$75 Million Expansion of Mid-Island Bluebelt Underway

October 1, 2020

Bluebelts manage stormwater and reduce flooding while protecting natural areas, improving the health of local waterways and raising nearby property values

Photos and a Map of the Project Area are Available on DEP’s Flickr Page

New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Vincent Sapienza, Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner Lorraine Grillo today announced that construction has begun on a $75 million expansion of the award-winning Bluebelt program in the Mid-Island section of Staten Island.

The work includes two projects which are funded by DEP and DOT and managed by DDC. The $33 million “Gateway to the Bluebelt” project will create a public viewing area and introduction to the rehabilitated New Creek wetlands. This project received a $4.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program. The $42 million expansion of the New Creek Bluebelt, which will create the largest wetland area in the entire Bluebelt system, received an $11.1 million Hurricane Sandy recovery grant secured by Senator Schumer. The projects are scheduled to be completed in 2023.

“We have built more than 70 Bluebelts across Staten Island and they have proven to be an integral tool for managing stormwater and reducing flooding, while also improving nearby property values” said DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza. “Historically, New Creek drained much of the mid-Island and this project will continue the restoration of the Creek which will allow it to function as nature intended and drain the stormwater that falls in the area.”

“Increasingly frequent storms like Hurricane Sandy have taught us many painful lessons, but DEP’s Bluebelt program has been a good lesson: we have a relatively low-cost way for Staten Island to prepare for future flooding,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “As a part of this expansion project, DOT will fully reconstruct Hylan Boulevard, one of the borough’s key corridors, protecting it from high-rain events. While we are at it, we will also replace Hylan’s markings, repair concrete bus pads, expand sidewalks and add curb extensions to increase pedestrian safety. We thank Commissioner Sapienza and his team, but also tip our hat to my old boss Senator Schumer for spearheading the considerable federal commitment to this important initiative.”

“Bluebelt systems enhance and preserve natural areas while creating an efficient method for drainage of stormwater,” said DDC Commissioner Lorraine Grillo. “These projects complement each other, adding capacity to the Mid-Island Bluebelt while also making improvements to local streets. We’re very pleased to work in such close coordination with DEP and DOT to bring these changes to Staten Island.”

“We have come a long way from the day I stood on a street corner with DEP officials nearly two decades ago discussing our longstanding ponding and flooding issues and the Mid Island Bluebelt was born, but we can’t rest until they are completed and serving Staten Islanders. Bluebelts are engineering marvels that are the only practical storm-sewer option for many neighborhoods. They also become bucolic respites. We welcome and appreciate the progress to date and the challenge to continue building out the system, and extend much gratitude to our partners at DEP and DDC for their work creating this much needed infrastructure,” said Staten Island Borough President Oddo.

“Keeping Staten Islanders safe from the next storm requires a team effort from all levels of government. Together with our work on the East Shore Seawall, this project will go a long way in keeping Staten Island homeowners out of harm’s way,” said Congressman Max Rose.

“The Bluebelt system has been one of the great successes of our efforts to mitigate flooding and preserve wetlands on Staten Island, and I am proud to have worked with my colleagues in government to continue to build upon it. This next phase will ensure that this vital program will benefit many generations of Islanders to come,” said City Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo.

“The Phase III expansion of the Mid Island Bluebelt and restoration of the New Creek Wetlands will continue to alleviate flooding throughout numerous Mid-Island communities. We have seen time and again that investing in the Bluebelt system is an economically and environmentally smart way to address local flooding. The ‘Gateway to the Bluebelt’ project will provide residents with an opportunity to view this natural system as it acts as ‘nature’s sponge’ while serving to protect the community from flooding. I commend DEP, DDC, DOT, and Borough President James Oddo for continuing to advance the vision for the Mid Island Bluebelt,” said State Senator Andrew Lanza.

“No one knows about stormwater flooding like the people who will benefit from this project. The Bluebelt system has proven itself to be an effective means to manage an infuriating problem, and our community welcomes the start of this next phase.” said Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis.

The award-winning Bluebelt program preserves natural drainage corridors such as streams, creeks, and ponds, and optimizes them to help control and filter stormwater from surrounding neighborhoods. Crews currently working on the Gateway project are clearing brush and trees from the future wetland area. The Gateway entrance, located on the south side of Hylan Boulevard, will feature a permeable paver walkway that leads to a stone-faced headwall looking out over the new wetland with views extending in the direction of lower New York Harbor. Benches will line the walkway, which will also feature site-salvaged boulders and interpretive signs that explain how the Bluebelt works, including detailed maps of the New Creek watershed, and messaging to encourage residents to protect the plants and animals that live in this unique habitat. The Gateway project will include the planting of 219 trees, 607 shrubs and 23,000 wildflowers and native plants, as well as wildflower seeding.

