It’s the pits — in a good way!

for The Brooklyn Paper
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If the Gowanus Canal is ever going to be more than a river of human waste, the solution could be traced to 100 trees in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill.

That’s where volunteers removed hunks of sidewalk this fall to widen tree beds this fall in hopes of saving plants and capturing rainwater that would otherwise overwhelm city sewers and pour excrement into the canal.

Tree pits were sometimes tripled in size, which is better for the foliage, the environment, and the neighborhood, according to Alex Gomez, managing director of the Bedford–Stuyvesant Restoration Project, which spearheaded the so-called “take back the pavement” effort along Washington Avenue.

The larger beds will give young trees more room to grow, which is an opportunity the old trees in the neighborhood didn’t have (kids today, right?).

And room to grow means more room for the trees’ human companions, as sidewalks will be less likely to buckle from roots pushing through. In the end, the blocks is greener and nicer looking, residents said.

“The sidewalks were a mess around the older trees,” said Clinton Hill resident Matt Kubicina. “But the ones that are fixed look great.”

Zubah Herrera, who treks the sidewalks regularly to visit his girlfriend, also thought the original tree beds were much too small.

“That’s why the sidewalks were messed up,” he said. “Now the trees have room to grow.”

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Reasonable discourse

Joey from Clinton Hills says:
I'm having a little trouble following the cause and effect here. Could you explain it again?
Nov. 3, 2010, 9:45 am
Adam from Park Slope says:
I agree. A bit hard to follow. Let's see
1) Urban run off is a big problem for the Gowanus canal
2) Big storms overwhelm the sewers which pollute the canal
3) Bigger tree pits capture more rain water
4) Less rain water in sewers, fewer overwhelmed sewers, less human waste in canal

Nov. 3, 2010, 11:02 am
DeJesus from Prospect Heights says:
Anybody know how the sewer lines are organized? Are Fort Greene and Clinton Hill connected to the Gowanus? Due to the age of the neighborhoods, I would assume more connections to Downtown. If widening tree beds is truly helpful to the Gowanus, I will happily champion the idea here and in the surrounding environs. I think everybody would be happy to help out. Everyone wants to see the Gowanus clean. Please keep us posted.
Nov. 3, 2010, 1:43 pm
DeJesus from Prospect Heights says:
The Gowanus Canal Conservancy only lists the "Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill, and Cobble Hill" neighborhoods as being in the Gowanus watershed.
Nov. 3, 2010, 2:26 pm
judahSpechal from bed-stuy says:
Could not just write an article about how tree pits are being beautified with a grant from the Borough President because the various block associations in Bed-Stuy lobbied the Borough Pres. for years for this. Could ya??
Nov. 3, 2010, 9:27 pm
Wha...? from Park Slope says:
I don't get the Gowanus connection at all. The sewers in Bed Stuy don't have any connection to the Gowanus Canal. Whoever told the reporter that (if anyone did...this is the NY Post's Brooklyn Papers, after all) was stringing him along! Those sewage pipes in Bed Stuy use a totally different route to the processing plants!
Nov. 4, 2010, 12:48 pm
Washington Resident from Clinton Hill says:
Given that Washington Ave slopes downhill towards the Navy Yards, my guess is that this is helping to reduce sewer overflows to the East River, not the Gowanus Canal.
And while I fully support this effort, I wonder whether it will actually help much with stormwater. I haven't seen it in action yet, but while providing more room in the treepit helps the tree have more room to grow and hopefully helps reduce the damage to surrounding sidewalks from cramped roots, to maximize tree pit effectiveness at capturing stormwater, you would want to amend the soil around the tree to make sure there's some void space and it isn't too compacted, so there's room to hold the stormwater, as well as opening up the tree pit to the curb so that stormwater from the street can get into the tree pit, not just the rainwater that falls directly on it.
Nov. 4, 2010, 12:59 pm
Larry from Gowanus says:
The DEP (sewer department) maps show that the Atlantic Yards area and south side of Prospect Heights sends its waste and rain to the head of the Gowanus.
But there also is an old Scientific America article that said that a 15 foot diameter sewer line from the head of the canal ran north to Hanson Place and Greene Ave; and from there it ran all the way to Marcy Ave. It seems that a lot of land drains to the Gowanus; so lets open up more of those tree pits, it certainly can't hurt.
Nov. 6, 2010, 6:04 pm

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