormwa-                                                                                                                                 ment from City property taxes of $4.50 per
ter runoff, increase the longevity of trees, and                        New York City’s water and sewer use charges are                                                     square foot of legally-installed green roof, up
reduce the urban heat island effect. We will                            currently based on the volume of potable water                                                      to $100,000. Property owners qualify with the
develop and implement a single, consistent                              consumed, not the property’s discharge of storm-                                                    installation of a green roof on at least 50% of
sidewalk standard that includes permeable                               water. The result is little correlation between the                                                 a roof and preparation of a maintenance plan
strips, water storage capacity, and increased                           stormwater generated by a property and the                                                          to ensure the viability of the vegetation and
planting and recycled materials within all new                          stormwater fees that the owner pays.                                                                expected stormwater benefits. The program is
sidewalk construction. This will not only provide                                                                                                                           currently scheduled to run until 2013. We will
                                                                        We will evaluate the opportunities for a separate
new opportunities for the implementation of                                                                                                                                 evaluate the program’s efficacy to determine
                                                                        stormwater rate and credit system that charges
stormwater source controls, but also create a                                                                                                                               whether to extend or modify it.
                                                                        landowners for their runoff and provides incen-
healthier tree canopy.
                                                                        tives for them to reduce impervious surfaces. As
                                                                        an initial step, we are piloting a separate storm-
We will examine ways to reduce stormwa-
ter runoff from unenclosed industrial uses.                             water charge for parking lots that is aligned with                                                  Remove industrial pollution
Although current regulations require source                             the burdens that those lots put on the system
                                                                        which then has to be paid for by everyone else.
                                                                                                                                                                            from waterways
controls for certain types of new construction,
there are fewer controls for undeveloped sites                          The pilot stormwater charge applies to approxi-                                                     The presence of industrial pollution has been
on which many of these uses operate. Runoff                             mately 300 lots that currently have no water ser-                                                   a long-standing issue for New York’s shoreline.
and emissions from open uses can produce a                              vice and therefore don’t pay towards the City’s                                                     Lingering contaminants have proven to be a last-
poor environment for other businesses, discour-                         costs to collect and treat the stormwater they                                                      ing legacy of our working waterfront. During the
aging investment in industrial areas, as well as                        generate. These stand-alone parking lots are                                                        first half of the 20th century, oil, coal tar, ink, and
pollute waterways and adversely affect air qual-                        charged $0.05 per square foot of property area,                                                     other pollutants were routinely dumped into
ity and the quality of life in adjacent residential                     a figure derived from the City’s stormwater-re-                                                     waterways, and some discharges such as PCBs
areas. To address these issues, we will explore                         lated capital and expense budget items.                                                             continued much later. The passage of the Clean
zoning requirements and land use controls for                                                                                                                               Water Act mostly put an end to this blatant
certain, potentially polluting unenclosed com-                                                                                                                              environmental degradation—but the effects of
mercial and manufacturing uses to improve                                                                                                                                   these pollutants are still felt to this day.
upon existing controls for noise, odor, dust, and
stormwater discharge.




                                                                                                                                                                                        A GREENER, GREATER NEW YORK PLANYC                              69
                                                                                                                                                                                                 Credit: NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection
                                                                         Credit: NYC Dept. of City Planning
 The Gowanus Canal                                                                                            Wetlands restoration at Alley Pond Park in Queens



