New York — U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer joined New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Emily Lloyd and Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora to break ground on the construction of Staten Island’s first mid-Island Bluebelt in the Midland Beach neighborhood. Currently, very few streets in the area are equipped with catch basins or storm sewers and roadway flooding often occurs during heavy rain storms. The $22 million project will build the first two, of what will eventually be 19, Bluebelt wetlands that will receive and naturally filter the stormwater that falls in the area.
In addition, a new west branch of New Creek will be built to convey the stormwater from the wetlands to the main channel of New Creek. Once the Bluebelts are constructed and ready to receive stormwater, future phases of the project will include the installation of catch basins and storm sewers under neighborhood streets to collect and convey the stormwater to the Bluebelts.
The project is being funded jointly by DEP and an $11 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant secured by Senator Schumer. DDC will manage the construction of the Bluebelts, which are expected to be completed by the end of 2017.
“We are very excited to begin construction on the first mid-Island Bluebelt system, which will significantly improve the area’s drainage system, help to reduce flooding and provide some relief to Midland Beach residents,” said DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd. “The 62 Bluebelt wetlands we have built and maintain on the Island’s south shore have proven effective at managing stormwater and have even helped to raise nearby property values. We thank Senator Schumer for his assistance in obtaining the funding necessary to get this expansion of the program off the ground.”
“Staten Island’s Bluebelt system is a smart, innovative way to help make communities more resilient through an environmentally beneficial approach and that’s why I fought so hard to secure millions in USDA funding to expand the Bluebelt to Midland Beach,” said Senator Schumer. “The Bluebelt offers two layers of vital protections to at-risk Staten Islanders: it helps prevent flooding and it helps prevent brush fires. Flooding is a widespread issue in the Midland Beach area of Staten Island and the groundbreaking of the mid-island Bluebelt means that these communities are one step closer to being better protected during heavy rain storms. Once construction is underway, this project will preserve open space and reduce flood threats that plague these communities far too often. Thank you to DEP Commissioner Lloyd, DDC Commissioner Dr. Peña-Mora, and all those who have been so supportive of this important project.”
“We are proud to partner with DEP, our elected officials and community stakeholders to begin construction of the Staten Island Bluebelt in the Midland Beach neighborhood,” said DDC Commissioner Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora. “This stormwater management system will preserve natural drainage to prevent chronic overflow. DDC is committed to Mayor de Blasio's vision for a healthy and sustainable city and to building resilient projects that will protect New York City against severe weather conditions.”
The award winning Bluebelt program preserves natural drainage corridors such as streams and ponds, and optimizes them to help control and filter stormwater. During this first phase of the project, two new wetlands will be built along with a new, west branch of New Creek. This includes a new 4.7-acre freshwater wetland between Nugent Avenue and Freeborn Street, and another 0.7-acre freshwater wetland between Freeborn Street and Olympia Boulevard. These wetlands will slow the stormwater down after it empties from the sewer system and detain it, allowing it to be naturally filtered. The water will then slowly flow over weirs and into the new west branch of New Creek. The stream will be built to a width of 32 feet and will run southeast through City-owned property that, in later phases of the project, will be developed into freshwater wetlands.
Culverts will also be built to allow the stream to pass under existing streets. Moving from upstream to downstream, the new water management system will include culverts under Freeborn Street, Olympia Boulevard, and Graham Boulevard, before meeting the main channel of New Creek near Slater Boulevard. Eventually, the system empties into lower New York Harbor. Much of this property is now covered with Phragmites, or common reed grass, which is prone to brush fires. By removing the Phragmites and adding more diverse wetland plantings, the threat of brush fires will be reduced and the area will likely attract more wildlife. The work will include the installation of 31,550 herbaceous plants, including wildflowers, 1,572 woody shrubs and 195 trees.
Over the last 10 years, DEP has built Bluebelts for approximately one third of Staten Island’s land area. In the South Richmond and mid-Island areas, the City has purchased approximately 400 acres of wetland property for Bluebelts that provide drainage for 19 watersheds, covering about 14,000 acres. The Bluebelts also provide important open spaces and serve as a habitat for diverse wildlife.