QUEENS — Some residents are concerned that a fleet of rain-absorbing bioswales — designed to prevent polluted runoff from flowing into nearby waterways — may bring a number of problems to the neighborhood, including a mosquito infestation and loss of parking.
According to the Department of Environmental Protection, 19 bioswales have already been installed in the northern part of Community Board 6, including the area around Rego Park Center.
Roughly 100 more will be constructed in Rego Park and Forest Hills this winter and in early spring, the DEP is planning to choose several hundred additional sites within Community Board 6.
Maryann Bartolotto, an insurance company employee, who has lived in Forest Hills for three decades, said she was afraid the project, which would bring hundreds of the small greenspaces to the streets — would attract bugs to the neighborhood.
“I’m all about green,” she said, but some areas that introduced bioswales "are currently infested with mosquitoes."
According to materials provided by the DEP, “mosquitos require a minimum of 72 hours in standing water for larvae development," while bioswales are expected to drain in less than 48 hours.
Bartolotto also complained that she did not receive a notification from the city about the project coming to her street. “We just woke up one day and they started drilling on the property,” she said. “There was no fair warning that they were coming to do this.”
Others said they feared losing parking spots, which are already difficult to find in the neighborhood.
Richard Allen said at the meeting that his house on 75th Avenue is located on a one-way street where parking is allowed only on one side of the road.
He said the project “would remove two parking spots from the block,” because the bioswales, one of which is planned in front of his house, would make it impossible to get out of the car when he parks near his home.
And residents asked who would maintain the bioswales, especially if they stop working properly.
Mikelle Adgate, DEP project manager for Green Infrastructure Partnerships, told residents at a Community Board 6 meeting on Wednesday night, that the project would help the environment.
"Every time it rains, the water that flows into the catch basins mixes with sanitary flows from our homes and buildings and that mixture — combined sewer overflow — discharges into Flushing Bay," she said.
Bioswales prevent that overflow by collecting stormwater which would be later absorbed into the ground, she said.
Adgate assured them that the city will provide crews consisting of Parks Department workers dedicated solely to maintain the bioswales.
He also said that bioswales are designed to have no impact on street parking, and that specific locations are chosen in collaboration with the Department of Transportation.