INITIATIVE 11                                         coastline that can reduce storm surge and miti-                                              for transfer to the Department of Parks and Rec-
                                                      gate the impacts of erosion. Their highly-produc-                                            reation (DPR) and 111 additional parcels for fur-
Actively participate in waterway
                                                      tive ecosystems form the base for estuarine and                                              ther review. We have completed a comprehen-
clean-up efforts                                      aquatic food webs. This biological productivity                                              sive review of these 193 parcels to determine
                                                      makes them ideal foraging and breeding sites                                                 existing conditions, including field inspections
Some of New York City’s waterways contain con-        for shorebirds, fish, and invertebrates.                                                     of all parcels.
taminated sediments caused by past industrial
use. The Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek              Despite the significant loss of historical wet-                                              We have already transferred 9 parcels to DPR.
were both designated as Superfund sites in            lands and streams, New York is still home to                                                 While some of the remaining parcels are accept-
2010 by the EPA. We will work with the EPA and        many critical natural areas. Large swaths of wet-                                            able for transfer now, the majority are degraded,
the State DEC to assist in the investigation of       lands in Staten Island, along Long Island Sound,                                             with unresolved dumping and encroachment
the contamination and the study of potentially        and Jamaica Bay are some of the most valuable                                                issues evident. Some parcels have other poten-
feasible remedies.                                    natural habitat in the country. Jamaica Bay is an                                            tially significant environmental problems. We
                                                      important resting place for endangered migra-                                                will finalize the transfer of those wetlands prop-
Even before the Superfund listings, we had            tory birds and is home to more than 325 differ-                                              erties that don’t suffer from environmental deg-
begun substantial projects to improve the water       ent avian species.                                                                           radation. We will also identify resources that will
quality of the Gowanus Canal and Newtown                                                                                                           allow for the incorporation of additional parcels
Creek. At the Gowanus Canal, we will address          Vital wetland habitats are not the only natural                                              into the City’s park system.
stagnant water, CSOs, and odor by upgrading           systems within the harbor in need of restora-
the Gowanus Flushing Tunnel, expanding the            tion and habitat creation. Eelgrass, oysters,                                                New York City’s wetlands face challenges far
capacity of the canal’s pumping station, and          and ribbed mussels were all once widespread                                                  more serious than how the City manages its
building a new interceptor sewer. At Newtown          throughout the harbor. The loss of these species                                             own wetlands. In January 2009, we released a
Creek, we are installing equipment to increase        means the loss of some of nature’s finest filtra-                                            report that assessed the vulnerabilities of exist-
oxygen levels in the water.                           tion systems. We must improve degraded areas                                                 ing wetlands and identified additional policies
                                                      and create new habitat by managing ecological                                                to protect and manage them. New York City
In addition to the ongoing work at the Superfund      functions. We can’t merely protect existing natu-                                            Wetlands: Regulatory Gaps and Other Threats
sites, we will investigate CSO-related and other      ral resources—we must actively restore them.                                                 found gaps in federal and state regulations—
sediments that lie at the bottom of the Paerde-                                                                                                    particularly for small freshwater wetlands less
gat Basin, Flushing Bay, Flushing Creek, Bergen                                                                                                    than 12.4 acres, unmapped wetlands, and adja-
Basin, Thurston Basin, Hendrix Creek, and Fresh       INITIATIVE 12                                                                                cent upland buffer areas.
Creek. Dredging these tributaries will remove
CSO sediments that cause odors at low tide.           Enhance wetlands protection
                                                                                                                                                   The report identified the need for more accu-
                                                      In many ways, the health of our harbor mirrors                                               rate mapping as an important step in improving
                                                      that of our wetlands. Wetlands are no longer                                                 protection of vulnerable wetlands. State regula-
Protect and restore                                   being drained and filled like they were only a                                               tion requires wetlands to be mapped in order
                                                                                                                                                   to enjoy protection by New York State. How-
wetlands, aquatic systems,                            few decades ago. However, wetlands still face a
                                                                                                                                                   ever, wetlands naturally expand, contract, and
                                                      variety of threats ranging from legacy pollution
and ecological habitat                                to climate change.                                                                           migrate, which makes current and accurate map-
                                                                                                                                                   ping essential to ensure their protection. State
Wetlands are a biologically-rich intersection of      In 2005, we formed the Wetlands Transfer Task                                                DEC tidal wetlands regulatory maps are based
land and water. They act as natural filtration sys-   Force to assess available City-owned properties                                              on aerial photography from 1974, and freshwa-
tems by slowing and retaining stormwater runoff       that contain wetlands. The group was tasked                                                  ter wetland maps have not been updated since
and trapping pollutants that would otherwise          with addressing the future of City-owned wet-                                                1995. New maps of wetland areas would identify
contaminate downstream waterways. Wetlands            lands, as well as broader questions regarding                                                those areas falling through the gaps of regula-
also provide an undeveloped edge to the urban         wetland management and policy. In its 2007                                                   tory protection. We will work with state and fed-
                                                      report, the task force recommended 82 parcels                                                eral partners to update wetlands maps.




