Marine Park, Brooklyn Photo: Tdorante10, CC BY-SA 4.0  via Wikimedia Commons

WORKING GROUP 1: Improving and Expanding Natural Systems

Goal: To protect, expand, and maintain natural systems and their benefits on public and private properties to improve water management and reduce the negative impacts of flooding.

Natural systems – urban forests, streams, and wetlands – as well as natural spaces such as parks, street trees, and community gardens, provide a great deal of ecosystem and social benefits.  Our natural areas and natural infrastructure are not self-sustaining, and their health and value decrease when they are not maintained but have either been damaged or lost to development, are limited in extent, or are not being effectively used to manage heavy rain. Restoring, maintaining, and in some cases, redesigning such spaces could provide additional co-benefits such as heat mitigation, water management, active mobility, biodiversity benefits, and community-specific programming.   

Leads:  DPR, DEP; Natural areas advocacy groups


RECOMMENDATION #11: Protect existing ecological systems, such as forests and wetlands located within parks, waterfronts, and open space, considering already established recommendations including the Wetlands Management Framework and potential legal protection status such as Forever Wild.


  • Expand funding for City and CBO restoration and maintenance of high priority sites based on goals of maintaining existing stormwater capture and promoting community co-benefits.
  • Develop infrastructure guidelines to restore and maintain the natural stormwater and groundwater flows that sustained historical ecological systems, engaging ecologists and incorporating both hybrid green-gray systems and future conditions into planning. 
  • Further develop accounting systems to properly evaluate potential loss of natural areas.


IMPLEMENTATION: City agencies, such as DPR, DEP, and OMB should coordinate with non-profits such as NY-NJ HEP to protect the City’s ecological systems and establish long term guidance for ongoing maintenance. 

RECOMMENDATION #12: Expand natural systems, such as Bluebelts, daylighted streams, and restored wetlands, integrating them into the watershed of flood-prone communities through current government programs, and future ones, such as the City’s emerging housing mobility/buyout approach, as well as through public/private cooperation.

SOLUTION: Consider priority locations for adaptation to help manage stormwater 

IMPLEMENTATION: DPR, DEP, and HRO should coordinate programs focused on the expansion of natural systems with ongoing programs, such as the city’s emerging housing mobility/buyout approach. 

RECOMMENDATION #13: Develop citywide education programs to create awareness of the role natural systems can play in stormwater management and to develop a future workforce.

SOLUTION: Consider “Adopt an Underground Stream” program and similar signage/placemaking approaches (e.g. high water marks) where neighborhoods can indicate the area where historic streams were located and/or where future flooding may occur; including cleanups and celebrations (closed street days with chalk art stream drawings, etc). 

IMPLEMENTATION: Citywide education programs around creating awareness of the role natural systems play should be coordinated among DEP, DOE, DCLA, and other city agencies