In 2010, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) launched its Green Infrastructure Grant Program, which funds qualifying design and construction costs associated with green infrastructure projects on private property in New York City. The first grants were awarded in 2011.
Green infrastructure projects have been touted in recent years as a way to minimize the impacts of combined sewer overflows (“CSOs”), which result in the release of untreated wastewater and stormwater into New York City waterways when treatment plants are taxed beyond capacity. Green infrastructure can help alleviate CSOs by diverting stormwater runoff from streets, sidewalks and other nonporous surfaces into infrastructure designed to collect and manage it without sending it into the combined sewer system. New York City and DEP are currently subject to a consent order with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation with respect to CSOs.
DEP’s Green Infrastructure Grant Program is aimed at reducing combined sewer overflows by supporting green infrastructure projects that prevent some amount of stormwater from entering the combined sewer system, thereby reducing the system’s overall load. The program encourages a variety of types of green infrastructure, from rooftop systems such as green roofs and blue roofs to rain gardens, bioswales, rainwater harvesting, subsurface infiltration systems and porous paving systems. Qualifying projects must be on private property, have design and construction costs of at least $35,000, manage a minimum one inch volume of stormwater runoff from the contributing area and be in a combined sewer area of New York City. The grant covers qualifying hard costs such as labor, materials and construction and soft costs including design, permitting and engineering services. The DEP grant will not cover costs associated with maintenance, signage, non-green infrastructure project components (e.g., roof replacement underneath a new green roof; benches or fences), legal fees and some others.
A grantee takes on significant legal obligations with respect to a project awarded a Green Infrastructure Grant, agreeing to maintain the green infrastructure project for 20 years and enter a restrictive covenant on the real property ensuring that the project will be kept in place for the 20-year period. The grantee also has the responsibility for making sure the green infrastructure project complies with all other environmental legal requirements. Moreover, by entering into the grant program, the grantee agrees that the City may use the grantee’s green infrastructure design for other projects.
DEP’s Green Infrastructure Grant Program is an exciting opportunity for private property owners to contribute to mitigating the impacts of CSOs in New York City. While there are significant legal obligations to be considered in evaluating whether to apply for or accept a grant, DEP is motivated to work with landowners to get qualifying projects in place. A wide variety of landowners might consider participating, including businesses and nonprofits with significant roof or ground space for a green infrastructure project, condos and coops with underutilized rooftops, community gardens and other property holders in a position to manage an infrastructure project, or pass it along to another manager or property owner, for 20 years. Some of the marquee recipients of the Green Infrastructure Grant include the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Queens College and the New York Restoration Project, but many projects are much smaller in scope and dollar amount (as small as $35,000).
To discuss further the requirements associated with DEP’s Green Infrastructure Grant Program, please be in touch.