New York City’s Department of Design and Construction’s Sheldon Avenue Stormwater Project Earns Envision Silver Award from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure

January 24, 2017

New York City’s Sheldon Avenue stormwater management project on Staten Island, executed by the Department of Design and Construction (NYCDDC) on behalf of the Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP), is the recipient of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) Envision Silver sustainable infrastructure award. The ISI Envision rating system rates sustainable infrastructure across the full range of environmental, social, and economic impacts. This project is the NYCDDC’s first to earn an Envision award for sustainability, and the second Envision project awarded in the city overall.

Currently in construction, the Sheldon Avenue project involves the creation of a natural wetland to more effectively and sustainably manage and filter stormwater captured from the local community. Additionally, sanitary sewers will be installed to allow almost 600 local homeowners to be taken off septic systems, improving water quality, increasing home values, and eliminating the headaches for homeowners associated with managing these systems. This project is the largest expansion to date of the Staten Island Bluebelt, an award-winning, ecologically sound and cost-effective stormwater program created in response to frequent flooding on the island during rain events that were caused by a lack of sufficient stormwater drainage.

Key organizations involved in the planning, design, and construction of the project include NYCDDC, which is responsible for both the in-house design of the storm and sanitary sewers as well as construction management; NYCDEP, the client agency; Hazen and Sawyer, which is responsible for the design of the stormwater Best Management Practice (BMP) wetland; and Arcadis, which provided construction oversight services and steered the Envision application process.

“This award demonstrates that when sustainability is at the heart of the project, solutions don’t just address the problem, but deliver social, environmental, and economic outcomes that improve the quality of life in our communities,” said Ifetayo Venner, Arcadis Global Leader for Water Supply and Treatment.

Created in 2012 through the collaboration between ISI and the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, the Envision system rates the impact of sustainable infrastructure projects as a whole. The ISI Envision system measures sustainability in five categories: Quality of Life, Leadership, Natural World, Resource Allocation, and Climate and Risk. These key areas contribute to the positive social, economic, and environmental impacts on a community.

“Sustainable design is a guiding principle that the New York City Department of Design and Construction follows in all its work as we seek to implement Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vision for a stronger, more equitable and more resilient city”, said DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora. “Envision has proven to be a useful tool for not only assessing the sustainability of our infrastructure projects, but for identifying areas for improvement.”

The Sheldon Avenue project earned high scores in the Climate and Risk, Natural World, and Leadership Envision categories.

Key sustainable accomplishments include:

Climate and Risk: The original concept called for an all-pipe network for managing stormwater on Staten Island, which would have destroyed existing wetlands. The Bluebelt program, and by extension the Sheldon Avenue project, instead aims to use existing drainage corridors and wetlands as a natural conveyance for stormwater that requires no energy and less water treatment. Wetland restoration is another key component of the project. A badly degraded wetland, overrun with non-native and invasive species, will be restored, which is important as wetlands play a vital role in reducing the effects of global warming by absorbing carbon, thereby mitigating the long-term consequences of climate change and helping to make the community more resilient under altered climate conditions.

The Sheldon Avenue stormwater projects addresses a range of potentially severe short-term hazards that could affect the area, including flooding, coastal storms, and extreme temperatures, all of which are alleviated by the implementation of green infrastructure solutions for stormwater management, such as the use of wetlands and natural stormwater conveyance systems, as opposed to more traditional “gray infrastructure”.

Natural World: The project team undertook a comprehensive assessment of potential risks and impacts to existing wetlands, and took steps to mitigate and avoid impacts to the extent possible. Also, the replacement of an existing manmade stormwater pond with stormwater best management practices such as wetlands was included as part of this project, and is expected to have a significant positive impact on wildlife by improving habitat conditions.

The project team also included an assessment of the area to determine the presence of any adverse geological formations and aquifers. In designing the project, the project team took care to avoid impacting the ground water by installing pipes at a maximum depth of 12 feet below the surface, more than 45 feet above the groundwater levels. Additionally, silt fences and other sediment control measures will be installed during construction to prevent runoff into nearby water features.

Leadership: New York City has demonstrated a significant commitment to sustainability from the Mayor’s office through to its many agencies and offices, including the NYCDEP—the city’s agency that manages its water supply, and NYCDDC—the city’s agency responsible for the construction of civic facilities, including the Sheldon Avenue project. Both agencies have made strong commitments to designing projects that adhere to the principles of sustainability, and both also have many in-house Envision Sustainability Professionals (ENV SPs)—professionals trained in the use of the Envision sustainable infrastructure planning and design framework. Arcadis, the primary engineering firm responsible for construction administration on the Sheldon Avenue project, has also demonstrated public commitments to sustainability by producing annual sustainability reports, training staff in the use of Envision, and actively participating as a Charter Member of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure.

This project is part of a much larger program—the Staten Island Bluebelt program—designed to address flooding issues and improve water quality in a sustainable manner. The overall integration of the existing community wetland infrastructure is well documented in an Environmental Impact Statement document, a holistic evaluation of the wetlands in the Bluebelt system. Beyond integrated wetlands, this project also integrates well with existing transportation infrastructure, and the existing residential and commercial building infrastructure. This project will improve sewerage, drainage, and water quality in the Bluebelt area, without adversely impacting the existing population and associated community infrastructure.

“ISI is pleased to present the New York City Department of Design and Construction with the Envision Silver award for sustainable infrastructure,” said ISI President and CEO, John Stanton. “The residents of Staten Island can look forward to improved stormwater management, less flooding, and better water quality due to the Sheldon Avenue project’s sustainable characteristics, which is part of the larger Staten Island Bluebelt program.”

To learn more about the Sheldon Avenue stormwater management project, please visit: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/dep_projects/bluebelt.shtml.