Drainage Upgrade at NYCHA’s Gowanus Houses Reduces Flooding and Improves the Health of the Gowanus Canal

May 25, 2021

Addition of Green Infrastructure captures up to 2 million gallons of stormwater annually which helps to reduce flooding while also decreasing sewer overflows into the Gowanus Canal

Photos of the work are available on DEP’s Flickr Page

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced the completion of a drainage upgrade at the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) Gowanus Houses. The project included the construction of nine green infrastructure installations that will capture nearly 2 million gallons of stormwater in a typical year. By capturing the stormwater that falls on the development and keeping it out of the sewer system, the project will ease pressure on the neighborhood’s sewer system during rainstorms, which will decrease overflows into the Gowanus Canal.

“By upgrading the drainage facilities at NYCHA’s Gowanus Houses, we will continue the important work of improving the health of the Gowanus Canal while also improving services for residents,” said DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza. “We look forward to continuing this critical partnership with NYCHA in order to provide the same drainage and landscaping improvements at other development across the five boroughs.”

“NYCHA values our partnership with DEP and the stormwater management investments to make our developments more resilient, equitable, and innovative for our residents and the city at large,” said NYCHA Chair & CEO Greg Russ. “The drainage upgrades completed at Gowanus Houses will serve to reduce the impact of heavy rain and flooding at this site as well as strengthen the environmental resiliency of this vibrant community.”

“As climate change intensifies, more frequent and powerful storms will pose challenges to our borough, especially those living in underserved communities. In 2019 I toured the Gowanus area, an area incredibly vulnerable to extreme weather events, with DEP after a storm caused serious flash floods. I’m thrilled to see these green infrastructure upgrades coming to the Gowanus Houses, which will mitigate the effects of damaging floods as well as improve the quality of life for thousands of NYCHA residents. I look forward to working with DEP to strengthen resiliency throughout our borough,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

“Reliable, sustainable green infrastructure will be a welcome upgrade for the Gowanus Houses. I have long maintained that the Gowanus Superfund cleanup and prospective rezoning must ensure environmental justice for the entire community. Keeping stormwater out of the sewer system is a step in the right direction to ease pressure on the area’s infrastructure during rainstorms and other weather events,” said Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon.

“The residents of Gowanus Houses know all too well the effects of climate change and how poor drainage can have devastating effects, as we saw with Hurricane Sandy. This project will help improve the health of the Gowanus Canal while decreasing incidents of flooding,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “I look forward to working with NYCHA and DEP and thank them for their commitment to improving the quality of life for residents of Gowanus Houses.”

The green infrastructure that was built at the Gowanus Houses cost approximately $830,000 and includes permeable concrete sidewalks, subsurface infiltration chambers and a rain garden. Each of these green infrastructure installations will allow stormwater to be absorbed naturally into the ground, minimize ponding and keep stormwater from entering the sewer system, where it would otherwise contribute to overflows into the Gowanus Canal. The drainage upgrade is just one part of much more extensive ongoing improvement work taking place at the Gowanus Houses.

The Gowanus Houses development consists of 16 buildings on approximately 12.5 acres. NYCHA facilities provide a unique opportunity to utilize publicly-owned property to build green infrastructure and improve the health of local waterways. In addition, DEP has made significant investments to improve the health of the Gowanus Canal, including:

  • committed more than $1 billion for the construction of sewer overflow retention tanks
  • $180 million to rehabilitate and upgrade the Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel
  • installation of high-level sewers along 3rd Avenue at a cost of $53 million
  • $27 million to upgrade the drainage system along 9th Street
  • construction of more than 70 green infrastructure installations throughout the neighborhood, including rain gardens and two green playgrounds

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.