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What to Expect When Rain Gardens Come to Your Neighborhood

Green spray paint indicates the location is being considered. The drill rigs collect soil samples that are tested to determine if the underlying soil can collect water.

Selection Process

  • Potential locations for rain gardens are marked with green spray paint.
  • A drill rig is used to collect and test underlying soil to ensure that it can absorb stormwater.
  • Engineers work with utility companies to eliminate conflicts with existing service lines.
  • This selection process can take several months. Not all locations that receive spray paint will result in a rain garden.
  • Each location must meet the City’s requirements for pedestrian and vehicle clearance.

Rain gardens during construction.

Construction

  • The sidewalk and curb are removed and the material underneath is excavated to a depth of about five feet.
  • The excavated area is backfilled with stone and engineered soil, which allows for infiltration.
  • The sidewalk and curb that were removed for the installation are replaced. The new curb has one or two curb cuts that allow water to flow in or out.
  • The contractor installs plants, sometimes including a tree, along with a tree guard.

DEP staff maintaining a rain garden. Interactive map with information on rain gardens in NYC is available on DEP’s website.

Maintenance

  • The City inspects each completed rain garden installation to ensure it collects stormwater properly.
  • The City is responsible for rain garden maintenance. Maintenance crews will remove litter, sediment, and weeds from each installation on a regular basis.


Frequently Asked Questions

Will the rain garden attract mosquitoes?

Mosquitoes require a minimum of 72 hours in standing water for larvae development. Rain gardens are designed to drain in 48 hours or less. If your rain garden does not appear to be draining properly, please call 311 or email us at raingardens@dep.nyc.gov.


Will the rain garden prevent people from walking on the sidewalk or block driveways and building entrances?

No, DEP works with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to ensure that rain gardens comply with the City’s requirements for pedestrian access and safety.


Will the rain gardens remove parking?

Most rain gardens are installed in the sidewalk and are designed to have no impact on parking. When larger rain gardens are proposed, DEP and DOT work to minimize parking impacts.


Will tree roots crack the sidewalk or interfere with utility lines?

During design and construction, DEP and utility companies work together to ensure that rain gardens will not directly interfere with existing underground and above-ground utility service lines. Older tree roots can break sidewalks because the tree pit is not large enough for the tree roots. But the City’s standard rain gardens are at least 10 feet long, which gives tree roots plenty of space to grow.


Contractors have been working on rain gardens in my neighborhood and there are tree guards but no plants. Why are these sites still unfinished?

Construction on rain gardens may begin at different times throughout the year. However, planting of the rain gardens must occur during the spring or fall season when conditions are optimal for planting. Construction on these rain gardens may have begun earlier in order to be ready for the next appropriate planting season.


If you recieved a letter requesting information regarding the planned construction of a curbside rain garden, have a valid NYC parking permit for people with disabilities, or an in-ground sprinkler system that has been installed in the grass strip along the curbline, and want to opt-out, register here.

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