ATTORNEY GENERAL CUOMO ANNOUNCES ADDITIONAL $5 MILLION INVESTMENT TO FIGHT BRONX RIVER POLLUTION

BRONX, N.Y. (September 2, 2010) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that he is dedicating an additional $2.5 million from the Bronx River Watershed Initiative to join local efforts in reducing water pollution in the river. The funding will be combined with $2.5 million in matching and leveraged funds, bringing the total to $5 million, which will go to 11 local entities for green infrastructure projects to clean up the river.

Green infrastructure projects rely on natural systems, like wetlands, or engineered systems that mimic them to intercept and treat polluted storm water before it reaches the river. These projects, in contrast to traditional infrastructure such as water treatment plants, use innovative approaches to control storm water runoff, such as permeable pavement, rooftop gardens and street planters that intercept or reduce rainwater runoff. Because green infrastructure relies on more natural systems, it can be more cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally-friendly than traditional infrastructure.

“We are working with community groups and local governments to bring new life to the treasured Bronx River, which for decades went untended and written off,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “My office’s Bronx River Watershed Initiative exists to support local groups and municipalities to create effective and innovative solutions to the problems that have plagued the river for too long. I congratulate the recipients of this round of awards, and I look forward to continuing to help the Bronx River thrive.”

Last year, Attorney General Cuomo dedicated more than $1.8 million and more than $1.9 million in matching funds to seven green infrastructure projects in Bronx and Westchester County. This funding, combined with that announced today, brings the total investment in Bronx River restoration efforts to nearly $9 million.

The Bronx River flows for roughly 23 miles through southern Westchester and the Bronx and has a long history of pollution. While considerable progress has been made in recent years toward reclaiming the river, these 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 storm water 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.

The funding announced today will be dedicated to 12 projects to reduce the amount and improve the quality of storm water flowing into the Bronx River. The recipients are:

Rocking the Boat, Inc., a Bronx-based non-profit that serves economically, educationally and socially disadvantaged youths through boatbuilding and on-water education programs, will $350,000, plus $154,500 in matching funds, to design and create wetlands on the eastern bank of the Bronx River at 1055 Bronx River Avenue. In addition to capturing and cleaning storm water and creating a critical wildlife habitat, the project will provide public access to the river though a pathway and boat launch. The organization will also receive $57,000, plus $4,000 in matching funds, to redirect storm water runoff to two permeable rain gardens located at its main facility in the Bronx. The project will reduce the volume and improve the quality of storm water discharges to the river and serve as an educational tool in Rocking the Boat’s existing youth and community development programs.
New York Botanical Garden will receive $295,320, plus $699,000 in matching funds, for permeable surfaces and innovative structural upgrades at its Horticulture Operations Center to reduce and treat discharges that are currently conveyed directly to the river. The project abuts a similar storm water management project funded by the Bronx River Water Initiative at the Garden last year.
Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation will receive $263,375 to install a 10,000 square foot green roof at 1055 Bronx River Avenue in the Bronx. The roof will eliminate roughly 150,000 gallons of storm water discharges to the river each year.
The Gaia Institute, a Bronx-based non-profit specializing in ecological engineering and restoration, will receive $199,232, plus $134,400 in matching funds, to create one acre of habitat for mussels and other filter-feeding animals to reduce water pollution in the river by filtering up to 100 million gallons of water each day. This project includes $1.09 million in federal contributions from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Trees New York, an environmental and urban forestry non-profit organization that partners with local community-based organizations will receive $137,200, plus $7,250 in matching funds, for trees and vegetation to replace impervious surfaces along the western sidewalk of Bronx River Avenue. The project will capture and treat more than 2 million gallons of storm water annually and serve as a prototype for the use of this approach in other areas of the watershed.
GrowNYC will receive $61,700, plus $16,420 in matching funds, to implement rainwater collection systems at five Bronx community gardens. The systems will capture more than 15,000 gallons of storm water that currently flows to the river each year and serve as irrigation systems for the gardens.
New York City Department of Parks and Recreation’s GreenApple Corps, a public service program that provides participants with technical skills, practical knowledge and personal development opportunities will receive $350,000, plus $238,712 in matching funds, to replace a 7,200 square foot portion of the Department’s Bronx Borough Headquarters with a green roof. In addition to other environmental and cost-saving benefits, the roof will eliminate 100,000 gallons of storm water discharges to the river annually.
New York City Department of Environmental Protection will receive $318,371, plus $44,040 in matching funds, to capture roughly 400,000 gallons annually of runoff originating on the street, sidewalk and adjacent roof surfaces along 226th Street and divert it to a rain garden for treatment. This project augments the Bronx River Watershed Initiative’s funding provided to the New York City Parks and Recreation Department last year to create vegetated catch basins to intercept and treat polluted storm water that would otherwise flow directly into the river.
Town of Greenburgh will receive $317,641, plus $60,000 in matching funds, to use constructed wetlands and permeable pavement to capture and treat roughly 250,000 gallons of storm water each year from parking areas of the Greenburgh Nature Center. The project will provide an extra benefit of demonstrating the use of green infrastructure solutions for visitors to the center.
Village of Tuckahoe will receive $60,000, plus $10,000 in matching funds, to treat storm water discharges that currently enter the river from its municipal public works yard. The project, which was identified as a high priority in the Westchester County Bronx River Watershed Management Plan, is designed to capture all runoff generated by the site and ensure its proper treatment and disposal.
Village of Bronxville will receive $53,425, plus $14,000 to construct a catchment system at its municipal maintenance yard. The system will collect and filter storm water that currently discharges untreated to the river. This project was identified as a high priority in the Westchester County Bronx River Watershed Management Plan.

