Posts Tagged ‘New York City park’

The city park built to hide a sewage plant

June 14, 2012

Okay, so massive smokestacks loom on top of a platform surrounded by lush trees and flowers.

But other than that, you might never know that Riverbank State Park, along the Hudson River in Harlem, masks an industrial secret.

The park’s expansive lawn, pools, and ball fields were built in the late 1980s on top of the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant, which handles 125 million gallons of sewage daily.

With so much waste flowing around the park, does it reek? Some residents complained of a rotten-egg odor when it opened in 1993, but the stench seems to have gone away.

Of course, there are other environmental risks—like fire. In 2011, a four-alarm blaze that started in the treatment plant sent 30-foot plumes of smoke into the air and forced park-goers to evacuate.

Aside from that, it’s a lovely, clean park with a fantastic view of the Hudson—one that’s worth the trip to 145th Street to see.

[Bottom photo: the park from New Jersey, via Wikipedia]

The potter’s fields that became city parks

October 24, 2011

Next time you find yourself lounging in a Manhattan park, consider the thousands of residents who may have occupied the site before you—when it was a cemetery.

Washington Square Park, Madison Square Park, and Bryant Park are among the parks that started out as potter’s fields.

Here the city laid to rest its paupers, prisoners, unclaimed and diseased until the mid-19th century.

Madison Square Park was the first, in 1794. When it was full in 1797, potter’s field was moved to Washington Square, to a parcel  “. . . bounded on the road leading from the Bowery Lane at the two Mile Stone to Greenwich,” according to It Happened in Washington Square by Emily Kies Folpe.

Estimates vary, but up to 100,000 New Yorkers may have been buried there—with the tombstone of a possible Yellow Fever victim popping up in 2009.

“After the yellow fever epidemic of 1823, with Greenwich booming just to the west, and Bond Street burgeoning just to the east, the city barred further burials and routed new corpses north to what is today Bryant Park,” states New York City historian and author Mike Wallace in a 2007 New York Times interview.

When that potter’s field was chosen as the site of the Croton Reservoir in the 1840s, “the remains of 100,000 paupers and strangers were transferred in 1857 to Ward’s Island, and then, finally, to Hart Island, acquired by the city in 1868, with 45 acres of the 100 acre island being set aside as a potter’s field that opened the following year,” says Wallace.

To this day, Hart Island, off the Bronx, remains the city’s potter’s field—and the former burial grounds underwent pretty makeovers into lovely parks.

[Washington Square Park and Bryant Park photos from the 1930s, from the NYPL Digital Collection]