Environment / Parks

A tiny oasis takes shape on the river

Rocking the Boat's Adam Green and artist Lillian Ball at the new Waterwash ABC. Concrete Plant Park is across the river.

After a year of preparation, Waterwash ABC opens

The South Bronx’s newest green experiment, Waterwash ABC, is now open for all to see.

A mini-wetland and a garden through which a trail winds, the work of environmental architecture is a surprise, in the rear of the large furniture warehouse store on the Soundview side of the Bronx River.

The trail behind ABC Carpet leads to a picnic table where shoppers, workers and visitors will be able to gaze at the river.

This is the second Waterwash by Artist Lillian Ball, who devised the project and worked with Hunts Point non-profit Rocking the Boat to realize it. (The first is in a more bucolic location on Long Island’s North Fork.)

Ball said she hopes nearby businesses will follow ABC Carpet’s lead. She wants to convince them that adopting planet-greening initiatives can make their businesses more attractive and also improve their bottom line.

Ball and Rocking the Boat together received a $350,000 grant in 2010 from New York’s office of the state Attorney General as part of a $7 million settlement against Westchester communities that had contaminated the river for years by dumping their sewage in it.
Ball says encouraging businesses to collaborate is key to her projects.

“I get to show them that doing things like this won’t come out of pocket. They can get grants,” Ball said. “People in the Bronx deserve more spaces like this.”

Workers from ABC Carpet will help maintain the site by picking up trash that washes up on shore.

The small site now boasts 8,000 plants. Every one of them will enhance the river in its own way, Ball says, by protecting it from polluted rainwater running off the building’s flat roof and by attracting wildlife. Ball pointed to the bright orange milkweed pods that bring in butterflies as a prime example.

Anther of the project’s features is the use of permeable pavement, made from recycled glass. Unlike concrete, which repels water, permeable pavement absorbs it, so storm water will seep into the soil instead of running into the river, carrying pollutants with it.

Rainwater from the roof of the store’s nearby parking garage will now run off into a small wetlands area, where plants will convert a stew of gas, motor oil and other pollutants into plant food through photosynthesis.

But Rocking the Boat’s executive director Adam Green doesn’t want people to simply admire the science behind the project. He hopes visitors will discover the neglected waterfront when they see how pretty the little garden is.

“We hope that people will come here, have a picnic and enjoy the Bronx River,” he said.

Ball hopes urban planners will take notice and begin implementing some of the features elsewhere. Permeable pavement, for example, is not only good for cleaning the river, it is also safe for driveways and cars, she said.

One facet of the original plan did not make it into the final product. A dock for boats was nixed due to difficulty acquiring permits.

Caroline Gonzalez, 22, from Mount Eden, who volunteered to help create the site, said she hopes Waterwash ABC will help eliminate some ugly stereotypes about the river, and the neighborhood.

“A lot of people think the river is disgusting, but we are helping to change that,” said Gonzalez. “We are helping the environment and showing everyone that’s not the condition of the water.”

ABC Carpet, located at 1055 Bronx River Ave., is open Monday-Sat. 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., and Sundays from 10-6.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply