SUNNYSIDE — The city is building more than 300 rain gardens on streets in western Queens, part of a $7.3 million project to help curb pollution flowing into nearby Newtown Creek, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.
The 321 gardens — also known as bioswales — are being built in Sunnyside, Maspeth and Ridgewood, largely clustered east of the Kosciuszko Bridge and in neighborhoods around the Queens-Midtown Expressway in Queens Community Boards 2 and 5.
Built into the sidewalks, the gardens are designed to collect and absorb rain that would otherwise go into the sewer system, potentially overwhelming the city's wastewater treatment plants and overflowing into local waterways, including Newtown Creek, a notoriously polluted Superfund site.
"Cleaning up Newtown Creek is a priority for DEP," the agency's Commissioner Steven Lawitts said in a statement about the project.
Each rain garden will have the capacity to absorb up to 2,500 gallons of water during a storm, and all 321 together are estimated to collect as much as 38 million gallons a year, the DEP says.
The gardens look like sidewalk tree pits and vary in size, and are filled with flowers and other plants, according to the DEP. They're constructed by excavating a five-foot-deep hole that's then filled with soil and stone that's designed to hold and infiltrate water.
The project is expected to be completed later this year, according to the DEP.