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Wetland Systems for Urban Landscapes: Design Considerations & Lessons Learned – FULL

September 19, 2014 @ 8:00 am - 3:00 pm

Since European settlement approximately 85 to 90 percent of coastal and freshwater wetlands in New York City have been lost due to urbanization, filling and failure to recognize their critical functions. With the advance of ecological studies, attitudes towards wetlands in the urban landscapes have shifted, recognizing that these areas provide important ecological, economic, and social benefits, as well as offer much needed stormwater detention, water quality improvements, and flood protection.  With this in focus, landscape architects, planners, scientists, ecologists, environmental engineers, and public officials are playing key roles in helping NYC reengage with its wetland systems.

ASLA-NY and its generous partners have put together an exciting educational tour to explore on site the challenges faced by Staten Island’s unique habitats.  Tours and discussions are led by a dynamic group of practitioners who will share individual experiences, practical advice and lessons learned creating and restoring wetland systems for NYC’s urban landscapes. Whether you are an experienced practitioner or just learning, join us learn and discover the potential of wetland habitats from their aesthetics to their multiple uses as water treatment plants, wildlife refuges, and recreational facilities.




Details of the day:

8:00 AM Meet at Staten Island Ferry, Manhattan side

8:30 AM – Meet those who wish to join us on SI side of ferry; board bus.

8:40-9:10 – travel to first stop

9:10 – 10:10

Design Considerations for Mitigation and Creation of Tidal Wetlands in NYC (1 hr. – 1 LA CES HSW CEU)

Tour led by Laura Schwanof, RLA (GEI) followed by on site discussion led by Marit Larson (NRG) 

Tidal Wetlands at the Freshkills Landfill were created to mitigate wetland losses that resulted from the construction of a new truck-to-rail facility located within the landfill. The 3.1 acres represented a 4.5 to 1 mitigation ratio to account for anticipated marsh loss associated with construction of the proposed railway crossing and installation of stormwater filtration devices.

Site selection, planning, installation oversight, and monitoring were led by Laura Schwanof, RLA (EEA/ GEIin partnership with HDR) who will host this site visit. This mitigation project included removal of approximately ten feet of mixed refuse from the landfill shoreline followed by the creation of tidal wetlands with maritime shrub and grassland plantings in the adjacent area. To ensure compliance with NYSDEC permitting criteria, the constructed marsh was monitored for a five-year period with annual comprehensive monitoring reports submitted for agency review. The project was approved by NYSDEC and completed in September 2010.

The tour will provide participants with a unique opportunity to learn about mitigation, design considerations and the unique on-site measures implemented that contributed to the project’s success. Designers will also discuss strategies taken to address both common and local conditions including site specific topics relating to remediation and contamination clean-up, erosion control, and long term monitoring.

Wetland Mitigation Banking in New York City

Located northwest of Freshkills Park, New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) will create the first wetland mitigation bank in New York City, located at Saw Mill Creek in Staten Island.  Wetland mitigation banks can be an effective tool for wetland preservation, enhancement, and creation, while also supporting economic development.  Marit Larson will provide an overview of mitigation banking, its advantages and disadvantages, and how its utilization may help advance the City’s agendas on wetlands, resiliency, and public access to waterfronts, from a natural resource management perspective.

Learning Objectives

  1.   Participants will learn what design strategies and measures were used to create tidal wetlands in urban landfills; considering the implications to human health and welfare, environmental and habitat benefits.
  2.   By examples cited by experienced practitioners, participants will learn steps to successfully navigate through the regulatory process which guides the schedule and implementation of any wetland project in NY.
  3.  Participants will learn about the concept of wetland mitigation banks and how they can be an effective tool for wetland preservation in NYC. Advantages and disadvantages will be discussed, focusing on how utilization of such systems may help advance the City’s agendas on wetlands, resiliency, and public access to waterfronts, from a natural resource management perspective.

10:30-11:30 am

The Greenbelt Native Plant Center, Tour and Discussion Led by Edward Toth (1 hr. – 1 LA CES CEU)

The Greenbelt Native Plant Center (GNPC)/Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank (MARSB) is the native plant nursery and seed bank facility of the City of New York, Department of Parks.  It is one of a handful of municipally funded and operated facilities of its kind in the US.  The 13-acre site includes approximately 18,000 square feet of greenhouse production space and 3 acres of irrigated containerized nursery yard capable of producing over 400,000 plants from over 350 species a year. The nursery includes a seed bank that meets international standards for short-term active seed banking and currently contains over 2,400 local accessions, representing over 600 species from the metropolitan region.  In addition, the GNPC has initiated a Foundation Seed Program to produce local ecotypic bulk seed mixes.  MARSB was created as a GNPC program in 2012 to meet the seed needs of the Mid-Atlantic Region, primarily by collecting and banking seed but also by advocating for the creation of a Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Network to act as an interagency/cross-jurisdictional bureaucratic framework for meeting regional seed needs.

