Putting Green Infrastructure on Private Property in New York City

This paper provides an overview of challenges faced by New York City based on existing stormwater management infrastructure and regulation. It also summarizes the City's green infrastructure goals and the benefits and costs expected from meeting these goals. The report then delves into the issue of using private property to house green infrastructure, including the difficulty of scaling up these installations and using public money to increase the volume of green infrastructure on private property.

New York City uses a combined sewer system, meaning that stormwater and wastewater flow through many of the same pipes then flowing into wastewater treatment plants. During rain events, the system can become overwhelmed and overflow. In 2005, New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation and New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection agreed to targets and deadlines to reduce this pollution, with green infrastructure being part of the solution. In 2011, New York launched a program to support private property owners’ efforts to install green infrastructure. The paper describes this history and the details of these green infrastructure efforts.

As of June 2017, few private property owners have installed green infrastructure despite the incentives from the city. For example, the city charges a fee for parking lots above a certain size that do not install green infrastructure. All lot owners have agreed to pay the fee rather than installing infrastructure that controls runoff. The paper describes some of the factors that may discourage private property owners from participating in green infrastructure initiatives and the constraints the city faces in encouraging uptake.

Policies used in other cities to support green stormwater management are described - including Washington D.C., Chicago, and Philadelphia. These policies include tax abatements, grant funding, stormwater fees, tradeable credits, zoning and permitting exceptions, performance standards, and design standards.

The paper concludes with recommendations that could allow New York City to succeed in getting private property owners to build green infrastructure. For example, the author recommends a stormwater fee tailored to stormwater management. Hiring program staff is also recommended in order to shepherd participants through the process of pricing out, installing, and maintaining green infrastructure to reduce the ministerial burden on small property owners. For any incentives, paying by volume of averted stormwater to align public and private interests is suggested. The paper also identifies state-level and city-level legislation that would be helpful for scaling up green infrastructure on private property.


Publication Date: May 2017

Author or Affiliated User:

  • Justin Gundlach

Related Organizations:


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Academic research paper
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

States Affected:


Go To Resource