Kathleen Horan, Reporter, WNYC News
Kathleen Horan is a staff reporter for New York Public Radio, covering the neighborhood beat. She also reports 'Reset', an ongoing series documenting police-community relations in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
The city is setting its sights on reducing sewer overflows by 40 percent over the next 20 years.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the total investment will be more than $5 billion over the next two decades. The mayor is hoping to shif the focus from traditional infrastructure, like holding tanks and tunnel systems, to green methods.
"This is where the money goes for all those water rates, people wonder what they're paying for, well, all of this improvement in our environment does not come without cost," Bloomberg said.
Eric Goldstein, from the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that on rainy days, like Monday and Tuesday, tens of millions of gallons of raw sewage pours into rivers and streams. He believes the investment in the waterways is well worth it.
"New Yorkers are rightfully calling for clean waters in which to fish, swim, boat, recreate, and at the same time we need to be assured that every dollar that we pay in water rates is wisely spent," Goldstein said.
Paul Gallay, with Hudson Riverkeeper, said the issue of sewage overflows affects more than the waterways.
"It interferes with property values, with habitat and it diminishes us from the city that we want to be," Gallay said. "This really is an urgent issue."
One of the proposed fixes is increasing the number of "blue" and "green" roofs, which use mechanical devices or vegetation to prevent roof water from draining too quickly and overwhelming storm sewers.
Another proposal is creating street-side swales for roadways that allow water to pool in underground holding areas until it can dissipate into the ground.
The sewer project is part of the Bloomberg administration's long-term goal of making 90 percent of the city waterways suitable for recreation.