Brooklyn Boro

Brooklyn stormwater management plan could reduce combined sewer overflows

January 14, 2015 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. Eagle file photo by Mary Frost
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Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams on Tuesday announced the release of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Stormwater Management Plan, which could prevent half a billion gallons of stormwater from entering the borough’s combined sewer system.

The study, completed by the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI), was sponsored by the Borough President’s Office with funding from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund. The plan, officially titled “The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway: An Agent for Green Infrastructure, Climate Change Adaptation and Resiliency,” details how the implementation of stormwater infrastructure during the construction of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway can contribute to protection from coastal flooding, which occurred during Superstorm Sandy. 

“Here in Brooklyn, we don’t just ‘go with the flow’ when something isn’t working right,” Adams said. “When it comes to our overflow problem with our sewers, which are leading to damaging coastal floods and the release of raw sewage into our marine ecosystem, major changes are needed to protect residents, business and wildlife alike. The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Stormwater Management Plan, for which this office has sponsored funding over the last 10 years, is a blueprint to a greener and cleaner future in our borough.”

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The plan recommends a watershed-based approach that will capture and retain at least the first inch of rain that falls on the greenway, the adjoining public right of way and impervious surfaces for one block upslope of the greenway.

“With the greenway situated at the lowest contours of Brooklyn’s East River watersheds, it is ideally situated to play a major role in stormwater management,” said Milton Puryear, co-founder of BGI.

In a combined sewer system, stormwater and sanitary sewage from toilets and other waste sources enter the same pipes on the way to the city’s water treatment plants. During significant rainfall, the volume of water and sewage exceeds the pipe’s capacity, and the excess is released into surface water bodies such as the East River, Gowanus Canal, New York Harbor and Newtown Creek. 

In addition to preventing combined sewer overflow events, the plan suggests how the greenway can be built as part of an integrated flood protection system for areas such as Red Hook and the industrial part of Sunset Park, which experienced major losses from flooding as a result of Superstorm Sandy. 

The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway is a 14-mile project initiated by BGI that is being implemented by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT). The overall project, comprised of 23 individual capital projects, is being implemented segment by segment at an estimated total cost in excess of $100 million. “Because 14 miles of streets will be reconstructed as the greenway is built, this is an opportune time to install stormwater infrastructure on the most economical basis for the city,” Puryear said. 

The first demonstration of the watershed-based stormwater strategy is being implemented in Greenpoint, beginning this year. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) agreed to add a $5 million high-level sewer to the West Street greenway capital project that will break ground in 2015.

The high level sewer will capture stormwater from West Street and the side streets between West Street and Franklin Street and release it directly to the East River. This will keep 4.5 million gallons of water out of the combined sewer system.

The Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund recently announced a grant of $1.9 million to allow BGI to install stormwater infrastructure further upslope between Franklin Street and Manhattan Avenue. This measure will retain an additional 6 million gallons of stormwater annually, for a total reduction of 10 million gallons per year. 

In developing the plan, BGI engaged a technical advisory committee made up of representatives from the DOT, DEP and New York City Department of Design and Construction, as well as others, to help guide the work. BGI retained the services of We Design, a landscape and urban design firm, and eDesign Dynamics, an environmental and engineering firm that undertook the investigation of existing conditions, stormwater quantities and potential solutions.

Adams also announced that his office, which frequently fields complaints from constituents seeking assistance with flooding and sewer backup, is launching a community survey in advance of his next City Speaks forum on March 11, which will feature representatives from DEP. He encouraged all Brooklynites facing these issues to reach out to his office and register their concerns.


-Information from the Borough President’s Office

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