Green Infrastructure

Green infrastructure (GI) utilizes natural systems to absorb and filter stormwater, relying on soil and plant life to remove toxins and recharge ground water supplies. In the built environment, GI systems are critical assets because they soak up stormwater before it gets to the sewer system. They can prevent Combined Sewer Overflow, which releases untreated sewage and street runoff into the Creek and NY Harbor during rain events.

In addition to improving water quality, GI can also provide habitat for wildlife, generate green jobs, save money through reduced capital expenditures on grey infrastructure, conserve energy and combat the urban heat island effect through shade, insulation, and transpiration. Examples of green infrastructure projects include green & blue roofs, raingardens and biosawles, porous sidewalk & road surfaces, rain barrels, down-spout planters and bluebelts.

Expanding and maintaining GI projects is of critical importance to our work to improve the health of the Creek. We advocate for and support city and state-wide GI initiatives and legislation. Our work includes working with Green Infrastructure practitioners and firms on project planning, advising city and state agencies on local opportunities and also community education through public workshops and outreach sessions on why Green Infrastructure matters and how residents can help create more. Below are some NCA projects relating to Green Infrastructure and resources to find out more info.

Rain Gardens:

Rain Gardens, at-grade gardens with depths between 4″-2′, are an excellent low cost GI option. They mimic the natural absorption and pollutant removal activities of a forest, meadow, or a prairie (corresponding with the plant types in the gardens) and can absorb runoff much more efficiently than a standard lawn or tree-pit. As part of the NYC DEP Green Infrastructure program, the City has installed thousands of curbside rain gardens in Brooklyn, and Queens – especially in priority watersheds like Newtown Creek.

In 2021, NCA partnered with Gowanus Canal Conservancy, Bronx River Alliance and the HOPE Program to form the RAIN Coalition: Raingarden Action in Neighborhoods (read the July 21 press release here). Comprised of three NYC-based watershed organizations and one workforce development organization, we seek to build green job opportunities and address the climate crisis through maintenance of Right-of-Way Rain Garden maintenance. As part of this work NCA manages 15 Rain Gardens in Brooklyn and Queens on a weekly basis to conduct weekly maintenance reviews at each site, documenting and tracking plant health and identifying illegal dumping issues. Learn more about the RAIN Coalition here.

Green Roofs:

Check out this short film showcasing the numerous benefits of Green Roofs we worked on with 7Cinema. Filmed on Kingsland Wildflowers green roof at Broadway Stages.
Funding provided by the Green Roof Researchers Alliance through a 2021 grant from The New York Community Trust.

Kingsland Wildflowers green roof: NCA has partnered with NYCAudubon, Broadway Stages and Alive Structures to build out a 24,000 sq foot green roof at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint. The project features native wildflowers and grasses that not only soak up rainwater, but provide habitat to pollinator and bird populations. Additionally, the roof serves as outdoor classroom for local schools and the general public. Visit the project website here for more info and stay posted to our events for upcoming activities at Kingsland Wildflowers.

Industrial Green Roof advocacy: With funding from the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, NCA conducted thorough research into the land use, policy and economic factors of green roof implementation within industrial areas. Learn more about the project. We have also partnered with property owners within the IBZ and green roof design-build firms Alive Structures and Highview Creations to support them through the green roof retrofitting process. If you’re a property owner or manager looking for support in your NYCDEP Green Roof Grant application, or otherwise need guidance on green roofs please reach out to us!