Urban Agriculture as Stormwater Infrastructure

When NYC released its Green Infrastructure Plan, a strategy for capturing stormwater through innovative strategies such as porous pavement, green and blue roofs, and landscaping, I was critical that it failed to consider the role that urban agriculture can play in creating water-absorbing spaces throughout the city.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that of $3.8 million in grants awarded by the Department of Environmental Protection for community-based green infrastructure projects, the four below, totaling $920,00, involved using the captured stormwater for food production.  Let’s hope that these experiments are successful, and that the next iteration of the Green Infrastructure Plan proposes expanding urban agriculture as a means to convert impermeable rooftops, city owned parcels, and residential yard space into growing spaces that capture rainwater before it overwhelms our sewage treatment plants.
61 Bergen Street
Amount: $41,975
Location: 61 Bergen Street, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn 
Description: The property owner and Highview Creations LLC will construct a green roof on a building that houses 61 Local, a local bar and restaurant. The green roof will manage over 60,000 gallons of stormwater per year and will reduce CSOs to the Gowanus Canal. The owner and staff intend to grow a few varieties of drought-tolerant herbs on the green roof that can be used in the food and drinks served at the bar.
Eric Dalski, founder of Highview Creations LLC, said, “We believe that the grant program is exactly what New York City needs to address stormwater capture issues, and we are very enthusiastic about being a part of it.  By introducing innovative projects funded through DEP, the city is coupling progressive green infrastructure with public awareness.  The green-infrastructure grant program is perhaps the best method of implementing a promising and sustainable urban landscape at a fraction of the cost of typical grey-infrastructure.”
Brooklyn Navy Yard
Amount: $592,730
Location: 63 Flushing Avenue, Building No. 3, Brooklyn Navy Yard
Description: In partnership with Brooklyn Grange, the Brooklyn Navy Yard will construct a 40,000-square-foot commercial rooftop farm.  The rooftop farm will manage over one million gallons of stormwater per year and reduce CSOs to the East River. The production of fresh local produce will create opportunities for urban agriculture jobs training and volunteerism, education and advocacy. Brooklyn Navy Yard and Brooklyn Grange are contributing $310,000 in matching funds to the project. Chris Tepper, Deputy Director of Development and Planning for Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, said, “We are thrilled to partner with the DEP and the Brooklyn Grange on an innovative project that will not only help keep our City’s rivers clean but will also produce fresh produce for surrounding communities and meet BNYDC’s core mission of creating jobs.  This partnership is another step towards redeveloping the Brooklyn Navy Yard as the greenest industrial park in the country.”
Lenox Hill Neighborhood House
Amount: $40,000
Location: 331 East 70th Street, Lenox Hill, Manhattan
Description: The Lenox Hill Neighborhood House will build two rooftop gardens that will manage up to 63,000 gallons of stormwater per year and provide its clients with fresh vegetables. The rooftop gardens will capture the rain water and will reduce CSOs to the East River. This project includes multiple community development factors such as educational programs. The Lenox Hill Neighborhood House is contributing $20,000 in matching funds. Miles Crettien, Coordinator, Healthy Foods and Wellness for the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, said, “Lenox Hill Neighborhood House is thrilled to take part in NYC’s Green Infrastructure Program with the Department of Environmental Protection.  This exciting opportunity will both allow our children and older adults to create, and participate in, a fantastic garden program on our roof located in the middle of Manhattan, while also helping to improve the City’s valuable ecosystem through the use of innovative technology.”
New York Restoration Project (NYRP) — Carroll Street Community Garden
Amount: $244,920
Location: Denton Place and Carroll Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn
Description: NYRP will install a right-of-way bioswale that will divert stormwater flow from the street into a rain garden that features native plants and trees.  The project will manage approximately 130,000 gallons of stormwater per year and will reduce CSOs to the Gowanus Canal. The design also includes a small Education Station that will function as a remote weather monitoring station and outdoor classroom hub. NYRP is contributing $44,000 in matching funds. NYRP Executive Director Amy Freitag said, “New York Restoration Project and partners Stantec Inc. and City College of New York are honored to receive funding from DEP’s Green Infrastructure Grant Program—another great PlaNYC sustainability initiative, like MillionTreesNYC. Stormwater capture features at our Carroll Street Community Garden will not only keep tens of thousands of gallons of polluted runoff out of the Gowanus Canal, but will also direct filtered stormwater to the garden’s beds, which grow vegetables and herbs for the local neighborhood. The grant will also help create a new outdoor classroom in the garden that will teach the next generation of New Yorkers about the importance of green infrastructure and restoring the environment.”

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