Tour and discussion will be led by Edward Toth, Director of GNPC. Participants will be offered a unique opportunity to see native plant production in the nursery, and learn about the challenges and advantages that such a facility faces to keep up with NYC’s demand and supply.. The tour will include a time for discussion which will focus on the significance of using locally propagated plant material; the implication within the context of regional ecology; and why there is a need for programs such as the MARSB to use the support of the GNPC as a local reference and resource.

Learning Objectives

  1.    Participants will learn about propagating and growing native plant material and the challenges to meet the needs of New York City and ensure supply which meets highest standards of quality and quantity.
  2.   Participants will be presented with current research which offers scientific evidence supporting the use of locally propagated plants and how to use this information in support of future design projects.
  3.   Participants will learn about plant material selection, availability, and critical factors to consider for restoration projects in New York City.
  4.   Participants will learn about regional seed banking, how it works, and what this means to landscape architects as they plan for new projects .

12:00-12:50 pm

The Greenbelt Nature Center, Lunch & Learn with Mike Feller (50 min. – 1 LA CES CEU)

With over 30 years of experience working in the wild spaces of New York City, Mike Feller will share his insights into wetland restoration in the unique setting of New York City.  The discussion will include reading the landscape, best management practices, and common points of failure to avoid.

Learning Objectives

  1.   Participants will learn about design concepts such as ‘reading the landscape’ and how to apply it to wetland restoration.
  2.    Learn how landscape architects can use ecologically appropriate measures to improve degraded habitat, provide new recreational opportunities in densely populated urban environments, and contribute to the health and welfare of surrounding communities.
  3.    Through a variety of examples participants will learn what best management practices are unique and successful in NYC as well as how to apply them to the planning process with common points of failure to avoid.


Wetlands for a Resilient Urban Environment: The Staten Island Blue Belt (1 hr. – 1 LA CES HSW CEU)

Tour led by Robert Brauman (NYC DEP)

A natural solution to stormwater management, the Staten Island Bluebelt, is an ecologically sound and cost-effective stormwater management for approximately one third of Staten Island’s land area. The program preserves natural drainage corridors, called Bluebelts, including streams, ponds, and other wetland areas. Preservation of these wetland systems allows them to perform their functions of conveying, storing, and filtering stormwater. In addition, the Bluebelts provide important community open spaces and diverse wildlife habitats. The Bluebelt program saves tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure costs when compared to providing conventional storm sewers for the same land area. This program demonstrates how wetland preservation can be economically prudent and environmentally responsible.

The tour will be led by Robert Brauman and will focus on a newly constructed wetland. The site is an extended detention storm water wetland constructed in 2014 in the Arden Heights section of Staten Island.   The new 0.6 acre wetland collects, stores, and naturally treats storm water from a drainage area of approximately 21 acres.  A diverse native plant palette was used to vegetate the site and compliment the surrounding natural area and native emergent plants installed to treat the storm water.   This site is typical of the more than 60 wetland sites constructed by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s Bluebelt Program on Staten Island since 1996.

Learning Objectives

  1.   Learn how to apply core principles of design for stormwater management to the design of wetland systems providing both functioning and cost effective solutions for stormwater management as well as ecologically thriving habitats.
  2.   By example, learn about core issues of concern for watershed planning in a dense urban environment and how designers can apply their experience to facilitate and overcome the complex challenges of working with ecology, people, place and program.
  3.   Tour will provide participants an opportunity to examine the most up to date methods and applied technology used to wetland areas designed for stormwater mitigation and resiliency.
  4.    Participants will discuss site design strategies and success factors of the Bluebelt  program and how such programs can be applied to other urban landscapes settings.

Return to Ferry – 2:45 pm.


Speakers Include:

Laura Schwanof, RLA – Ecological Practice Leader/Landscape Architect, GEI Consultants, Inc. P.C.

Marit Larson – Director of Wetland Restoration for the Natural Resources Group of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

Edward Toth – Director of The Greenbelt Native Plant Center

Michael J. Feller – Retired, Former Chief Naturalist of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, Natural Resources Group

Robert Brauman, CPESC – Construction Project Manager, New York City Department of Environmental Protection


Date / Time – Friday, September 19, 2014, 8 am – 3 PM
Location – Staten Island, NY
Cost – Early bird signup by Friday 9/5/14:

$59 member/ $79 non-member

Regular signup by Monday 9/15

$79 member/ $99 non-members



September 19, 2014
8:00 am - 3:00 pm
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September 19, 2014
8:00 am - 3:00 pm
Event Categories:
Event Tags:
, ,