New York City Green Infrastructure Plan - A Sustainable Strategy for Clean Waterways

This plan provides a detailed framework and implementation plan for better water quality in New York Harbor with the aim of creating a livable and sustainable New York City. Targeting combined sewer overflow reduction strategies and investments over the next 20 years, it is intended to be an adaptive management strategy and an iterative, flexible decision-making process where incremental measures are continually evaluated and rejected or improved. The city believes this process produces better decisions about investments and overall resource allocation to achieve water quality objectives.

The plan's analysis is based on predicted impacts on combined sewer overflow volumes in individual watersheds and on the City's estimates of capital and operating costs. Detailed cost comparisons with grey strategies are provided for each major water body analyzed. Economic benefits, as well as benefits to urban heat island effect, air quality, ecosystems, and other sustainability goals are also discussed.

The plan creates the pathway for achieving incremental change by:

  1. Setting water quality and other targets with a specific timeframe (to capture the first inch of rainfall on ten percent of impervious surfaces in the combined sewer watersheds over twenty years);
  2. Identifying strategies for different land use types, including parks, parking lots, streets, and public facilities;
  3. Establishing an interagency Task Force for green infrastructure and engaging stakeholders such as partner agencies and community groups;
  4. Using green infrastructure thoughtfully in combination with gray infrastructure improvement, which would also be necessary to meet the city’s water quality requirements; and
  5. Monitoring and measuring performance to be able to adaptively manage green infrastructure installations over time.

Additionally, New York committed to updating its green infrastructure plan annually to better track progress and performance. Annual updates to the original plan have enabled the city to report back on individual projects that have been completed, the city’s progress toward meeting each of the identified goals in the plan, and performance data collected from monitoring of the new installations.  By creating targets with specific and measurable pathways to achieve those targets, New York City is able to manage (at both the project level and at the program level) shifting priorities and adapt its approach based on real-time data.

This plan incorporates stormwater guidance published by the EPA (see Memorandum on using Green Infrastructure to Improve CSOs, 2007), the New York State Stormwater Management Design Manual, and public comments on using green approaches to meet regulatory commitments. 



Publication Date: September 2010

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