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Steinway touts measures to prevent flooding at site

Steinway & Sons' parking lot features swales and greenery designed to catch, filter and absorb stormwater. Photo courtesy Anne Tan/New York Restoration Project
TimesLedger Newspapers

New flood mitigation equipment has cropped up in Long Island City in the form of bark, leaves and ditches along the Steinway & Sons property.

After three months of work, the parking lot of the piano manufacturer now boasts shrubbery and swales designed to absorb rainwater and prevent it from surging into the city sewage system, which sometimes overflows and spills into the city waterways during major storms.

The piano manufacturing company, at 1 Steinway Place, was among six urban forestry projects undertaken by the environmental group New York Restoration Project with a $400,000 grant secured from the Greening Western Queens Fund in 2011. The fund strives to help communities affected by the massive blackout in 2006 become more energy efficient. The Con Edison power failure paralyzed western Queens, leaving residents and businesses without electricity for days.

Anthony Gilroy, director of marketing and communications at Steinway & Sons, said the company was eager to see landscapers transform the 53,500-square-foot slab of concrete into a more storm-resilient space, especially after Superstorm Sandy.

“With Sandy, the water was up on our property and certain parts of the factory, on the first floor. Luckily precautions were taken, anything was moved to higher ground and machinery was put on bricks so damage was kept to a minimum,” Gilroy said. “A lot of the water will have a place to run off, so it’s less likely to be pooling and creating problems.”

NYRP said workers installed 340 feet of bioswales — trees and plants situated on low curbs around the perimeter of the parking lot — and an irrigation system to collect, filter and direct storm runoff to the roots of the new shrubbery. The parking lot can now absorb up to 404,000 gallons of water annually.

Gilroy said the additional 30 trees and 1,000 plants on the property should provide shade and a more verdant landscape for those passing by on 19th Avenue. He said Steinway & Sons has tried to be as green as possible, installing solar panels on the roof of its factory in 2008 and purchasing wood from forestry companies that commit to replanting a portion of their trees.

“As a company that’s been around for 160 years, part of it is environmentally responsible-ness and part of it is to make sure that there is wood for another 160 years,” Gilroy said. “You need to make sure the resources you need to survive and thrive as a business will continue to be there.”

Christopher Vanterpool, director of capital administration for NYRP, said the landscaping is a small step toward preventing runoff from overwhelming the sewage system and pushing waste into the city’s waterways.

Vanterpool said NYRP used the remainder of the grant to green a playground at PS 2 in Jackson Heights and plant trees in the Garden Bay Manor apartment complex and St. Michael’s Cemetery in Astoria, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Elmhurst and the Barclay Gardens apartments in East Elmhurst.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.

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