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Queens Chronicle

Curbside gardens coming to Queens

Green infrastructure will prevent storm water overflow into the bay

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Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:03 am, Thu Jul 18, 2013.

If you have driven around Rego Park, Forest Hills or even College Point this week, you may have noticed large blue trucks drilling into the roads.

These trucks are not repairing street damage or straightening sidewalks, they are being used for geotechnical investigative work in preparation for citywide bioswale installations.

Bioswales are landscape elements designed to remove pollution and minor flooding from storm water runoff.

They consist of a drainage course with sloped sides. Vegetation and compost fill in the space.

“Essentially they are a measure of keeping storm water out of waterways,” Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Edward Timbers said. “They won’t solve the problem entirely but are more of an added measure.”

While these installations will improve street drainage, they are not designed to prevent street flooding, a problem many residents of Forest Hills, Maspeth, Glendale face.

With the new system, storm water is absorbed by the sandy soil that sits on the swale surface and seeps into the ground underneath in a process called infiltration until it reaches a stone layer underneath.

The water is then absorbed by the trees and vegetation in the swale where it is then released into the air as water vapor in a process called evapotranspiration.

Over the next few years, at least 100 of these swales will be placed throughout the borough. Together, they are expected to reduce the amount of runoff that filters into Flushing Bay.

“The areas are within the Flushing Bay drainage area and we are in the midst of installing hundreds of bioswales – or curbside gardens – to absorb storm water, keep it out of the combined sewer system, and improve the cleanliness and health of Flushing Bay,” Timbers said.

Bioswales make for a healthier environment.

“Storm water isn’t just water from the sky,” Timbers said. “We have a combined sewer system and during heavy rains, the storm water mixes with sewage waste water and overwhelms the sewers which causes overflow.”

A similar project done on a smaller scale was completed this past June in Brooklyn. There were 19 curbside gardens put in place to improve the water quality of Newtown Creek.

Areas surrounding Jamaica Bay and the Hutchinson River also had the green infrastructure installations.

The DEP has deemed each of the projects a success thus far.

An exact date for construction has not yet been determined.

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