The Revival of Tibbetts Brook: An Environmental Victory for the Bronx
Much of Recent York City’s ecosystem has been paved over, reconfigured, and destroyed. But nature persists, and sometimes it teaches us that it’s higher to live in harmony with it and to literally “flow.” At one time, the waters from Tibbetts Brook drained into the Harlem River, but to enable land development within the Bronx, it was placed underground and drained into the Recent York City sewer system. On days when there’s an important deal of rain, the brook’s water combined with sewage overwhelms the capability of town’s sewage treatment plants, and raw sewage is released into the Harlem River. An answer is to redirect or “daylight” the brook, and since its water is clean, it could actually bypass the sewage system and directly drain into the Harlem River. The Van Cortland Park Alliance website provides an in depth account of the issue:
“Tibbetts Brook is a body of water that flows from Yonkers into the Bronx in Van Cortlandt Park. This water currently flows partially in pipes under roadways while other parts are visible in Yonkers and inside Van Cortlandt Park. The brook ends in Hester & Piero’s Mill Pond (formerly referred to as Van Cortlandt Lake) and enters the sewer system to be treated unnecessarily. On a dry day, 4 to five million gallons of water from the brook enter the sewer system. The mix of the water from the brook and from the sewer system creates overflow issues for the sewage system when it rains; these are also referred to as Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) events… Tibbetts Brook is added into the sewer system unnecessarily [since it is not sewage], so environmental activists have been advocating for it to be faraway from the sewer system and “daylighted.” Daylighting a body of water is the technique of moving the water that has been diverted to an underground pipe above ground and adding in components to boost the space.”
Community groups within the Bronx have been advocating for this project for the reason that Nineties, and last week, the Adams administration removed the ultimate obstacle to daylighting the brook and lengthening the greenway that may surround the renewed waterway. In accordance with the Gothamist’s Jaclyn Jeffrey-Wilensky:
“The town pays greater than $11 million to freight rail company CSX Transportation for the strip of abandoned railroad tracks where the “daylighted” waterway will flow, the announcement stated. The project had stalled for years while the 2 parties went backwards and forwards about the associated fee of the property…Tibbetts Brook, called Mosholu by the Lenape people, once flowed freely through the Bronx and emptied into the Harlem River. Over the centuries, sections of the waterway were dammed, buried underground and rerouted through the sewer system…Local advocates have also called for town to construct a park along the newly daylighted brook’s banks, connecting to the Putnam Greenway and Van Cortlandt Park. Plans by town’s parks and environmental protection departments show paths where residents could walk, run and cycle, flanked by pocket wetlands and views of the waterway.”
The event that helped turn this green infrastructure dream right into a reality was the rainfall resulting from the remnants of Hurricane Ida that hit Recent York City in September 2021. The town experienced an intense rainstorm, and never only did water overload the sewage treatment system, it also flooded the Major Deegan Expressway trapping cars and truck traffic for hours. Reporting on the Tibbetts proposal within the Recent York Times in late 2021, reporters Winnie Hue and James Thomas observed that:
“The plan to sunlight Tibbetts Brook can be certainly one of town’s most ambitious green infrastructure projects. The brook can be rerouted above ground for one mile— including along a former railroad line that will be changed into a recent greenway—before being sent back underground for a half mile in a recent dedicated pipe to the Harlem River.”
The project’s $130-million price tag was not the most important problem in getting it began. The issue was the worth of the abandoned train track owned by CSX Transportation. The Adams administration decided to pay CSX most of what they wanted as a result of the overwhelming logic of the plan and, I assume, an understanding of the quite positive financial advantages of the project, even with the added costs of land acquisition. CSX needs to be ashamed of taking the Bronx environment hostage, particularly in view of those fantastic words on their website:
“By operating responsibly, generating economic opportunities, and giving back, CSX makes a positive impact within the communities where we operate. Every year, CSX contributes thousands and thousands of dollars in grants and in-kind donations to nonprofit organizations. We also offer community service opportunities for workers and their families.”
They proudly proclaim they’re on Newsweek’s “Most Responsible Corporations List.” Yes, they’re responsible for charging Recent York City $11 million for an abandoned train track. The corporate’s behavior was detailed last November in a Riverdale Press piece by Sachi McClendon.
On our warmer planet, Recent York City can expect many more extreme weather events. On account of the impermeability of much of town’s surfaces, we’d like to do rather more to soak up, hold, and direct water away from places where flooding can do essentially the most damage. Hurricane Ida not only flooded the Bronx, but over a dozen people died in illegally converted basement apartments in Queens, where five inches of rain fell in a single hour. This project is certainly one of many efforts to develop green infrastructure projects that may construct Recent York City’s ability to face up to damage as a result of climate change. In accordance with the Recent York City Department of Environmental Protection’s 2021 Green Infrastructure Report:
“In 2021, DEP submitted the list of constructed assets totaling 1,181 greened acres and 507 million gallons per yr (MGY) CSO volume reduction for the 1.5% green infrastructure application rate milestone certification. Over 9,100 assets, constructed through over 50 individual construction contracts, went into the certification, demonstrating the tremendous effort that went into meeting the goal… As of early 2022, the Program has committed over $1.09 billion in capital funds since fiscal yr 2012 and has roughly $771 million currently budgeted through fiscal yr 2032.”
There are also efforts underway by town’s Department of Transportation and Department of Parks and Recreation, in addition to private developers, to scale back the variety of paved surfaces within the five boroughs. These projects reduce the danger of flooding but in addition add green spaces and carbon-absorbing plantings that can assist mitigate climate change. Additionally they provide parkland to neighborhoods which have traditionally been underserved by our park system. Certainly one of the goals of the Bloomberg-era sustainability plan was to make sure that every Recent Yorker lived inside a 10-minute walk from a park. In accordance with the Trust for Public Land:
“Recent York City is home to a few of the world’s most iconic parks. From the City’s Central Park to the Federal Government’s Gateway National Recreational Area—and each neighborhood park in between—99% of Recent Yorkers live inside a 10-minute walk to a publicly accessible green space. Residents visit their parks over 527 million times per yr…”
While nobody would confuse Recent York City with an urban ecotopia, the twenty first century has seen enormous progress in understanding the importance of adding green space and utilizing ecosystem services in Recent York City. Mayor Adams is fighting enormous fiscal challenges starting from our post-pandemic economic recovery to the prices of absorbing hundreds of immigrants. Yet one way or the other inside this environment, he managed to deliver the funds needed to get the Tibbetts Brook project back on the right track. It’ll keep our water cleaner and supply a recent mile-long green space within the southern Bronx. Thirty years of advocacy by Bronx community-based environmental and parks groups resulted in this excellent win for people and the planet. Mayor Adams deserves praise for deciding to make this investment within the Bronx and its brilliant future.