'Daylighting' Project to Restore Nature in the Big Apple

More cities are returning waterways to a more natural state—in some cases unearthing them from subterranean pipes in a process known as "daylighting." A new example can be found, perhaps surprisingly, in New York City.

Read Time: 1 minute

December 9, 2021, 5:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


A footbrinde crosses over a small cascade of flowing water on a sunny day in Yonkers, New York.

The Tibbetts Brook Park Waterfall, located in Yonkers, upstream of a new daylighting project in the Bronx. | Kenneth Dean / Shutterstock

According to an article by Winnie Hu and James Thomas, there is "an enormous trove of water hidden below [New York City's] streets and high-rise buildings — hundreds of subterranean streams, creeks and springs that were buried long ago and all but forgotten as the city grew."

Among that trove is Tibbetts Brook, which is the main subject of the article because of an ambitious plan to unearth, or "daylight," the creek to improve the local stormwater infrastructure.

"The city plans to unearth the brook — an engineering feat known as 'daylighting' — at a cost of more than $130 million, because burying it in the sewer system has worsened the city’s flooding problems as a warming planet experiences more frequent and intense storms," according to Hu and Thomas.

The remnants of Hurricane Ida recently overwhelmed Tibbetts Brook in its current, subterranean form, sending water flooding into the city and inundating the Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx.

According to the article, "daylighting" is reversing an earlier era's approach to stormwater infrastructure in more and more locations around the world—though New York City might be an unexpected place to see nature being restored, to a certain extent.

Monday, December 6, 2021 in The New York Times

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