Attorney General Cuomo Dedicates Over $1.8 Million To Join Local Efforts To Fight Bronx River Pollution

NEW YORK, NY (August 27, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that his office is dedicating over $1.8 million to join local efforts to reduce water pollution in the Bronx River. The funding will be provided to seven entities, including the Bronx River Alliance, THE POINT Community Development Corporation, the New York Botanical Garden, the New York City Parks Department, and the Westchester County Planning Department, for “green infrastructure” - natural systems, like wetlands, or engineered systems that mimic them - that capture and treat polluted stormwater before it reaches the river.

The funding that Cuomo is dedicating to these local efforts is a portion of the over $7 million that the Attorney General’s Office obtained from settlements, completed in 2007, with four local municipalities and the Yonkers Racetrack that ended their illegal discharges of raw sewage to the Bronx River. The remaining settlement funds will be allocated in future years to projects that will further reduce pollution discharges to the river.

“Improving the health of the Bronx River has been a longstanding priority of my office - the cleaner the river is, the more of an environmental, recreational, and economic asset it will be to the area,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “I am pleased that my office is able to join local efforts by supporting innovative solutions to the river’s lingering water pollution challenges. This funding is not only an investment in the Bronx River, but also an investment in the many communities along its banks.”

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. said: “The Bronx River is a jewel of our borough and for too long it was literally treated like a sewer. The green initiatives funded by these grants, which will be used to fund environmentally friendly pollution control methods on the Bronx River, represent a major step forward for both this great body of water and The Bronx as a whole. The environment has been a major priority of mine since I first entered public office, and I look forward to working with Attorney General Cuomo to not only administer these grants but to develop new programs in the future to keep our environment as clean as possible.”

Westchester County Executive Andy Spano said: “Clean water is vital to everyone and the protection and improvement of waterways like the Bronx River is key to maintaining the quality of life we enjoy in Westchester. This funding will restore areas of the Bronx River Reservation in White Plains, helping to protect this important resource from pollution. I want to thank Attorney General Cuomo for his support of our clean water efforts.”

Pete Grannis, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, said: “The grants announced today are a big step forward in the state’s efforts to restore the Bronx River and the communities surrounding it. The DEC is proud to join today with Attorney General Cuomo to recognize the exceptional work of the grant recipients. Importantly, all of the projects rely on cutting-edge green infrastructure to reduce the flow of polluted stormwater into the river and instead put it to positive uses. And, they will complement previously announced state efforts to reduce wastewater discharges into New York City waterways.”

The Bronx River - which flows for roughly 23 miles through southern Westchester and the Bronx - has a long legacy of pollution problems. While considerable progress has been made in recent years toward reclaiming the river, restoration efforts are still hampered by a number of lingering problems, including poor water quality. A principal cause of the Bronx River’s water quality problems is stormwater runoff - rainwater and snowmelt that flows over impervious surfaces and into waters, picking up raw sewage, litter, gas and oil, pesticides, fertilizers, and other harmful pollutants along its path.

Green infrastructure - in contrast to traditional infrastructure such as water treatment plants - relies on innovative approaches to control stormwater runoff. Examples include rooftop gardens on buildings, permeable pavement, and street planters that intercept rainwater or reduce rainwater runoff. Because green infrastructure relies on more natural systems, it is typically more cost-effective, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly than traditional infrastructure.

The $1,836,098 in funding that Cuomo announced today will be dedicated to nine projects utilizing “green infrastructure” to reduce the flow of polluted stormwater into the Bronx River. The specific projects funded are:

• “Green Roofs,” THE POINT Community Development Corporation Headquarters, Bronx - THE POINT Community Development Corporation, a non-profit organization dedicated to youth development and the cultural and economic revitalization of the Hunts Point section of the Bronx, was awarded $149,793 to install “green roofs” at its Garrison Avenue facility. Plantings in extensive rooftop gardens at the facility will capture and treat rainwater, and serve as a demonstration project and outdoor classroom for the community.

• Stormwater Capture, Scout Field, Bronxville - This project, to be implemented by the Westchester County Department of Planning, will use “green infrastructure” - a roughly 3-acre wetland constructed at Scout Field in Bronxville - to intercept and treat polluted stormwater runoff that is now directly discharging to the river. The project was awarded $250,000 in funding.

• Stormwater Management, The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx - The New York Botanical Garden will employ permeable pavement, wetland restoration and other green infrastructure, coupled with innovative structural upgrades, to reduce and treat discharges from four existing stormwater discharge pipes located near the Lillian and Amy Goldman Stone Mill. The project was awarded $349,599 in funding.

• Rainwater Harvesting, various locations, Bronx- The Bronx River Alliance was awarded $117,500 to implement a pilot program to reduce stormwater runoff by collecting, or “harvesting,” rainwater from the roofs at five sites in the Bronx. The collected rainwater will be stored and used later for watering gardens and lawns. A goal of this project is to develop guidance for “rainwater harvesting” that will satisfy New York City building codes.

• Stormwater Capture, Shoelace Park, Bronx - For this project, the New York City Parks and Recreation Department was awarded $250,000 to create “swales” - vegetated catch basins - to intercept and treat polluted stormwater that would otherwise flow directly into the river. The project is a part of the effort to create a Bronx River greenway.

• Stormwater Management, Ashford Park, Ardsley - As a part of the relocation and restoration of its historic Village Hall at Ashford Park, the Village of Ardsley was awarded $51,086 to employ permeable pavement, rainwater harvesting, and native plant landscaping to capture, treat and re-use stormwater that currently discharges to the Sprain Brook tributary of the Bronx River. The project will provide an educational model of the application of these “green” stormwater management approaches.

