September 25, by Nathaly Pesantez
The last of the nearly 300 rain gardens planned for Queens was topped off last week, signaling the completion of a $7.3 million project that kicked off last year aimed at reducing pollution in Newtown Creek.
A total of 321 specially designed rain gardens, also called bioswales, were built around Queens neighborhoods within the vicinity of Newtown Creek—Sunnyside, Maspeth, and Ridgewood—beginning in the spring of 2016. Each newly constructed garden has the capacity to absorb 2,500 gallons of stormwater when it rains, meaning that Newtown Creek will see eased overflows by 38 million gallons of stormwater a year.
“Improving the health of Newtown Creek is a priority for DEP and we are excited that these completed rain gardens will capture stormwater, thereby reducing the amount of pollution that enters the waterway,” said Vincent Sapienza, the acting commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection in a statement.
The rain gardens, built on city sidewalks, have curb cuts that create a path for stormwater to seep through rather than pass through sewers. The storm water then ends up in empty spaces within the five-foot-deep gardens, where the water is filtered and helps the plants and tree on the garden grow. Some larger rain gardens also have an outlet for extra water to exit, where it then continues into the catch basin on the street corner. In all, the rain gardens should entirely soak up stormwater in less than 48 hours.
“Every drop of stormwater kept out of our local sewers is a tangible step towards improving water quality in Newtown Creek,” said Willis Elkins, the program manager at the Newtown Creek Alliance in a statement.
The DEP says the rain gardens have the added cost-effective benefits of beautifying a neighborhood, cleaning the air, and reducing temperatures during hot weather. More than 3,000 rain gardens have been built around the five boroughs, with 1,500 currently under construction.
Newtown Creek is currently under the Superfund Redevelopment Initiative, an Environmental Protection Agency program that cleans up the country’s most contaminated areas.