Recap :: Nette Compton Lecture

Written by Camila Mathó, BArch Candidate

On Wednesday, April 18, 2012 Nette Compton, the Director of Green Infrastructure for the City of New York Parks Department, spoke at the BAC. Nette Compton is a landscape architect who has been the project manager for the High Performance Landscape Guidelines. Compton is working with the Department of Environmental Protection and their Green Infrastructure Plan and is currently working on implementing them throughout New York City.

Nette first mentioned how most people think about New York City and they think skyscrapers and concrete and probably very little "green" in general. She showed images of New York and the green areas that do exist, although little, but they are there. With that said, she understands that it is something that has to change. Compton recognizes that the sewer overflow has become a problem in New York City; combining these two problems became the solution.

Right of way bioswale diagram. Courtesy of Nette Compton.

It first started with the addition of bioswales. Bioswales are an evolution of street tree plantings that one might see on a daily basis. Their design works so that rain water is absorbed and even stored in four feet deep underground space. The bioswale design that Nette presented is about 20 feet long and about 5 feet wide and include a small tree with plants around it. They are the perfect amount of space to include a miniature metal fence around one side of it with pebbles or rocks on the curb side so that it is not too difficult for people to get in and out of their cars. So much is going on in the bioswale, but for an outsider it looks like a regular tree pit, which is something that Nette really appreciates. She mentioned that she would like to green New York City and help eliminate sewer overflow but she doesn't want people to feel like their city is being taken over. 

Dean and 4th Street, Bioswale. Courtesy of Nette Compton.
Some of the other work that Compton works on are sidewalks and crossroads. She may find unnecessary use of pavement and she changes it so that it helps direct the water flow. Take the image below as an example. The green space was once just part of the street and after a rain storm would gather the water and cause floods. Compton changed it so that it would control the water flow. The open spaces in the curb allows the water to go into where the plants are instead. The picture below shows how this works.

Westbourne and Bay Street, Queens, Greenstreet. Courtesy of Nette Compton.

Westbourne and Bay Street, Queens, Greenstreet. Courtesy of Nette Compton.
Nette Compton's work is very inspirational not only to landscape students, but to all students. She found two problems in a city and found one solution for both. She was asked about integrating this system in other cities. Fortunately, she responded that other cities have been interested and this design solution will hopefully spread throughout the United States.