• Riverbank Stabilization and Wetland Restoration, Westchester County Center, White Plains - The Westchester County Department of Planning will use a combination of green infrastructure and engineering techniques to repair eroded riverbank and re-establish plants along the Bronx River adjacent to the Westchester County Center, and restore a freshwater wetland along the river that is currently overrun by non-native plants. The County was awarded $350,000 for this project.

• Stormwater Control and Riverbank Restoration, Nereid Avenue Bridge, Yonkers - With this $148,569 award, the Bronx River Alliance will implement the first phase of a two-phase project to reverse the ecological damages caused by stormwater discharges to the Bronx River. This project phase will involve the redesign of a large stormwater discharge pipe, and the reestablishment of native plants and stabilization of portions of the riverbank that have been damaged by stormwater outflows.

• Pollution Control, Municipal Maintenance Yard, Eastchester - The Town of Eastchester was awarded $169,550 to control discharges of polluted runoff from its municipal maintenance yard. This project will employ a combination of structural changes and pollution prevention practices to intercept and treat polluted runoff generated at the yard before it reaches the Bronx River.

In addition, Cuomo’s funding has allowed these projects to leverage over $1.9 million in additional matching money, bringing total funding available to these Bronx River improvement projects to almost $3.8 million.

Linda R. Cox, Executive Director of the Bronx River Alliance and Bronx River Administrator for New York City Parks & Recreation, said: “These grants enable us to take some innovative and much-needed steps to improve the water quality of the Bronx River. We'll use one to develop rain harvest systems in a variety of locations in the watershed -- from a playground parkhouse to a private home -- putting rainwater to good use watering gardens instead of contributing to the pollution of the river. With another we will begin to correct the damage that excessive water from a pipe causes by eroding the riverbank. We commend Attorney General Cuomo for making the funding available for these projects."

Adrian Benepe, Commissioner of the New York City Parks Department, said: “Thanks to a $250,000 grant from Attorney General Cuomo, Parks and its partner the Bronx River Alliance will expand a project to reduce direct runoff and stormwater discharge into the Bronx River at the East 211th Street entrance to Shoelace Park. We will incorporate innovative stormwater filtration techniques, while at the same time restoring the once degraded parkland and contributing to the development of the Bronx River Greenway. This project is yet another example of the steps the city has taken over the years to revitalize the Bronx River -- New York City's only freshwater river -- for New Yorkers to enjoy.”

Gregory Long, President of the New York Botanical Garden, said: “The Bronx River lies at the heart of The New York Botanical Garden and was a primary reason the Garden was established on this site in 1895. For over a century, the Garden has preserved and protected its small piece of the River, which today is an urban oasis for wildlife, an outdoor classroom for the study of nature, and one of New York City’s most important and beautiful natural areas. We are extremely appreciative of the State Attorney General’s Office and the State Department of Environmental Conservation for recognizing the Garden’s stewardship over the section of the Bronx River that runs through our National Historic Landmark site.”

Kellie Terry Sepulveda, Executive Director of the POINT Community Development Corporation, said: "On behalf of the POINT board of Directors and our team I would like to thank the Attorney General’s Office for supporting The Point's South Bronx Green roof project. We look forward to working with our many partners-, our young people, fellow CBO's and public agencies- to implement this great example of community based sustainability in way that can demonstrate how partnerships such as this one with the Attorney General's office can make a real difference on the ground in communities that need it the most when it matters the most.”

George Calvi, Village Manager for the Village of Ardsley, said: “In order to move ahead with effective restoration of the Bronx River, new stormwater management practices will be increasingly employed and the Village of Ardsley project is valuable in this regard because innovative porous pavement, native plantings on site and proper streambank techniques will be used, and the entire project will be combined with a historical Veterans’ Building restoration which will serve as a showcase for both ecological and cultural aspects of this busy riverside park location. We are grateful to the Office of the Attorney General for wisely allocating settlement funds for the betterment of the Sprain Brook, a crucial tributary of the Bronx River, and our surrounding communities.”

Anthony Colavita, Supervisor of the Town of Eastchester, said: "We are thankful to be awarded grant funds to continue our leadership role in protecting and improving the quality of stormwater run off to the Bronx River. The Stormceptor installations will effectively capture dirt, hydrocarbons, oils, and floatables that would normally denigrate the river. The Town of Eastchester once again has aggressively sought to do the best it can to protect our Bronx River Watershed. The residents of the Town of Eastchester are grateful to the Attorney General for securing the grant funds necessary for this vital environmental project.”

In February 2007, Cuomo announced a settlement with the City of Yonkers to end its discharges of untreated sewage into the Bronx. This settlement was part of the Attorney General’s Bronx River Watershed Initiative, a legal effort specifically focused on curbing pollution discharges to the river. The Initiative previously yielded settlements with the Yonkers Raceway Corporation, the City of White Plains, the Village of Scarsdale, and the Town of Greenburgh, all of which had also been polluting the river with raw sewage. In total, over $7 million was obtained from these settlements.

Cuomo’s office has contracted with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to administer settlement funds obtained from the Bronx River Watershed Initiative. For the project funding announced today, the NFWF solicited applications for projects that would reduce water pollution in the river. The nine projects to be funded were selected with the advice of an expert panel convened by the Foundation and in consultation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

More information on the Attorney Generals grant program for Bronx River cleanup projects can be found at: www.ag.ny.gov/bureaus/environmental/about.html.

This matter is being handled by Environmental Scientist Joseph Haas, and Assistant Attorneys General Philip Bein, Julia Robbins and Andrew Gershon, under the supervision of Special Deputy Attorney General for Environmental Protection Katherine Kennedy.

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