70       WATERWAYS
                                                                                                                                        CASE STUDY
                                                                                                                                        Jamaica Bay Restoration




                                                                                                 Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
                                                                                                                                        Kayaking through the brackish waters and
                                                                                                                                        marsh grasses of jamaica Bay, it is easy to for-
                                                                                                                                        get you are less than 10 miles from the bustling
                                                                                                                                        streets and tall towers of lower Manhattan. The
                                                                                                                                        buildings, traffic, and people disappear in this
                                                                                                                                        26-square-mile natural sanctuary that is home
 Elders Point before restoration                                                                                                        to over 325 bird and 91 fish species. But this
                                                                                                                                        diverse and ecologically-rich habitat is threat-
                                                                                                                                        ened by rising sea levels, pollution, non-native
                                                                                                                                        species, and sediment deprivation. Most of all,
                                                                                                                                        it suffers from historic dredging and filling. A
                                                                                                                                        century ago, there were over 16,000 acres of
                                                                                                                                        salt marsh lands around the bay. Today there
                                                                                                                                        are just 800 acres, plus pockets of deep water
                                                                                                                                        borrow pits and navigational channels.




                                                                                                 Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
                                                                                                                                        We have made major commitments to enhance
                                                                                                                                        water quality by improving stormwater runoff,
                                                                                                                                        reducing CSOs, and cutting nitrogen discharges
                                                                                                                                        into the bay in half. Although better water qual-
                                                                                                                                        ity in the bay is essential, the City and multiple
                                                                                                                                        state and federal agencies are actively restoring
                                                                                                                                        marsh islands to enhance and protect fish and
 Elders Point after restoration                                                                                                         wildlife. We have partnered with the Army Corps
                                                                                                                                        of Engineers, the National Park Service, State
                                                                                                                                        DEC, and the Port Authority to restore the Elders
We will expand protection through the New            funding, and enforcement mechanisms to pro-
                                                                                                                                        Point marsh island complex, which was among
York City Waterfront Revitalization Program          tect, restore, and expand wetlands, associated
                                                                                                                                        the most eroded in the bay.
(WRP). This program establishes policies for         buffer areas, and the streams corridors that
the review of all discretionary actions by City,     connect them.                                                                      Long ago, the Elders Point marshland was a
state, or federal government entities within                                                                                            contiguous 132-acre island teeming with birds,
the city’s coastal zone and takes into consider-                                                                                        fish, and other aquatic life. But years of erosion
ation protection of natural waterfront areas. As     INITIATIVE 13                                                                      and sediment loss cleaved the land into sepa-
we update the WRP in the coming year, we will        Restore and create wetlands                                                        rate islands connected by tidal mudflats. Recon-
consider designating additional sites of ecologi-                                                                                       struction of Elders Point East was completed in
cal importance, such as the Upper Bronx River,       Protecting existing wetlands is not enough to                                      2006 and Elders Point West was completed in
Arverne, Plumb Beach, southern portion of the        reduce the threats to our natural systems. We                                      2010. The restoration and establishment of the
Arthur Kill shoreline, portions of the Raritan Bay   must restore degraded wetlands and create new                                      appropriate tidal elevations to support Spartina
shoreline, Staten Island Greenbelt, and Staten       habitats to replace losses that have occurred.                                     alterniflora (Smooth Cordgrass) growth used
Island South Shore Bluebelts.                                                                                                           approximately 500,000 cubic yards of clean
                                                     We have undertaken wetlands restoration proj-                                      sand dredged from the bottom of New York
More than regulatory enforcement is needed           ects in connection with the construction of                                        Harbor. This material was dredged to deepen
to protect tidal salt marshes, New York City’s       recent CSO detention facilities. At Alley Pond                                     the shipping channels to accommodate larger
most abundant and visible type of wetland. Salt      Park in Queens, we recently completed 16 acres                                     vessels. Native plants grown from seed col-
marshes are in decline around the city due to        of restoration to revive the local ecosystem and                                   lected from within jamaica Bay have been
inundation from sea level rise and a variety of      improve water quality. We will create 38 acres of                                  used to restore over 80 acres of habitat.
complex interactions in the urban ecosystem.         new and restored habitat along Paerdegat Basin
We will collaborate with state, federal, and uni-    near Jamaica Bay.                                                                  Restoring the Elders Point marsh would not be
versity researchers to evaluate both the vulner-                                                                                        possible without the partnership of City, state,
ability of salt marshes and strategies to provide    We have also partnered with state and federal                                      and federal agencies. This partnership brings
protection.                                          agencies to share resources and expertise and                                      together critical resources, leveraging limited
                                                     achieve the greatest benefit for wetlands within                                   funding and scientific knowledge to produce
We will develop a comprehensive strategy that        the region. This collaboration has led to the                                      sustainable and cost-effective restorations.
addresses wetlands management and protec-            development of the Comprehensive Restora-                                          These efforts that will help to promote an
tion. In 2009, the City Council passed Local         tion Plan (CRP), a joint project of the U.S. Army                                  ecologically vibrant jamaica Bay that can
Law 31 requiring the Mayor’s Office to create        Corps of Engineers (Army Corps), the EPA’s New                                     be enjoyed by future generations.
a wetlands strategy by March 1, 2012. Through        York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program (HEP),
this process, we will evaluate appropriate           and the Port Authority of New York and New
legal requirements, incentives, management,          Jersey (Port Authority).



                                                                                                                                           A GREENER, GREATER NEW YORK PLANYC          71
                                                     Credit: NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation
 Salt marsh in Udalls Cove Park Preserve in Queens
                                                     Credit: NYC Dept. of City Planning




