Catastrophic flooding, contaminated stormwater and sewer overflow — these are the effects of the climate crisis in New York City.
“This is what happens every time there is a heavy rain and with our warming climate, the heavy rains are happening more and more often," said Assembly Member Emily Gallagher.
She introduced new legislation called the Water Bill Fairness Act, which would allow the city to impose “stormwater fees” on developers and private building owners.
“You and I are already paying for this entire sewer system," said Gallagher. "The revenue that’s raised can go directly into storm water infrastructure and will rebate to lower the cost of every day New Yorkers.”
Members of the group Newtown Creek Alliance work hard to maintain existing green infrastructure across north Brooklyn and Queens, like green roofs and pollinator and rain gardens, which can capture up to 3,000 gallons of water.
"They're small in their own way but when you have thousands and thousands of these around the city, they can have a really meaningful impact," said Willis Elkins, the executive director of Newtown Creek Alliance.
Advocates say green infrastructure is an excellent addition to the city's aging sewer system, which dates back to the late 1800s when the population was a fraction of what it is today.
"Whenever we have more than a quarter inch of rain, our waste water treatment facility plants can't process all the stormwater or all of that sewage from our residential homes at a quick enough pace so they shut it off," said horticulturist Brenda Suchilt.
Earlier this week, the city’s Independent Budget Office released a new study which found that a stormwater fee like this one could raise between $266 million and $892 million annually for green infrastructure.
"We need help from the state, we need help from the federal government to build more green infrastructure in the city," said Elkins. "So it's really crucial that the state step up and help New York City in this moment."
City Hall still needs to give the Water Bill Fairness Act the green light before a vote by the state legislature, which reconvenes in Albany in January.