Greening New York: Part Two – Sewage and Environmental Protection

The City of New York’s climate outcomes can mean climate incomes—and jobs and contracts—for industrial businesses. In this second blog in the series, learn about forthcoming investments from the NYC Department of Environmental Protection.

Approximately 60% of NYC’s sewer system handles “combined” sewage, which means it mixes waste water from houses and buildings, with stormwater that drains from the streets when it rains. This combined sewage usually goes to a wastewater treatment plant for cleaning. But when it rains very heavily, the plants can’t handle such high flow levels. In cases like that, this “combined sewer outflow” empties directly into the East and Hudson rivers. This has awful consequences for water quality in the harbor, including recreation and of course wildlife.

That’s why streetscape Green Infrastructure (GI) is so important. Whether it’s plant beds or basins with concrete tops, Green Infrastructure assets can collect stormwater runoff when it rains right at the street level, so that rainwater doesn’t combine with sewage in the first place—limiting how much ultimately flows into the harbor.

In addition to filtration basins and rain gardens, porous concrete in the street pavement itself—asphalt that’s made of permeable materials—can retain rainwater in a layer of underground concrete, rather than having it flow into combined sewage.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will be looking for contractors to facilitate the development and deployment of these and other green infrastructure projects. In the site selection process alone, DEP will require surveyors, drillers, and contractors and their subs for (a) soil investigation, (b) surveying, (c) contract planning and utility coordination, and (d) construction, including saw-cutting, excavation, stone installation, soil engineering, landscaping, and concrete management. Right-of-Way and roadway projects, meanwhile will require geotechnical engineering, surveying, and construction support from private firms.

“There are specific challenges in New York City because we’re so densely packed, and because we’re not a greenfield site—we’re building upon and upgrading sometimes decades- and centuries-old systems,” says Roopesh Joshi of DEP.

“But working in New York is an important test case. Because of that complexity, if you can successfully complete a green infrastructure project here, you truly can do it—and get contracts—anywhere.”

In our next blog post, we’ll learn more about contracting opportunities from the Departments of Parks & Recreation (DPR), Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA). To learn more about contracting with the City of New York, including with DEP, see the MaiiC Policy Resources page.

The content in this blog post is based on a presentation by Roopesh Joshi of the NYC Department of Environmental Protection for “NYC SBS’ M/WBE Green Infrastructure & Energy Efficiency Open House” held on April 15th, 2021”