Bluebelt system comes to NYBG

DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland (r) shows off the new catch basins to New York Botanical Garden head Gregory Long as part of Bluebelt system at The New York Botanical Garden.
Photo by Walter Pofeldt

The city Park’s Department may have the greenway. But the Department of Environmental Protection has the Bluebelt. And it’s here in the Bronx.

DEP officials announced the completion of the borough’s first Bluebelt on Thursday, September 27. It rests on the property of The New York Botanical Garden.

Bluebelt gets its name from the DEP’s objective in keeping blue waters clean.

The new system diverts rainwater into a water-purifying wetland to help control flooding and pollution, according to DEP officials.

“This Bluebelt system is able to handle 350,000 gallons in one hour,” noted Commissioner Carter Strickland.

For decades, drivers near NYBG often zigzagged past a portion of Southern Boulevard after heavy downpours turned the artery into a small lake.

Southern Boulevard rests on a “combined sewage area” where rainwater and sewage meet in the same pipe. But the system could never handle the volume of water and garbage, forcing pollution out of the system and into a barren landscape near the garden’s Twin Lakes.

There a mix of “bottles, paper, debris” would often be spotted, said Community Board 7 District Manager Fernando Tirado.

Officials with the DEP saw that section as a perfect place to try out its Bluebelt, reaching out to NYBG to install the conduit.

“The drive on Southern Boulevard is a nicer drive than ever,” said the garden’s CEO, Gregory Long.

Starting in Februrary, DEP spent $600,000 on the project.

Construction crews first installed four catch basins on both sides of the flood-prone road to discharge water towards a recently planted wetland at Twin Lakes.

Clean water would slowly seep into Upper Twin Lake, eventually flowing into the Bronx River and New York Harbor. Officials are now looking at Van Cortlandt Park as the next spot for the Bluebelt project.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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