 Wetlands in Staten Island



The CRP is a master plan and strategy that                                                       We have worked with state and federal part-         York State requires restoration at the site of the
establishes broad goals for restoring wetlands                                                   ners to invest over $74 million to restore over     disturbance or at a nearby location. This system
and other ecosystems in the Hudson-Raritan                                                       175 acres of wetlands since 2002, but that          often is not practical in New York City due to a
Estuary. We will work with our partners to                                                       amount falls far short of what is need to restore   lack of available space for on-site mitigation. It
implement specific ambitious, yet achievable                                                     all degraded wetlands in the harbor. There is       is also inefficient as the existing system often
ecosystem restoration targets in the harbor.                                                     no stable funding source for wetlands restora-      encourages restoration projects that are small,
                                                                                                 tion and management, and most restoration           expensive, and of lesser habitat value. These sig-
Our work with state and federal partners has                                                     projects have been conducted using relatively       nificant flaws mean that we are not getting the
resulted in the completion of over 165 acres of                                                  small funding sources. Compared to other            greatest benefit from the money being spent.
restored or enhanced wetlands since 2002. In                                                     areas across the country of similar ecologi-
Jamaica Bay, we worked with the Army Corps,                                                      cal importance—such as the Chesapeake Bay           Federal regulators acknowledge these failings
State DEC, the Port Authority, and the National                                                  and the Great Lakes—Jamaica Bay receives far        and encourage the use of alternative mitiga-
Park Service to restore more than 80 acres at                                                    fewer federal dollars. We will advocate for our     tion mechanisms. One alternative is in-lieu fee
Elders Point in 2009. We also restored 22 acres                                                  fair share of federal funding for wetlands and      mitigation, which allows wetlands loss to be
at Gerritsen Creek.                                                                              ecosystem restoration.                              mitigated by paying a fee to a fund that then
                                                                                                                                                     aggregates payments to larger restoration proj-
In the next three years, we will work with state                                                                                                     ects. Another option, mitigation banking, uses
and federal partners to invest over $54 million                                                  INITIATIVE 14                                       a similar approach by encouraging large-scale
at 17 sites to restore and enhance over 58 acres                                                                                                     wetland restoration projects to generate “cred-
of wetlands and adjacent habitat. We will com-                                                   Improve wetlands mitigation
                                                                                                                                                     its” that can be transferred to compensate for
plete wetlands restoration projects in the Bronx                                                                                                     wetlands loss within a predetermined area.
                                                                                                 Large-scale wetlands destruction no longer
at Pugsley Creek Park, Soundview Park, and
                                                                                                 happens regularly. However, on occasion, wet-
along the Bronx River. We will also restore wet-                                                                                                     Both mechanisms provide numerous benefits
                                                                                                 lands must be filled for essential infrastructure
lands along Randall’s Island, at Calvert Vaux Park                                                                                                   over the current system by consolidating fund-
                                                                                                 or economic development projects. All pro-
