The Department of Environmental Protection recently began testing areas throughout Queens where the city wants to insert curbside gardens called bioswales that will help absorb storm water. But some residents are not happy with the project.
“I don’t see why we need it,” Sharron Bates, a Rego Park resident, said. “I understand that the intention is good and that it’ll help the environment, but I don’t think we need any more construction projects than we already have.”
Bioswales are planted areas in the sidewalk that are designed to collect and manage storm water or rainwater that runs off the streets and sidewalks.
A pilot program began in 2011 in Brooklyn to reduce the amount of contaminated water running into Newtown Creek. The bioswales that will be placed in Queens are to reduce storm water overflow into Flushing Bay.
Community Boards 5 and 6 have reported that their offices have received complaints from a number of residents in regard to the DEP initiative.
“At our last meeting we had a complaint related to construction of bioswales,” CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano said. “Many have been questioning who will be responsible for maintaining them once they’re installed.”
“I woke up one morning and there were trucks all over the place,” said Desiree Hickey, who walks to Woodhaven Boulevard every day to take the bus to work. “There was one right here. I didn’t see any fliers or anything.”
The office of Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) also received a number of phone calls.
“We didn’t get calls complaining so much as inquiring about what was going on and what they are going to do,” Crowley’s spokesman Eric Yun said. “People seemed more curious than angry.”
Though so many people have complained about or questioned the insertion of the bioswales, the DEP said it used several means of communicating with the public before sending the drilling trucks out.
“We sent ... postcards to every mailing address within the boundaries of the Flushing Contract,” DEP spokesman Ted Timbers said. “A FAQ document is carried by all of our engineers and consultants when they conduct walkthroughs on the street and they distribute them regularly.”
Timbers forwarded copies of the postcard and FAQ document as proof. In addition, Timbers reported that the DEP gave a presentation at the Queens Borough Service Cabinet Meeting on May 15, 2012 which was attended by all of the CB district managers. Another presentation was made in February to the Queens Borough Board.
In addition, Timbers said that the DEP pays the Parks Department to maintain each bioswale.
“The problem is that it’ll be maintained under the Parks Department, which is incredibly understaffed,” Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, said. “It can work if they increase the park staff and hire people to maintain them but right now it doesn’t seem feasible.”
“We hire designated crews through the Parks Department to maintain the bioswales,” Timbers responded. “We don’t just give Parks a lump sum and then forget about it. We have a set crew of people that we hire through the Parks Department to do the job. These projects are not something we take lightly. We specifically pick out certain areas to place these and we do a lot of land surveying before we begin.”
As soil testing has just begun, it is not clear when all of the bioswales will be in place.