America’s most toxic waterway gets some help

Sponge Park, 70 Rain Gardens Installed in Gowanus Canal Watershed

November 10, 2016 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A rendering of a thriving Sponge Park next to the Gowanus Canal. Rendering courtesy of DLANDstudio pllc
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Slowly but surely, the Gowanus Canal — referred to by some as arguably the dirtiest waterway in America — is beginning to see some noticeable progress.

After several decades of neglect, the canal took a small step in the right direction on Oct. 24 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began to remove debris from the waterway.

The 100-foot-wide, 1.8-mile noxious canal, which was declared a Superfund site in 2010, received more good news as the city, landscape architects, elected officials and environmental groups recently installed green infrastructure along the canal.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

The green infrastructure, which includes a Sponge Park and 70 curbside rain gardens, will improve the health of the Gowanus Canal, clean the air around it and beautify the neighborhood.

The Sponge Park was designed by Brooklyn Heights-based design firm DLANDstudio and was built at the end of Second Street where the road meets the west side of the canal. The $1.5-million, 1,800-square-foot park will capture and clean stormwater that runs down Second Street before it enters the canal. The park will collect an estimated 1 million gallons of stormwater annually.

“It’s exciting to see what can happen when designers, community, foundations, city, state and federal initiatives come together to innovate and make our city a better place to live, work and raise our families,” said Susannah Drake, founder of DLANDstudio.

The curbside rain gardens, which were designed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Design and Construction, are spread out across the Gowanus Canal Watershed in Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Park Slope and Prospect Heights. They will have the capacity to collect and absorb more than 6 million gallons of stormwater each year.

“Our infrastructure should be as resilient as the New Yorkers that call this great city home,” said City Council Member Stephen Levin. “Managing stormwater is a critical step on our path towards sustainability. This project proves that taking care of our environment and providing amenities to the public are not mutually exclusive — in fact, quite the opposite is true. The more green infrastructure and open space we create, the greater the public’s stewardship.”

Both the park and rain gardens will capture stormwater and allow it to be naturally absorbed into the ground, therefore reducing sewer overflows into the Gowanus Canal.

Two 8-million-gallon sewage and storm water retention tanks will also be installed in the future at two locations along the canal to further prevent combined sewer overflows.

“This is one small part of a huge, huge plan that we need to be firing on all cylinders,” Riverkeeper Staff Attorney Sean Dixon told the Brooklyn Eagle. “These are the short-term fixes, but the quicker we get them off the ground, the better.”

Riverkeeper is a member-supported watchdog organization that calls itself “New York’s clean water advocate” and whose mission, according to its website, is “to protect the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries.”

“We are inching closer and closer to the day we see a clean Gowanus Canal,” said NYS Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. “The Sponge Park’s function of capturing and retaining stormwater before it reaches the canal will be a big help in getting us even closer. This is a great addition to the neighborhood and I congratulate the partners who conceived of this and made it happen.”


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