Bioswale plans anger Flushing residents: Avella

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A city Department of Environmental Protection project to install bioswales across Flushing to clean up nearby waterways has residents fuming over the lack of homeowner notification.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Joseph Branzetti, president of the Friends of Fort Totten Parks and the Northwest Bayside Civic Association, held a news conference July 14 to call upon the DEP and the de Blasio administration to include residents in the decision to place bioswales in front of their homes.

Dozens of Flushing homeowners attended the news conference and shared their stories about how they heard about the project and how they felt about the installations. Many residents only found out as they questioned Department of Design and Construction employees marking sidewalk space which have suitable conditions for bioswales, others by word of mouth.

“There is no way a homeowner, a taxpayer, can have this forced upon them without any input whatsoever.” said Jena Lanzetta, vice president of the civic association. “An open and honest discussion needs to be started regarding the city’s plans and an opt-out policy – taxpayers deserve that choice”

According to the DEP, bioswales are green infrastructure installations cut into the pavement to absorb rain water and remove some of the burden from the sewer system. The ultimate goal of a bioswale project is to clean up waterways, in this case, Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay, a DEP spokesman said. A similar project in Brooklyn launched in June by the city agency will cost $35 million and install more than 800 bioswales to improve water quality in Jamaica Bay.

Branzetti, a resident of Murray Hill, says that infrastructure which absorbs water into the ground is less than ideal in what he calls the lowest point in Flushing. Many homes in his neighborhood have pumps to remove water from basements under normal conditions, and he fears bioswales will only make the problem worse and cost homeowners money.

Residents complain bioswales will take away from the parking space, while trees planted in the installations will cause sidewalks to crack, yet again costing homeowners money to fix. Other fears go back to the issue of city trees being planted in the homeowners’ yards and then neglected by the Parks Department tasked with their upkeep.

“The homeowner should have the right to say, ‘I don’t want this.’ If you look at the sidewalk here that’s marked off, half the sidewalk will be gone,” Avella said, pointing to the green spray paint in front of one Flushing home. “Is the homeowner going to have to maintain this? The city doesn’t maintain the city trees as it is now. They’re going to come out and maintain this little island? Of course, they’re not.”

Avella went on to make the argument that the Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes, which breed within areas of standing water and bioswales are counter-intuitive to the city’s fight to keep the disease at bay.

Lynn Boledovic said she recently replaced the sidewalk in front of her house at her own expense only to have it marked up and possibly torn out by the project, which is in its screening phase. She lives on a corner and her property is slated for three bioswales.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

Updated 12:32 am, July 10, 2018
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Reader feedback

Jim from Queens says:
These people seem like they don't like the bioswales simply because they are new and different. I'd like one in front of my house and it sounds like in number they could really clean up this city's waterways.
July 26, 2016, 8:20 am
AMH says:
Residents should not be able to stop a public works project because they don't like it. However, the way sidewalk space is handled creates conflict. Property owners do not own it, but they are expected to maintain it. The city should take over responsibility for this space or at least coordinate it better so that brand new sidewalks are not torn up. This is why sidewalks are a mess. (The city should coordinate street paving and utility work as well so that streets are not continually torn up.) The city should maintain vegetation so that property owners are not incentivised to oppose it.
July 26, 2016, 9:02 am
Dan from Astoria says:
They wore their best sandals to the press conference in protest. :)
July 26, 2016, 9:23 am
Dan from Astoria says:
It's kind of petty for a homeowner to demand that the city take care of street trees "on" their property. Trees increase property values so there should be a shared responsibility to their upkeep. Plus, it's fun to be nurturing! :)
July 26, 2016, 9:25 am
boof from brooklyn says:
This is an excellent precedent. No one asked me if people should be allowed to park cars in front of our co-op building.

Perhaps our building can petition the city to remove the car parking in front of our building. After all, we didn't ask for it, and there is no way homeowners, taxpayers, can have parking forced upon them without any input whatsoever.
July 26, 2016, 9:38 am
Bronx Resident from NYC says:
Raise their taxes to cover the grey infrastructure that these are being produced to replace.
July 26, 2016, 6:14 pm
nicholas agneta from murray hill says:
Are bioswales needed to clean the water in flushing bay...or has the overdevelopment of Flushing stressed the existing infrastructure past is designed usefulness and towards failure, of which the introduction of bioswales is a part of relieving the sewer system, to accommodate the overdevelopment, both legal and illegal?
Aug. 4, 2016, 12:15 pm
Tyson White from NYC says:
Bioswales are beautiful. Only an ignorant homeowner would reject having them placed in front of their house free of charge!
Aug. 14, 2016, 1:29 pm
Lou from Flushing says:
There are many areas in flushing , whitestone ect. where the properties are low lying and water tables already are a problem for basements flooding . These areas need to get rid of water , not force more water into the ground . I am all for helping to improve things , but not at the expense of making homeowners problems worse. I have seen contractors marking for bio swales in these low lying areas where I know of the water problems , apparently this has not been considerd in there design .
April 13, 2018, 7:25 pm
Lou from Flushing says:
There are low lying areas in flushing and whitestone ect . where the water table already is causing water problems in home owners basements . I've seen contractors marking these areas for bio Swales ,so I guess this has not been taken into consideration . These people need to get rid of water , not put more in the ground . I am all for improving things , but not at the expense of making things worse for people .
April 13, 2018, 7:57 pm

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