Rain Garden Stewardship

Gowanus Canal Conservancy advocates for, builds and stewards green infrastructure (GI) in the Gowanus Watershed, a 1,700 acre area that contributes to 377 million gallons of combined sewer overflow (CSO) into the Gowanus Canal per year. Installations like the 6th Street Green Corridor, a set of 11 bioswales completed in 2014, reduce CSO while providing habitat, shade and beauty.  As NYC experiences more frequent extreme weather events like Hurricanes Henri and Ida, green infrastructure is a critical tool to mitigate flooding and combined sewage overflow, among other climate change impacts.

Rain Garden Stewardship

Between 2014-2017, with support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the US Forest Service, Gowanus Canal Conservancy and partners piloted a Bioswale Stewardship Training Program to engage volunteers and students in the management and advocacy for green infrastructure in the Gowanus Watershed. This pilot resulted in a rain garden stewardship manual, Bioswales in New York City: Understanding, Advocating, Stewarding, a resource that we use in our education and volunteer programs.

The Rain Garden Action In Neighborhoods (RAIN) Coalition

Across the five boroughs, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has built more than 11,000 rain gardens that manage localized flooding and reduce combined sewer overflow, while providing numerous co-benefits including improving air quality, providing shade and beauty, and reducing the urban heat island effect.  However, with a lack of proper maintenance these rain gardens fill with trash and silt, experience plant mortality, do not manage stormwater properly and can become eyesores instead of community amenities.

In response to that need, three NYC-based watershed organizations came together in June 2021 with a workforce development organization to pilot a new way of ensuring success for rain gardens throughout NYC, especially in lower income, outer borough neighborhoods.

The Rain Garden Action In Neighborhoods (RAIN) Coalition is made up by Bronx River Alliance (BxRA), Gowanus Canal Conservancy (GCC), The HOPE Program (HOPE), and Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA) to represent watershed communities impacted by multiple environmental injustices including exposure to CSO, flooding, high poverty, extreme heat, and lack of accessible green space. Each of these watersheds has an established stewardship organization poised to build long-term capacity for local GI management, provide local green-collar jobs, and catalyze a citywide network. 

Through this project, the RAIN Coalition is testing and identifying best practices for local rain garden stewardship.

Together, we are united in exploring a new model of rain garden stewardship that is rooted in local neighborhoods and watersheds, connected to robust community education and volunteerism, and grounded in a workforce development effort to offer training and jobs to residents in affected communities. 

Gowanus Canal Conservancy is proud to be a founding member of RAIN and looks forward to sharing our lessons learned with public agencies, elected officials, and other stakeholders in a resilient and just future for NYC. In other words, all of us!

Partners and Sponsors

Trees NY
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR)
US Forest Service
US Forest Service
Bronx River Alliance
Newtown Creek Alliance
The HOPE Program
Guardians of Flushing Bay
New York Community Trust
NYC Green Relief and Recovery Fund