The Sewage Treatment Plant that Grew a Park

It’s a park.

It’s a sewage treatment plant.

I can’t see a sewage treatment plant.

That’s because there’s a park on top of it.

The North River Wastewater Resource Recovery Facility processes 125 million gallons of wastewater every day during dry weather, and up to 340 million gallons a day when the weather is wet. It serves most of the West Side from Greenwich Village to Inwood Hill. Construction from 137th – 145th Street on the West Side Highway was completed in 1991.

Enter renowned architect Philip Johnson (Glass House, Seagram’s Building, 550 Madison Avenue, Lipstick Building) who first suggested a park be built over the plant. By 1993, it was.

Riverbank State Park is 28 green acres that includes sports surfaces, an Olympic-size swimming pool, skating rink, 800-seat theater, 2,500-seat athletic complex, restaurant and – here’s another piece of trivia for you – the largest green roof in New York City with plantings and trees in soil as deep as 35 feet.

The latest news: Work is underway on a $300 million project to install new, cleaner-burning co-generation engines at the wastewater facility. When completed, there will be close to a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, comparable to planting nearly 70,000 trees.

Read all about it here:

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Photo: Wikipedia

By Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD+C, President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

New York City has always been a magnet for the best and brightest. But a new study, done in China but relevant to New York City – in fact, relevant to 95% of the world – indicates that being a part of the city that never sleeps means paying a price in, of all things, intelligence.

The study, undertaken as part of the China Panel Family Studies done over four years, is the first to take men and women of all ages into account with regard to the physical and mental damage done by air pollution.

According to, air pollution is a problem for all populations, but especially so for New York City residents. A publication “Air Pollution and the Health of New Yorkers:

The Impact of Fine Particles and Ozone” states that as air pollution is never listed as a cause for hospitalization, statistical methods had to be used for their conclusions.

The report analyzed fine particles from on and off-road vehicles, fossil fuel combustion and heating commercial and residential buildings, commercial cooking, road dust, demolition and construction. Ozone was analyzed from April 1st – September 30th as ozone levels greatly increase during warmer months.

The conclusion: “Current exposures…cause more than 3,000 premature deaths, more than 2,000 hospitalizations due to respiratory and cardiovascular causes, and approximately 6,000 emergency department visits for asthma in New York City annually.” A 2016 MIT Senseable City Lab study concluded much more generally that our air is toxic.

Lest you are feeling disheartened by our current air quality, back in the mid-1960s, New York had the filthiest air of any big city in the country. On Thanksgiving weekend in 1966, 200 people died because of the haze of warm temperature smog.

The up note is: we have come a very long way from those noxious, sulfurous days including achievable goals for the PlaNYC goal of “cleanest air of any big city” by 2030.

Meanwhile, back in China, their study showed that toxic air produces a significant reduction in intelligence equal to losing a year of education. The effects are worse for anyone age 64 and older, for men more than women (I know this comes as shock to you, but male and female brains work differently), and for those with lower education levels.

All we can say to all this is stay smart, my friends. Support the City’s efforts to reduce air pollution through their reduce and retrofit programs, monitoring, new codes, emissions control and conversion to alternative, cleaner fuels. Intelligent life depends on it.

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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

We expect moaning and groaning from building owners – both commercial and multifamily – about the Mayor’s recent mandate designed to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions. If the mandate passes into legislation (the City Council is the deciding player in that decision), it will mean work. Changes in operations. And it will mean cost. But to use an old line from Jane Fonda’s fitness programs – no pain, no gain – and there are gains that can result from the mandate for both building owners and the city.

While short on a lot of specifics, the mandate made a few things clear. It will affect about 23,000 older buildings of 25,000 square feet and up, of which 14,500 are considered the least efficient and estimated to produce 24 percent of the City’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The mandated fossil fuel reductions will, according to the Mayor’s office, require building owners to make improvements to boilers, heat distribution, hot water heaters, roofs and windows. Fossil fuels used for heat and hot water in buildings are the city’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Penalties for failure to meet goals would be determined by building size and how much targets are exceeded. Landlords would not be allowed to displace tenants or raise rents to meet requirements. Targets would be set by 2020 with compliance by 2035.

Now here’s the good news. It’s a big step in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions which is necessary for climate control. The time frame allows for flexibility on what needs to be done when and for the ability to plan for and refinance as needed. There will be help available for financing, in sharing best practices and technical services from public sources. Ultimately, the reductions will result in lower energy costs and a more desirable and comfortable environment for tenants.

Citywide, the reductions will be the equivalent of taking 900,000 cars off the road; reduce the prevalence of asthma from air pollution by creating cleaner air; and, according to the Mayor’s office create 17,000 new “green” jobs.

If you’re among the 14,500 least-efficient buildings being targeted, it may be a long and winding road to a retrofit in compliance. But the Mayor is committed to making New York City a world leader of green cities. This mandate is the first of it kind in the country. Expect more.

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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services