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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

November 2005 Issue

A Watershed Moment in Green Infrastructure
On Staten Island, a pioneering stormwater project uses natural systems.

By Theodore Eisenman

A Watershed Moment in Green Infrastructure
Deeya Deb, Hazen and Sawyer, P.C.

Imagine the New York City landscape, and you tend to envision an extensive grid of asphalt and concrete lined with towering buildings. Yet in the cityís fifth and perhaps least-storied borough, Staten Island, the dense urban fabric gives way to a surprisingly verdant terrain that is home to a large stand of freshwater wetlands. This island southwest of Manhattan is also the last large part of the city without conventional drainage infrastructure, and it hosts a pioneering stormwater management project that has saved the municipality tens of millions of dollars.

The Staten Island Bluebelt, as the project is called, leverages existing waterways and wetlands to convey, store, and filter stormwater from 19 watersheds across 14,018 acres in the southern and mid-island areas. In doing so, the Bluebelt not only achieves stormwater management goals such as drainage and flood control, it also increases habitat for plants and animals, enhances historic preservation, provides passive recreation, and beautifies neighborhoods.

"Once we started building these [waterways], everybody wanted one," says Dean Cavallaro, ASLA, deputy director of the Staten Island Bluebelt and the projectís lead landscape architect since 1991. "What used to be considered a problem—stormwater—is now seen as an amenity that can build community pride."

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