Construction will also include the installation of approximately 940 linear feet of new storm sewers and the replacement of 140 linear feet of sanitary sewers. While the roadway is open to construct the sewers, almost a half mile (2,588 linear feet) of new, more resilient ductile iron water mains will be added to replace older cast iron pipes. This will improve water distribution in the area and provide a reliable supply of water for decades to come. In order to allow New Creek to pass under Hylan Boulevard, the roadway will be raised, between Stobe Avenue and Seaver Avenue, by approximately five feet. This portion of the project will require intermittent lane closures of Hylan Boulevard.

The second project encompasses 21 acres and features the largest man-made wetland in the Bluebelt system along with two outfalls, stilling basins, a micropool and a weir at Olympia Boulevard to regulate the downstream flow of water as it makes its way toward Raritan Bay. Work will include the removal of debris, trash, concrete rubble and invasive Phragmites, which can fuel wildfires. Once done, more than 85,400 wildflowers and native plants will be added, as well as 810 native shrubs and 440 trees.

In addition to the Bluebelt, construction will include the installation of more than one mile (approximately 5,500 linear feet) of new storm sewers along portions of Laconia Ave., Mason Ave., Seaver Ave., Filbert Ave., Rowan Ave., Stobe Ave., Jefferson Ave., Adams Ave., Nugent Ave., and Graham Blvd. More than 1,200 feet of sanitary sewers will be replaced and 870 feet of new sanitary sewer will be installed. While the roadway is open to construct the sewers, 500 feet of new water mains will be installed and 4,800 feet of new water mains will replace older cast iron pipes. This will improve water distribution in the area and provide a reliable supply of water for decades to come.

When construction is completed, stormwater that falls on roadways, rooftops and sidewalks in portions of the Dongan Hills, Grant City and Todt Hill neighborhoods will drain into new storm sewers and be discharged into Last Chance Pond at the top of the New Creek Bluebelt where it will slowly make its way to lower New York Harbor while being naturally filtered along the way. It’s flow, controlled by several new weirs, will wind through the already-completed $25 million Phase I.

Upon completion, the New Creek Bluebelt will total 94 acres and drain a watershed area that is about 2,249 acres in size.

Additional Bluebelt projects are currently under way at Jack’s Pond in Great Kills, which is undergoing a $35 million project to upgrade sewer infrastructure, improve street drainage and enhance the pond’s storage capacity, and a $25 million Infrastructure upgrade for Eltingville with improvements being made to Wood Duck Pond to help reduce flooding and protect the environment.

To manage the needs of residents and businesses during construction, DDC has a full-time Community Construction Liaison (CCL) assigned to the project in order to keep the neighborhood apprised of construction progress, coordinates street closures and utility shutoffs and can arrange special requests such as deliveries to local homes and businesses. Robert Orcinolo works on-site for the “Gateway to the Bluebelt” project and is directly accessible to the public at (908) 421-2231 or by email at masonaveccl@gmail.com. Nicole Chati works on-site for the second project and is directly accessible to the public at (732) 500-2376 or at sandr01hylanblvdccl@gmail.com.

About the NYC Department of Environmental Protection

DEP manages New York City’s water supply, providing approximately 1 billion gallons of high-quality drinking water each day to more than 9 million residents, including 8.3 million in New York City. The water is delivered from a watershed that extends more than 125 miles from the city, comprising 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes. Approximately 7,000 miles of water mains, tunnels and aqueducts bring water to homes and businesses throughout the five boroughs, and 7,500 miles of sewer lines and 96 pump stations take wastewater to 14 in-city treatment plants. DEP has a robust capital program, with a planned $20.1 billion in investments over the next 10 years that will create up to 3,000 construction-related jobs per year. For more information, visit nyc.gov/dep, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

About the NYC Department of Transportation

NYC DOT's mission is to provide for the safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible movement of people and goods, and to maintain and enhance the transportation infrastructure crucial to the economic vitality and quality of life of New York City residents. More than 5,000 DOT employees oversee one of the most complex urban transportation networks in the world, managing 6,000 miles of streets and highways, 12,000 miles of sidewalk, and 794 bridges and tunnels, including the iconic East River bridges. Our staff also installs and maintains more than one million street signs, 12,000 signalized intersections, 315,000 street lights, and 200 million linear feet of street markings. DOT promotes the use of sustainable modes of transportation, designing bicycle facilities, bus lanes, and public plazas. DOT also operates the Staten Island Ferry, which serves over 22 million people annually.

About the NYC Department of Design and Construction

The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s long-term vision of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, and new or upgraded roads, sewers and water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $14 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to City projects. For more information, please visit nyc.gov/ddc.