project leader
Judy J
207 4th Avenue
Brooklyn (Gowanus)
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Project update!

the project

Our new GreenThumb community garden proposes:

1) to tend four just-planted oak street trees edging the garden to avoid soil compaction (a block from a subway stop) and to enhance stormwater infiltration (along with supporting the health of the trees), and

2) to construct and plant a rain garden on sloped land, in the garden space toward the Fourth Avenue fence, to reduce rain run-off into the sewer.

Garden members will care for the tree beds, construct the rain garden, tend to the native plants being grown out in our nursery, and plant them in the rain garden and tree beds at the end of the summer.  Excavated gravel and soil from the rain garden preparation will be applied to the 20’ wide driveway arc easement to grade it to better direct stormwater run-off into the rain garden.

The trees and rain garden will be regularly watered from the hydrant during heat and drought and when the native perennials are planted.

In addition to community involvement (garden members are almost entirely nearby residents), neighborhood beautification, healthier trees and reducing stormwater run-off into the sewer, we anticipate a ripple effect of more and improved tree bed care as members bring home their better understanding of dos and don'ts of tree care and how green infrastructure can work to decrease street flooding and CSO into the nearby Canal.

the steps

Tree care will continue through summer into fall.  An initial workday with 5-10 volunteers will loosen soil and add compost and water.  Another workday of 5-10 volunteers will focus on fall bed planting and watering.  The native plant propagation will need at least 2 workdays, with 5-10 volunteers for repotting and watering once after plugs are purchased and once a few weeks later.  Rain garden preparation could take 2-3 workdays with 5-10 volunteers for this approximately 500 sq’ area –plus another 1-2 workdays for fall plant installation and watering.   Garden members will provide additional watering as needed throughout the project.

why we're doing it

We are caring for the new street trees outside the garden and creating a rain garden inside to aid in abating the serious environmental and health issue of heavy rain run-off on paved and compacted surfaces into the sewer. Stormwater mixes with regular building waste and roof run-off, which then overflows the sewer system and the contaminated water is then directed into the Gowanus Canal.  In our opinion, it is better to create many means of storm water infiltration (various green infrastructure projects), than to construct giant underground holding tanks which would permit the rainwater to more slowly enter the sewer lines, avoid the overflow situation and be treated.  NYC's treated drinking water, from the hydrant, contains added fluoride and chlorine that are deadly to the beneficial bacteria and elements of the living soil. Direct or collected rainwater used for all vegetation results in a healthier ecological system.


Project Budget

$50  Flyers/laminated signage                                                                                                                       

$300 Refreshments for rain garden workdays (more arduous work and more hours)

$1500   Supplies:

$60   100’ – ¾” heavy duty hose (HD)

$200    nursery pots (1/4 and ½ gal)

$100    5-6 cu’ wheelbarrow (HD)  

$90   1 spade/2 shovels (HD)

$1000   native plants, about 600, plugs when possible  (mostly from North Creek and GreenBelt Native Plant Nursery)

$50     Cotton work gloves, 10 pair @$5 (Tarzian)                                                                                 

SUBTOTAL = $1,850.00
ioby Platform Fee  $35.00
ioby Fiscal Sponsorship Fee (5%) $92.50
3rd Party Credit Card Processing Fee (3%) $55.50
TOTAL TO RAISE = $2,033.00

RAISED = $2,553.00
less ioby Platform Fee  $35.00
less ioby Fiscal Sponsorship Fee (5%) $119.90
less 3rd Party Credit Card Processing Fee (3%) $73.34

Revised Budget, 11/13/2014

+70 to 50 = 120                      Flyers/laminated signage, tree care ID, graphic signage on What is a Rain Garden, the Gowanus CSO issue, native plants in the rain gardens

-100 from 300 = 200              Refreshments for rain garden construction workdays


60        50’ long 3/4” heavy duty hose (AM Leonard)

+18.50             brass lever turn-off for 3/4” hose

+200                mobile hose reel cart

200                  nursery pots – ¼ & ½ -gallon sizes

+50 to 100 = 150        replacing the wheelbarrow with a 48” x 24” nursery cart  because we received and assembled a donated wheelbarrow on 8/30/14

+67 to 90 = $157        1 spade, 2 shovels –to upgrade spade quality

+178    toward cost of 6 cubic yards of ¾” crushed bluestone for rain garden drainage

1000    native plants, around  600, plugs when possible (mostly from North Creek and GreenBelt Native Plant Nursery

50        cotton work gloves, 10 pairs @ $5 (Tarzian)


Subtotal          Adding $483.50 to original $1850 = $2333.50


Project update!

Street trees.  At summer’s end iron tree guards were installed on the three Fourth Avenue trees thanks to the Parks Department.  One of the trees failed.  In that bed water didn’t drain well.  The tree was removed in the fall.  We requested that the (non-native) Saw Tooth Oak be replaced by a native oak tolerant of wet roots.  A few weeks later a native Pin Oak was planted.  From mid-July on the garden had hydrant access and the trees were regularly watered.  Daffodils were planted in the fall.  Extra hose length and a hose reel cart have enabled more efficient watering.

The Sunny Rain Garden.  We began to remove what appeared to be a concrete spill with pick-axes and crowbars.  And then we discovered below this relatively porous layer with much aggregate another concrete layer of very dense material.  Below that was yet another layer of rough concrete.   The dense layer we assumed to be a factory floor, and the layer beneath a means of sealing off the rubble below, as there had been low-rise residential buildings lining the block at the beginning of the 20th century.

