In the past few years, our work as an environmental organization has grown to encompass green infrastructure development, advocacy, and installation on the Lower East Side. Especially in wake of Superstorm Sandy, it has become clear that in order to preserve the open spaces we all hold dear, it has become necessary to think outside the box about ways to reduce our impact on the environment. Our focus is largely on water infrastructure and innovative water capture and cleaning systems.
Green infrastructure works by using the ecosystem services of green spaces to relieve the pressure on our overburdened and outdated gray or hard infrastructure, which is made up of such huge systems as our sewers. Whether a result of storm surge, drenching rains, or the sixty or so normal rain storms each year that cause our combined sewers to overflow untreated sewage into the East River, it has become evident that we need to install more green infrastructure to control and use stormwater in way that makes our neighborhood a nicer, greener place to live.
Our objective is to encourage, install, and maintain green infrastructure as a natural extension of our environmental education and stewardship programs. We seek to educate New Yorkers about the environmental benefits of neighborhood greening, and to involve them in making it happen! The scale of these green projects vary tremendously: from a street tree bed that absorbs a few hundred gallons of water a year, to a large planted berm. What all these diverse projects have in common is that they prevent water from flooding into our homes and overwhelming our sewer systems, and add new beautiful and functional planting to parks and neighborhood green spaces.
Green infrastructure projects that the Ecology Center has been involved in include:
- East River Park Fire Boat House Green Roof, funded by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
- Lower East Side street tree installation and stewardship
- Community Gardens, including our own E 7th Street garden founded in 1986
- Design, installation and maintenance of citizen-built bioswales on Catherine Slip & South St and Allen & Broome
- The Rebuild by Design award-winning Big-U barrier berm in East River Park
- Other resiliency planning efforts in and around the East River Waterfront, including but not limited to: OUR Waterfront Coalition, the East River Blueway, and the Paths to Pier 42 Impact Assessment.
- Our upcoming Compost Wetland to be built in East River Park in 2016