Tale of two bioswales

lush bioswale on Victory Boulevard

Lush bioswale on Victory Boulevard

Last week we reported on the bioswale that is flourishing happily on lower Victory Boulevard in Tompkinsville. As the photos show, it is lush and functional and it vividly illustrates how pleasantly these water management structures can blend into a community. The story is quite different just a few blocks away on Bay Street near Swan Street, where another bioswale seems to be in trouble. In contrast, that one seems like a semidesert of scraggly brush and wood chips and rather than adding green and flowry color, it only adds to the general appearance of neglect along this stretch of Bay Street. What is the difference? The most obvious one is that the Victory Boulevard bioswale is located on the slope of Victory Boulevard before it reaches the flatness of Bay Street, whereas the other is on level ground on Bay Street below the hillside. The Victory Blvd bioswale is also located in front of several thriving businesses and has been maintained partially by community groups, whereas the Bay Street one is located in a somewhat desolate area where construction on a new strip of stores is ongoing. Are there other differences that are not so immediately apparent that contribute to this dramatic contrast?

Now for something completely different: the bioswale on Bay Street

Now for something completely different: the bioswale on Bay Street

Whose responsibility? D.E.P.? D.P.? D.O.T.?

Whose responsibility? D.E.P.? D.P.? D.O.T.?

Regarding the functionality of the structures, I cannot assess them, other than to say that the thriving vegetation on Victory Boulevard would make one believe that it is collecting water runoff more than the one on Bay Street.

The installation of bioswales in New York City is a collaborative effort between the Department of Environmental Protection, which sites them and builds them, the Parks Department which plants and maintains them and the Department of Transportation. Is it possible, when responsibilities are divided between agencies to effectively assess the problems that arise and find ways to remedy them?

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One thought on “Tale of two bioswales

  1. I think the fact that the Victory Boulevard bioswale is located near an active commercial area and is partially maintained by the community could be part of the reason it is doing better. Unfortunately, the City agencies that build infrastructure do not have the capacity to properly monitor and maintain them. I have seen some successful models where bioswales are officially “adopted” by community organizations. The City agency often provides the trash bags, gloves, safety training, volunteer recognition, etc. but the community that is there almost every day can pick up trash and notify the agency if any plants have died.

    This is definitely an issue Philadelphia is facing as they move forward with an all-green approach to stormwater management: http://philaplanningjournal.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/what-philadelphia-is-not-doing/

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