Green infrastructure improves health of Gowanus Canal, beautifies neighborhood

Let’s hear it for the green.

In an effort to capture stormwater and a beautifying measure to boot, city officials celebrated the long-awaited addition of green infrastructure to the Gowanus Canal Watershed in October.

Already being recognized for its “design excellence,” according to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the newly constructed Sponge Park, located at the foot of Second Street on the west side of the Gowanus Canal, is 1,800 square feet of green park specifically designed to capture and clean the stormwater that flows down Second Street before it reaches the canal, hopefully capturing an estimated 1 million gallons of stormwater annually.

“DEP is proud to partner with so many groups who are committed to a cleaner Gowanus Canal,” said DEP Acting Commissioner Vincent Sapienza of the partnered project between DEP, DLANDSTUDIO, the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy. “By keeping millions of gallons of stormwater out of the combined sewer system each year, the new green infrastructure will reduce pollution in the canal, improve air quality and green neighborhood streets.  We look forward to building upon these partnerships as we move forward with additional cleanup projects in the coming years.”

According to the DEP, the nearly “$1.5 million park was developed through the grassroots efforts of DLANDSTUDIO and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, with funding from the City Council.”

“It’s exciting to see what can happen when designers, community, foundations, city, state and federal initiatives come together to innovate and make our city a better place to live, work and raise our families,” said Susannah Drake, principal of DLANDSTUDIO.

“As curbside and street end rain gardens pop up around the Gowanus Watershed and the city, there is an incredibly opportunity to engage the community in understanding the issues of combined sewer overflows and how we can all pitch in to solve them,” added Andrea Parker, executive director, Gowanus Canal Conservancy.  “We look forward to using Sponge Park as an outdoor classroom for our green infrastructure stewardship training program, middle school STEM curriculum, public walking tours and more.”

According to the DEP, construction of the “prototype infrastructure” involved excavating the roadway approximately five feet deep and inputting a system of concrete cells filled with soil, for the purpose of storing and filtering any stormwater runoff. A 10-foot-wide walkway over an overflow sand filter area provides public access to the canal and views of the native plant life.

“Along with local projects to eliminate combined sewers, we are significantly improving the quality of a waterway that runs through a growing and thriving area of Brooklyn,” said New York City Department of Design and Construction Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora. “We look forward to future efforts with DEP to enhance the sustainability of our local environment.”

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