While we deliberated how to proceed to create the rain garden and remove the two upper concrete layers and crack the lowest level for drainage, we observed some serious gutter issues with the adjacent building.  We discussed this with the senior owner and indicated that this problem was extremely harmful to his building’s foundation wall as well as to that of a perpendicular building.  The decision was made to do a diversion from the roof gutter for rainwater harvesting so that storm water would be redirected through solid and soaker hoses to our planted areas away from the building.  This work is planned for early spring and eight more rain barrels have been requested from GreenThumb.

At the same time we considered leaving the concrete and creating an area for native plants more tolerant of alkaline soil and creating a Shady Rain Garden parallel to the mural wall and nearest to the rainwater harvesting overflow via hoses.  Consultation suggested a depth of three feet would be appropriate for the slope and the lack of impervious surfaces.  We were fortunate not to encounter any concrete at all but the soil was very compacted and pick-axes still needed. 

In September our application to work with the Brooklyn Urban Gardener program (with Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s GreenBridge division) was accepted, one of three garden projects, to focus on the rain garden.  Now we were working with our own volunteers plus a team of five BUG students and their Team Leader.  When it came time to have gravel on site for the rain garden’s basin, we discovered that deliveries could cost upward of $400.  The Team Leader volunteered to secure the GreenBridge pickup truck to bring back a load of gravel from a Brooklyn masonry supplies store.  We did this once in November and again in December.  As the soil excavated from the 23’ x 8’ rain garden basin was somewhat sandy, it was sifted of debris and stone and used as the next layer.  By the Saturday prior to Christmas the basin was lined with 2 cubic yards of pea gravel (about a 12” layer) and a next layer of sandy soil (another 12”).  In the spring we will add a mix of top soil and compost and begin planting.

The BUG team didn’t know anything about rain gardens and native plants and began their research.  We also had an on-site consultation with Lenny Librizzi of GrowNYC, experienced with all kinds of community garden water projects and DEP’s Green Infrastructure program.  We had a field trip to the GreenBelt Native Plant Nursery on Staten Island (part of the Parks Department) where we reviewed our garden environment, all of the in-ground planting areas and discussed appropriate plants.  We will be submitting a plant list to them in January so GreenBelt can plant seeds for our order for us to have trays of plugs by April-May.

The garden purchased some plants from the Gowanus Canal Conservancy and GreenBridge donated others.  These have been temporarily planted or placed, potted, in the mulch nursery to winter over.

Just before Thanksgiving we held an Open House in celebration of our first growing season in the garden and to explain to visitors what we were doing and why.   It was a mild, sunny Sunday: some 25 neighbors visited and a local vendor donated hot cider and brownies.

On December 23rd, a rain date, we had a small class of seventh graders from the Brooklyn Urban Gardens Charter School (in the South Slope) tour the site and have a lesson on how rain gardens work and why they are useful here.  We plan a return visit in the spring to learn about street tree care.

Thank you to our donors!

GreenSpace Native Plant Community Garden

aka GreenSpace on Fourth   c/o Janda  148 Sterling Place Brooklyn NY  11217

Dear Contributor,

Thank you so much for your generous donation to the GreenSpace ioby Greening UpSlope Gowanus campaign!  With the IOBY match you helped us raise $2553, $520 over our goal.

Here is a little follow-up on our rain garden and tree care project:

To create the planned rain garden we began by trying to remove what was thought to be a concrete spill.  This turned out to be an archeological dig as another layer of concrete was exposed and a third layer beneath that.  We learned that while there were residential buildings on our site in the early 20th century, by 1980 there was a ship parts factory business on all of the lots that now comprise the DEP site, all the way over to Sackett Street and up the block.  We think the middle layer of smooth concrete was once a factory floor.

Just as we were making plans to remove the first two layers of concrete and create cracks for drainage in the lowest layer, we discovered a new source of water that would be available to us.  This source is the rain run-off from the roof of the adjacent building.  We now plan to divert that water to a series of water barrels with overflow directed to a newly planned shady rain garden and then on to the original planned sunny rain garden.   The new rain garden is close to the rain barrel overflow.  Thus far we’ve dug the needed three feet and NO concrete interference!  We hope to finish the shady rain garden construction this month.  If we have a moderate winter we can proceed on to the original rain garden.

This summer we applied for rain garden assistance from a team of Brooklyn Urban Gardeners students participating in a Brooklyn Botanic Garden program.  We were one of three garden projects selected and began the collaboration in September.  The five-member team has been a great asset in many ways –providing advice, expertise, resources and many hours of digging.

Three of the four new street trees by the garden are flourishing.  Unfortunately on of these Saw-tooth Oaks did not survive and has been removed.  It will be replaced by a Pin Oak, a native tree, which will tolerate the slower drainage in that tree bed.  We’ve planted all of the beds with daffodils and look forward to their spring bloom.  The NYC Parks Department provided beautiful iron tree guards for many new Fourth Avenue trees, ours included.

Please stop by on Saturdays 11 – 1 during November and see how the garden is developing.  Your interest is appreciated and your labor is always welcome!  Thank you again for your financial support in the ioby campaign.

All the best,

Judy and Janet                                                                                                                                           GreenSpace on Fourth


This is where photos will go once we build flickr integration


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