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Community Gardens Could Save LES From Flooding Under $2M Plan

By Allegra Hobbs | December 21, 2016 8:32am
 M'Finda Kalunga Community Garden is one of 47 gardens in the Lower East Side to participate in the Gardens Rising project.
M'Finda Kalunga Community Garden is one of 47 gardens in the Lower East Side to participate in the Gardens Rising project.
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DNAinfo/Serena Solomon

LOWER EAST SIDE — The first phase of an expansive $2 million project bringing protections against flooding to more than 40 Lower East Side and East Village community gardens has concluded, paving the way for construction on new infrastructure to begin by summer 2017.

The New York City Community Garden Coalition has wrapped its roughly year-long study of 47 neighborhood gardens, identifying the best ways for each garden to absorb more storm water and prevent sewers from overflowing in the event of a future storm.

Using the information from the feasibility study, the coalition in January will kick off the second phase of the massive project, which entails evaluating the cost of each infrastructure upgrade and consulting with community gardeners on their desires in order to decide which upgrades will go into which garden.

"There are a lot of different opportunities we see in those gardens — everyone will get something, and whatever they get, they will have decided upon themselves," explained NYCCGC executive director Aziz Dehkan.

Of the $2 million grant awarded by the New York State Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery for the project, $500,000 went towards the feasibility study, said Dehkan, while the remaining $1.5 million must be allocated among all 47 gardens.

Construction on the project is expected to begin by summer 2017 and will likely wrap up in mid-2018, said Dehkan.

The study lays out plans for increasing the gardens' ability to absorb water, reducing the likelihood of flooding during a storm, and includes measures such as facilitating rainwater collection off of existing structures, creating more porous paving to soak in more water, and constructing beams around site edges to reduce the amount of rainwater that would pour out of the garden.

The project will not only serve the Lower East Side, which had been heavily impacted by flooding following Hurricane Sandy, but will hopefully change the way community gardens are viewed, said Dehkan — and if the model is successful, the coalition plans to bring it to other neighborhoods ravaged by storms in the past, such as Rockaway, Queens.

"We believe this adds a new metric to what community gardens can do, and that's why this is such an important project," said Dehkan, adding that maybe a newfound appreciation for the beloved green spaces will help ensure their preservation.

"If it is successful it can go citywide, and it will continue to prove the value of community gardens, and hopefully stop the loss of community gardens to housing and development projects throughout the city."

The entire feasibility study results, broken down by community garden, can be viewed on the coalition's website.