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The future of green infrastructure in New York City


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Riverkeeper and partner environmental organizations submitted to the Mayor Adams’ Administration twelve recommendations for improving New York City’s Green Infrastructure Program. Pushing the city to redouble its efforts to develop more soil and vegetated stormwater controls is a proactive effort that will help combat the devastating impact that climate change will have on New York City.

With these recommendations the organizations hope to spark greater cooperation among city agencies; more creative and aggressive funding procurement; better maintenance for the 11,000 sidewalk rain gardens and other constructed infrastructure; and equitable disbursement of green infrastructure practices across all New York City neighborhoods, among many other things. The recommendations are meant to inform the city’s forthcoming “AdaptNYC Plan,” which will evaluate various climate hazards impacting the city and its shoreline with a focus on environmental justice impacts.

Read our recommendations >

Green infrastructure in New York City's South Bronx
Photo: Karen Argenti, Bronx Council for Environmental Quality

To survive in the face of climate change, the city must grow and transition its now decade-old program to improve community livability and resilience by connecting natural park areas and corridors of greenery that provide shade and absorb precipitation. Green infrastructure—or constructed soil, vegetation and other stormwater infiltration practices—is the Swiss Army tool of fighting climate change. Among its many benefits are those that improve human and ecological well-being:

  • Absorbs hundreds of millions of gallons of stormwater citywide
  • Lessens sewage overflow discharges
  • Mitigates localized local flooding damage
  • Reduces the urban heat island effect
  • Provides tree canopy shade
  • Improves air quality
  • Decreases temperatures in urban neighborhoods
  • Provides pollinator gardens and wetland and woodland habitat
  • Sequesters carbon

New York City’s Green Infrastructure Program, implemented by the Department of Environmental Protection, has constructed more than 11,000 green infrastructure practices, most of which are curbside gardens. With similar opportunities dwindling, it will be crucial for DEP to innovate new stormwater management tools; seek federal and state funding opportunities; strengthen partnerships with key stakeholders like the Parks Department and Department of Transportation; and commit to maintaining the assets it has constructed. Moving forward we will work with our partners to raise awareness of these critical needs and push for the funding that a successful green infrastructure program requires.

You can help eliminate the obstacles that are holding us back from creating more sidewalk rain gardens, better maintaining them, and providing them equitably across all New York City neighborhoods. Please join your neighbors in calling on the Adams Administration to adopt our recommendations and meet the growing stormwater and flooding challenges facing the city.

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