West Street Watershed Stormwater Project 2021-04-02T21:36:09+00:00

Project Description

West Street Watershed Stormwater Project

Project Lead: Brooklyn Greenway Initiative
2014 Project Partners: NYC Department of Transportation; NYC Department of Environmental Protection; NYC Department of Parks and Recreation; North Brooklyn Parks Alliance, formerly Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn; WE Design; and eDesign Dynamics
2015 Project Partners: NYC Department of Transportation; NYC Department of Environmental Protection; NYC Department of Parks and Recreation; North Brooklyn Parks Alliance; and Teresa Toro, Greenpoint resident and outreach lead
2014 Project Location: Area bound by West Street, Calyer Street, Manhattan Avenue, and Eagle Street
2015 Project Location: Area bound by West Street, Commercial Street, McGuinnes Boulevard, and Calyer Street
Total GCEF Funding: $3,557,595
2014 GCEF Grant: $1,917,717 2015 GCEF Grant: $1,639,878
Total Matching Contribution: $25,085,566
2014 Matching Contribution: $17,585,566* 2015 Matching Contribution: $7,500,000
Project Terminated: September 2017

* The project’s 2014 application referenced $5,030,000 in matching funds, but the final match received was $17,585,566.


In 2014, through a competitive process, Brooklyn Greenway Initiative received a GCEF grant of $1,917,717 (and provided $17,585,566 in matching funds) to design and install 54 right-of-way “green infrastructure” features (e.g., bioswales) on streets that slope toward the East River between Manhattan Avenue and Franklin Street (referred to as “Area 1.”) The project sought to use the infrastructure to capture and treat polluted stormwater runoff that would otherwise flow into the East River, restore native plants and habitat, improve local air quality, reduce ambient temperatures, and decrease chronic flooding and sewer backups in the project area. 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; and performing maintenance of the installed infrastructure.

In Fall 2015, through a competitive process, Brooklyn Greenway Initiative received an additional GCEF grant of $1,639,878 (and was to provide $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 (referred to as “Area 2,”) and thereby extend the project benefits.

In Spring 2017, the grantee informed GCEF that the number of bioswales determined to be suitable for green infrastructure installation would be dramatically lower than originally projected. Only 16 of the prospective 96 candidate sites identified in Areas 1 and 2 were ultimately deemed suitable for installation—an 83% reduction. In addition, GCEF was informed that pending a final survey of the sites, many 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 NYC 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 DOT/DEP determined that significantly fewer sites were suitable for infrastructure than was anticipated by the project. Of the 76 sites tested for soil contaminant and infiltration, the DOT/DEP determined that only 33 to 35 had sufficient and safe infiltration.
  • After the project grants were awarded, DEP changed their policies for bioswales in 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 Initiative to provide long-term maintenance of the installations and a commitment to remove green infrastructure if it should fail. Of the 33 to 35 sites found to be suitable by DOT/DEC for bioswales based on soil contamination and infiltration testing results, DEC determined that 19 of these sites would require special conditions. These conditions would have required significant long-term funding that Brooklyn Greenway Initiative was 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 for their thoughts on whether the project should continue. A majority of CAP members voted to terminate the project. Taking the CAP’s opinion into consideration, the State decided to terminate the project.

GCEF re-invested the remaining balance of the West Street funding – roughly $2.8 million – through two grant competitions: one open to active GCEF projects (through which funding was distributed in Fall 2017), and a second open to active GCEF projects, completed GCEF projects, and new projects (though which funding was distributed in 2018).