3. A Green Harbor

Toxins in the marine environment have been reduced but significant problems persist, caused by generations of wrongdoing and neglect. As waterfront development goes forward and waterborne transportation expands, the environment must not only be protected but improved. A healthy harbor will contribute to the well being of millions of residents and visitors as well as a robust regional economy.

Reduce Sewer Outflow into the Harbor
Green our way to cleaner water by building infrastructure that absorbs storm runoff before it reaches our sewers and pollutes our waterways


The biggest water quality problem in the Metropolitan area is Combined Sewer Outflows (CSO). Sewer overflows prevent raw sewage and polluted stormwater runoff from backing up into our streets, schools, offices, homes, and anywhere else a drain connects to the sewer. Instead sewers overflow into our waterways and Harbor. It is impossible to build our way out of this problem with more sewage treatment plants. A comprehensive program to absorb and contain storm water runoff needs to be implemented, particularly in areas prone to CSO events.

Practical solutions for capturing storm runoff before it pollutes our waterways include:


Vegetated ditches detain and absorb rain
Vegetated ditches (swales) are designed to receive runoff and slowly move rain to an outfall point along our waterways, absorbing water along the way. Swales are effective when located adjacent to parking lots, streets, parkways or highways or used as a median.


Moisture retaining green roofs
Similar to swales and tree pits, green roofs can reduce the amount of runoff by absorbing or storing water, in addition to cooling the air. A green roof partially or completely covers a building roof with plants. It can be a tended roof garden or a self-maintaining ecology.

Code regulation changes that allow homeowners to capture and use rainwater on their own properties

Larger tree pits with absorbent soil
Improved tree pit designs, will absorb more storm water, increase the life of the tree, and reduce damage to the sidewalk as they grow.
Bring Back Shellfish to Clean the Water
Expand, monitor, and accelerate nascent shellfish reseeding

Shellfish are "ecosystem engineers," creating reefs that attract diverse flora and fauna, and they have the remarkable quality of being nature's vacuum cleaner. Acubic foot of mussels can filter 2,000 gallons of water a day. Led by organizations such as the Gaia Institute and the NY/NJ Baykeeper, oysters are being reintroduced into our waters. Above: Students at the New York Harbor School clean and measure oysters aboard historic steamship Lilac at Pier 40. In partnership with The River Project and NY/NJ Baykeeper, New York Harbor School helps manage 30 oyster gardens across the metropolitan area.

Clean Fuel for Boats
Available low-sulfur diesel for all ferries and smaller operators

The City of New York mandated the use of less polluting, lower sulfur diesel on the Staten Island Ferry beginning in 2008 and legislation has been introduced in the New York City Council to bring cleaner fuels to all ferries. This can help ensure that expanding waterborne transportation yields the best air quality we can get. Bulk purchase of low sulfur diesel, ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) or biodiesel would help lower the cost for smaller operators.

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