American Society of Civil Engineers

LID and Sustainable Natural Resource Management in the Urban Environment: The Unique Case of New York City

by B. Gunther, (Deputy Chief, Forestry, Horticulture, Natural Resources, City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation, 1234 Fifth Ave, New York, NY 10029: E-mail:, M. G. Larson, (Senior Project Manager, Natural Resources Group, City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation, 1234 Fifth Ave, New York, NY 10029), and F. Watt, (Assistant, Commissioner, Forestry, Horticulture, Natural Resources City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation, 1234 Fifth Ave, New York, NY 10029)
Section: LID and Reimagining Cities, pp. 778-787, (doi:

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: Low Impact Development 2010: Redefining Water in the City
Abstract: New York City’s Sustainable Stormwater Management Plan (SSMP) was issued in 2008 as part of PlaNYC 2030, an unprecedented, sweeping guide to sustainable development and the enhancement of NYC’s urban environment. The SSMP reflects a new willingness to look at source control of stormwater, and was made possible by high-level political commitment, regulatory requirements, championship by technical experts, and years of community and environmental advocacy. With this guiding document complete, the road to implementation remains perhaps one of the most challenging in the country, given NYC’s size, density, degree of urbanization, physical and political complexity and age of infrastructure. A multitude of efforts are currently underway in NYC to better manage stormwater, with particular focus on reducing combined stormwater sewer overflows. Parks’ Greenstreets program, for example, has spearheaded efforts to treat stormwater as a resource to be managed at its source and will soon expand its stormwater capture greenstreets program thanks to federal stimulus funds. This will allow the testing and monitoring of a wider range of designs and provide opportunity for continued collaboration with academic research partners. Parks’ academic, non-profit and outside agency partners have initiated a variety of stormwater capture projects with support from Parks, including stormwater capture in tree pits, and raingardens that capture road runoff. One of Parks most expansive efforts, a ca. 16,000 sf (1490 m2) green roof complex of 16 different greenroof systems, has become a site for numerous research studies, including monitoring of the ecological as well as stormwater capture impacts of greenroofs. Parks is also implementing a massive urban tree planting campaign which will increase the canopy cover of NYC by 2030. Under PlaNYC, Parks is also working with NYC Dept of Environmental Protection to implement several pilot projects aimed testing performance standards, and working through issues of interagency coordination related to regulations, codes, specifications, permitting, maintenance, and sometimes conflicting mandates. Each of the above efforts has a unique genesis and suggests different environmental benefit goals and different opportunities for replication and expansion across New York City.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Sustainable development
Natural resources
Urban areas
New York City
New York