in Brooklyn, at Meadow Lake in Queens, and at                                                                                                        ing into larger projects that produce economies
                                                                                                 posed projects in designated wetland areas are
Freshkills Park in Staten Island. We have also                                                                                                       and ecologies of scale. By consolidating resto-
                                                                                                 subject to regulatory oversight that requires
committed $15 million for additional wetlands                                                                                                        ration projects and permitting approvals, these
                                                                                                 applicants to avoid, minimize, and, if necessary,
restoration in Jamaica Bay, and we will seek to                                                                                                      alternative mitigation strategies can save tax-
                                                                                                 mitigate any damage.
leverage this funding by collaborating with our                                                                                                      payers and regulators time and money. We will
federal and state partners.                                                                      Mitigation is the practice of restoring, enhanc-    work with the State to develop wetland mitiga-
                                                                                                 ing, or protecting wetland functions to offset      tion alternatives that will make the regulatory
                                                                                                 their loss elsewhere as a result of construction    process more efficient and increase wetland
                                                                                                 projects. The current mitigation system in New      restoration and creation opportunities.




72        WATERWAYS
CASE STUDY
New York Harbor School
New York Harbor is a source of inspiration. Nowhere
is this better illustrated than at the Urban Assembly
New York Harbor School. Established in 2003, Harbor
School was born with the belief that the harbor could




                                                                                                                                                                            Credit: Urban Assembly New York Harbor School
provide a previously untapped potential for excel-
lence in secondary, maritime public education.
The creation of Harbor School is part of our
ambitious efforts to reform public education and
replace under-performing schools. Harbor School
welcomed students from an existing high school in
the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. Within four
years, graduation rates at Harbor School were more
than triple the rate of the school that it replaced.
And college retention rates are far higher than          Harbor School students working on oyster restoration project
other high schools with similar demographics.
Harbor School’s approach is to engage students,         to provide hands-on education. Harbor School has                the water and partially constructed over the harbor.
most of whom live below poverty and are considered      embraced oyster restoration as a vehicle to teach               The facility will be critical for marine science educa-
at-risk, by using the waterways that surround the       marine science. In 2010, students raised 300,000                tion as it will house aquaculture facilities to raise
city as their classroom. Harbor School provides a       oysters from larvae as part of their aquaculture class.         native New York species.
rigorous, college-preparatory education built upon      The juvenile oysters were placed on the Oyster Resto-
the city’s maritime environment.                        ration and Research Project’s reefs by Harbor School            By providing a maritime-based education for young
                                                        student scuba divers.                                           adults, we are not just preparing students for college
In 2010, Harbor School became Governors Island’s                                                                        and teaching valuable skills. We are also investing in
first permanent tenant since the Coast Guard            In 2011, Harbor School will expand into their new Ma-           the long-term health of the harbor.
abandoned the island in 1995. This location is not      rine Science and Technology (MAST) Center, a 9,000
just symbolic. It also provides unique opportunities    square foot, two-story structure located alongside




