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Upgrade at Gowanus Houses designed to decrease overflow into canal

November 9, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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A drainage upgrade at NYCHA’s Gowanus Houses will improve the health of the entire Gowanus Canal area, the city Department of Environmental Protection, which did the work, said on Monday.

The project, which was completed earlier this year, included the construction of nine green infrastructure installations that DEP says will capture nearly 2 million gallons of stormwater in a typical year. 

The green infrastructure that was built at the Gowanus Houses cost approximately $830,000 and includes permeable concrete sidewalks, subsurface infiltration chambers and a rain garden. Each of these infrastructure installations will allow stormwater to be absorbed naturally into the ground, minimize “ponding,” and keep stormwater from entering the sewer system, where it would otherwise contribute to overflows into the Gowanus Canal. 

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Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. Photo by Susannah Pasquantonio

By capturing the stormwater that falls on the development and keeping it out of the sewer system, the project will then ease pressure on the neighborhood’s sewer system during rainstorms, which in turn will decrease overflows into the Gowanus Canal, according to the DEP.

“By upgrading the drainage facilities at NYCHA’s Gowanus Houses, we will continue the important work of improving the health of the Gowanus Canal while also improving services for residents,” said DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza. “We look forward to continuing this critical partnership with NYCHA in order to provide the same drainage and landscaping improvements at other developments across the five boroughs.”

These plants were planted at the Gowanus Houses to absorb water that might normally enter the sewer system, contributing to overflows and pollution. Photo courtesy of DEP

NYCHA facilities, because the buildings have a large amount of space between them,  provide a unique opportunity to utilize publicly-owned property to build green infrastructure and improve the health of local waterways. In addition, DEP has made significant investments to improve the health of the Gowanus Canal, including:

  • Committing more than $1 billion for the construction of sewer overflow retention tanks;
  • Spending $180 million to rehabilitate and upgrade the Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel, which was built in 1911 and designed to pump fresh water into the canal;
  • Installing high-level sewers along 3rd Avenue at a cost of $53 million;
  • Spending $27 million to upgrade the drainage system along 9th Street;
  • Constructing more than 70 green infrastructure installations throughout the neighborhood, including rain gardens and two green playgrounds
Councilmember Stephen Levin. Eagle file photo

“In 2019 I toured the Gowanus area, an area incredibly vulnerable to extreme weather events, with DEP after a storm caused serious flash floods,” said Borough President and Mayor-elect Eric Adams. “I’m thrilled to see these green infrastructure upgrades coming to the Gowanus Houses, which will mitigate the effects of damaging floods as well as improve the quality of life for thousands of NYCHA residents.” 

“Keeping stormwater out of the sewer system is a step in the right direction to ease pressure on the area’s infrastructure during rainstorms and other weather events,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon.

“The residents of Gowanus Houses know all too well the effects of climate change and how poor drainage can have devastating effects, as we saw with Hurricane Sandy. This project will help improve the health of the Gowanus Canal while decreasing incidents of flooding,” said Councilmember Stephen Levin. 

DEP manages New York City’s water supply, providing approximately 1 billion gallons of drinking water each day to more than 9 million residents, including 8.3 million in New York City. The water is delivered from a watershed that extends more than 125 miles from the city, comprising 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes.

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