West Street Watershed Stormwater Project 2020-03-07T09:58:40+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; 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
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 2014 project proposal offered $5,030,000 in matching funds, but the final match received was $17,585,566.


In 2014, through a competitive process, the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative received $1,917,717 in funding (and ultimately 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 (“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 and 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 the fall of 2015 the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, Inc. received a supplementary competitive 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 (“Area 2”), and thereby extend the benefits of the project to the community.

In the spring of 2017, the grantee informed GCEF that the number of bioswales determined to be suitable for green infrastructure installation would be dramatically lower than projected. Only 16 of the prospective 96 candidate sites identified in both project areas were ultimately deemed suitable for bioswale installation – an 83% reduction. 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 the fall of 2017), and a second open to active GCEF projects, completed GCEF projects, and new projects (though which funding was distributed in 2018).