INITIATIVE 15                                           about whether the oysters will reproduce and
                                                        thrive as a self-sustaining species. We will work
                                                                                                                        Conclusion
Improve habitat for aquatic species
                                                        with the ORPP partners to better understand                     Improving the quality of New York City’s water-
New York Harbor used to be filled with oysters,         suitable environmental characteristics, appro-                  ways is a long-term commitment that requires
eelgrass, and mussels. To recoup lost water             priate locations, necessary water quality con-                  consensus about priorities and goals.
quality benefits and increase the biological            ditions, costs, and benefits. We will expand the
diversity and resilience of the region, we have         size of our pilot project and undertake addi-                   We must remove historical pollution that has
launched pilot programs to test the feasibility         tional restoration efforts. We will also work with              had a prolonged and damaging effect on our
of reintroducing these three species into the           our ORRP partners to develop a strategy to eval-                waterways. We must also address the present-
harbor. The pilots will establish the potential         uate the scientific findings and expand restora-                day pollution that comes from CSOs and con-
water quality benefits of reintroduction, test          tion efforts should the pilots prove successful.                tinue finding ways to restore natural systems.
whether reproduction of these species is natu-                                                                          As these investments can be costly, we need to
                                                        We will also pilot the reintroduction of eelgrass.              focus on those problems that can affect public
rally-occurring, and help determinewhether cur-
                                                        This species has the potential to serve as an                   health or prevent New Yorkers from accessing
rent restoration methods successfully restore
                                                        important source of habitat and shelter for fish                their waterfront today.
or replace damaged or lost habitat.
                                                        and shellfish. Much like trees do on land, eel-
Oyster reefs were once abundant in New York             grass stabilizes sediments, reduces erosion, and                These improvements will allow millions of New
Harbor, but overfishing, disease, and pollution         naturally removes nitrogen from the water. We                   Yorkers to access areas that have been off limits
all but eliminated these once-dominant features         have sown 3,500 plantings since 2009 as a part                  to recreational use for decades. They will also
by the early 20th century. We are working to            of our effort to improve the ecology of Jamaica                 revitalize our city’s aquatic ecosystems. Our
address whether sustainable oyster populations          Bay. We will sow an additional 2,000 plantings in               commitment to improving our waterways is a
can be reintroduced in our waterways through            April 2011.                                                     critical element of our environmental steward-
the Oyster Restoration and Research Project                                                                             ship for the next generation, which needs and
                                                        The final pilot project will evaluate the ability of            deserves a clean and healthy harbor ecosystem.
(ORRP). This partnership, led by the Hudson
                                                        ribbed mussels to filter nutrients and other pol-
River Foundation, New York/New Jersey Bay-
                                                        lutants from the water. The filtering capacity of
keeper, the Urban Assembly New York Harbor
                                                        mussels is well known, but it is unclear if that
School, the Army Corps, the HEP, and the Port
                                                        capacity could be tapped and applied in the
Authority, has constructed six small reefs
                                                        harbor. In 2011, we will construct several artifi-
throughout the harbor in 2010.
                                                        cial structures in Jamaica Bay to evaluate ribbed
Initial results indicate that the oyster spat, or       mussel growth and measure the effectiveness
larvae, that were placed on the pilot reefs have        of these species in removing nutrients and par-
survived and grown. But questions still remain          ticulate organic matter from the water.




                                                                                                                                 A GREENER, GREATER NEW YORK PLANYC                                       73

				
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