West Street Watershed Stormwater Project 2019-06-12T09:10:13+00:00

Project Description

West Street Watershed Stormwater Project

Project Lead: Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, Inc.
2014 Project Partners: New York City Department of Transportation; New York City Department of Environmental Protection; New York City Department of Parks and Recreation; North Brooklyn Parks Alliance, formerly Open Space Alliance; WE Design; and eDesign Dynamics
2015 Project Partners: New York City Department of Transportation; New York City Department of Environmental Protection; New York City Department of Parks and Recreation; North Brooklyn Parks Alliance (formerly Open Space Alliance); and Teresa Toro, Greenpoint resident and outreach lead
2014 Project Location: The area bounded by West Street, Calyer Street, Manhattan Avenue, and Eagle Street
2015 Project Location: West Street specifically West Street, Commercial Street, McGuiness Boulevard and Calyer Street
2014 GCEF Grant: $1,917,717
2014 Matching Contribution: $17,585,566*
2015 GCEF Grant: $1,639,878
2015 Matching Contribution: $7,500,000
Fact Sheet: West Street Watershed Stormwater Project PDF
Project Status: Terminated (September 2017)

In 2014, the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative received $1,917,717 in funding from GCEF (and promised to provide $5,030,000* in matching funds) to design and install 54 right-of-way “green infrastructure” features (e.g., bioswales and greenstreets) on streets that slope toward the East River between Manhattan Avenue and Franklin Street (“Area 1”). Major project activities were to include:

  • Conducting site surveys and geotechnical testing
  • Developing design, construction, and planting plans for green infrastructure installation with community input
  • Performing maintenance of the installed infrastructure

The project sought to capture and treat polluted stormwater runoff that would otherwise flow into the East River, restore native plants and habitat, improve local air quality and reduce ambient temperatures, and decrease chronic flooding and sewer backups in the project area.

In 2015 the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, Inc. received a supplementary grant of $1,639,878 (and provided $7,500,000 in matching funds) to expand the project. The expansion was to enable the project to implement green infrastructure practices on additional streets and sidewalks between West Street, Commercial Street, McGuiness Boulevard, and Calyer Street (“Area 2”), and thereby extend the benefits of the project to the community.

* The 2014 project proposal promised to provide $5,030,000 as matching funds, but the final match received was $17,585,566.


August 2015: Two project team walk-throughs of the project’s Area 1 were completed to identify sites that meet relevant guidelines for installation of green infrastructure features. In July, the project team held a public meeting to share the potential sites with members of the community. Approximately 30 community members attended and provided suggestions and input on locations for green infrastructure. The first walk-thru with city agencies – the Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Protection , and Department of Parks and Recreation — occurred and resulted in the elimination of several sites. Based on feedback from the city agencies, the project team was able to identify additional potential sites in the southern part of Area 1 in anticipation of a second agency walk-thru.

September 2015: A second city agency walk-thru in September of potential sites for green infrastructure in Area 1 resulted in the elimination of some additional locations (due to required tree canopy setbacks) and a reduction of potential size of installations at several other locations. Additional eliminations of potential locations and reductions of installation sizes are expected after geotechnical tests (e.g., borings and soil surveys) are conducted to determine the suitability of soils and conflicts with subsurface infrastructure. Following these investigations, the relevant city agencies will approve final sites for green infrastructure installation.

August 2016: Due to new New York City Department of Transportation requirements as well as results from geotechnical tests, the project team has needed to conduct enhanced site surveys for the project. This change has impacted both the schedule and budget of the project encompassing Area 1, as project funds must be directed to additional investigations. As a result, a reduction in the originally projected number of 54 right of way green infrastructure features in Area 1 is now projected. Currently, the project team is undertaking extensive soil and groundwater testing in Area 1 to assure that stormwater infiltration does not mobilize existing contaminants in the soil. Testing of the first half of sites has been completed and a final list of sites is being prepared for approval by New York City Departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection. Following final approval by the city, design of green infrastructure features at each approved site will take place with a goal of reviewing the plans with the community at a public meeting in the winter of 2017, and completing construction by the end of 2017.

The project team participated in a city agency walkthrough during which 67 preliminary sites and 9 additional backup sites were identified. The project team has begun assessment of the 67 preliminary locations and will determine which of these locations are most cost-effective, fit within the project budget, and meet grant requirements before moving on the geotechnical evaluation. The public meeting tentatively scheduled for the winter of 2017 will also include a report on the progress of geotechnical investigations for Area 2.

NOTE: In the spring of 2017, the grantee informed GCEF that the number of bioswales determined to be suitable for installation was dramatically lower than originally proposed, i.e., only 16 of the proposed 96 sites were deemed suitable, an 83% reduction in the number of bioswale installations. In addition, GCEF was informed that, pending a final survey of the sites, a number of the remaining 16 sites also could be deemed unsuitable for installation.

The following factors contributed to the substantial reduction in the number of sites deemed suitable for the installation of bioswales:

  • Increased costs associated with site investigations and testing required by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT)/Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), including soil contaminant and infiltration testing that was not required by the City until after the GCEF grants were awarded. These increased costs reduced the number of sites that could be tested by the project from 93 to 76 sites.
  • The NYC DOT/DEP determined that significantly fewer sites were suitable for bioswales than was anticipated by the project. Of the 76 sites tested for soil contaminant and infiltration, the NYC DOT/DEP determined that only 33 to 35 had sufficient and safe infiltration.
  • After the project grants were awarded, NYC DEP changed their policies for bioswales in NYC DOT rights-of-way to include “special conditions” for projects believed to pose a higher risk for failure. These “special conditions” would have required Brooklyn Greenway Initiativeto provide long-term maintenance of the installations and a commitment to remove a bioswale if it should fail. Of the 33 to 35 sites found to be suitable by NYC DOT/DEC for bioswales based on soil contamination and infiltration testing results, NYC DEC determined that 19 of these site would require “special conditions.” These conditions required significant long-term funding that Brooklyn Greenway Initiativewas not prepared to commit.

After GCEF was informed about the projected substantial decrease in the number of bioswales, the GCEF Community Advisory Panel (CAP) was consulted in August 2017 on whether or not to continue to fund the project. The majority of CAP members voted to terminate the project. Taking the CAP’s opinion into consideration, the State decided to terminate the project.

GCEF has since taken steps to re-invest the balance of the West Street funding – roughly $2.8 million – into additional project funding, including competitive processes open to active GCEF projects (through which funding was distributed in the fall of 2017) and to active GCEF projects, completed GCEF projects, and new projects (being administered in 2018).