The North River Wastewater Treatment Plant put an end to the city’s practice of dumping raw sewage. Before the 1980s, all wastewater from Manhattan’s West Side flowed untreated straight into the Hudson River. But the plant, which extends over the river in West Harlem, didn’t come without a long fight. It was community opposition to the initial plan, proposed in the 1960s, that led the city and state to build a park on top of the plant, a solution inspired by precedents in Tokyo. Once the plant was opened in 1986, construction and design errors led to foul smells. Again, the community mobilized, demanding the city fix the plant’s defects. Today, the North River plant processes up to 340 million gallons of wastewater a day, efforts hidden behind concrete arches and underneath 28 acres of Riverbank State Park which houses playing fields, picnic areas, and even a skating rink.
The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.