Congressman Jose E. Serrano said, “The projects being delivered by Attorney General Cuomo are welcome news for the Bronx and our state. With these additional resources, the advocates in the community can continue to work wonders in restoring the Bronx River. From a federal level, I will continue to make restoring the Bronx’s natural resources a priority and work with our partners, including Attorney General Cuomo, to make sure that the Bronx River is preserved.”

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. said, “The organizations receiving this funding will be able to continue the restoration of a jewel of our borough, the Bronx River. But this is about more than just cleaning up a river, this is about building community around our natural resources. Our neighbors, our families and our future generations should be able to enjoy this treasure of the Bronx, and these projects are making the idea a reality. I thank Attorney General Cuomo for his leadership and my colleagues for working together to bring these worthwhile projects to fruition.”

Senator Jeff Klein said, “Attorney General Cuomo’s tireless work in protecting our environment is once again to be commended. For decades, the Bronx River’s future was written off. But now, thanks to partnerships between private, public and not-for-profit organizations, we are reclaiming this body of water so that we can all enjoy what it has to offer.”

Assemblyman Jose Rivera said, “I applaud Attorney General Cuomo for bringing forth these crucial resources for the Bronx. The groups receiving this funding will implement unique and cost-effective programs to curtail pollution in the Bronx River and help bring it back to life.”

EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck said, “Cleaning up urban waterways like the Bronx River is a top priority of the EPA. The millions of New York City residents, especially the children, deserve a cleaner and healthier urban river. Working together, we need to drive down the level of water pollution so the people of New York City can utilize the river for recreation and so this natural resource is protected.”

Pete Grannis, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, said, “The projects funded by these grants will not only help restore the Bronx River but also will employ cutting-edge green infrastructure techniques. These are smart, cost-effective investments. The DEC is proud to join today with Attorney General Cuomo in taking another important step forward in protecting the river and its surrounding communities.”

Eric Schwaab, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service, said, “NOAA is proud to partner with the state of New York to deliver these resources to help restore the Bronx River Watershed. These projects will use locally developed, innovative and cost-effective approaches to improve water quality and important fish and wildlife habitat that will provide lasting social, economic and environmental benefits throughout the community.”

The funding dedicated today is a portion of the more than $7 million that the Attorney General’s Office obtained as part of its Bronx River Watershed Initiative. In 2007, Attorney General Cuomo announced a settlement with the City of Yonkers to end its discharges of untreated sewage into the Bronx. The initiative had previously yielded settlements with the Yonkers Raceway Corporation, the City of White Plains, the Village of Scarsdale, the City of Mt. Vernon and the Town of Greenburgh, all of which had also been polluting the river with raw sewage. Attorney General Cuomo’s office has contracted with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to administer settlement funds. The NFWF solicited applications for projects, which were selected with advice of an expert panel convened by the Foundation and in consultation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

More information about the Attorney General’s Bronx River Watershed Initiative can be found at www.ag.ny.gov/bureaus/environmental/feature.html.

The matter is being handled by Environmental Scientist Joseph Haas, Assistant Attorneys General Philip Bein, Julia Robbins and Andrew Gershon under the supervision of the Acting Chief of the Environmental Protection Bureau’s New York City office, Eugene Leff.

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