Riverbank State Park

RIVERBANK STATE PARK, one of the most visited parks in the New York State system, is remarkable for the caliber and variety of its recreational facilities. It is also the only park in the Western Hemisphere built above a sewage treatment plant. The twenty-eight acre space includes a variety of outdoor courts, a running track and playing fields, indoor workout and exercise spaces, pool and skating facilities, as well as a riverfront promenade and amphitheater. The origins and fate of the park, inseparable from the treatment plant beneath the “ground” of the park, comprise one of the most important environmental justice case studies in American history.   CLICK here for extra info and quiz.


NARRATOR: Cecil Corbin-Mark is WE ACT for Environmental Justice’s (WE ACT) Deputy Director and Director of Policy Initiatives. He holds a BA from Hunter College in Political Science and a M. Phil. in International Relations from Oxford University in England. Prior to joining WE ACT, Cecil worked for the Bronx County District Attorney, NYS Justice Hon. W. T. Martin, the Mellon Minority Scholars Program, and the NY Public Library. Cecil is a father, and a pilot, and lives in the Hamilton Heights section of West Harlem in NYC, his family’s home for almost 90 years.


Podcast I      Welcome and Backstory     (5:54) 

The idea for Riverbank State Park was formulated in the wake of a controversy over the siting of a waste water treatment plant. As Cecil Corbin-Mark explains, the story of the park begins with a landmark case study in environmental justice that was also the catalyst for the formation of his organization.

Podcast II     An Engaged Community (6:00)

Among the logistical arguments against siting a treatment plant in West Harlem is that it is uphill from where much of the waste is produced. Having been left out of much of the initial decision-making process, the West Harlem community pushed back when the plant’s opening brought odor and health concerns.

Podcast III   A Park on Top of a WWTP (3:58) 

The West Harlem community sued the city over the private and public nuisance posed by the treatment plant. A $100 million adjustment of the plant’s flawed ventilation system was nearing completion when the community learned that the repairs would, nonetheless, only be 75% effective at reducing the pungent emissions. The park came along and addressed another health challenge in the region—-lack of recreational space.

Podcast IV   Orientation to Park Surroundings (5:57) 

Riverbank offers an abundance of green space plus fitness rooms, ice skating rink, Olympic size swimming pool, theatre and more. Mr. Corbin-Mark orients the visitor to sights, sounds and ground-level vibrations that are part of this park experience.

Podcast V   Benefits and Challenges (3:34)

A shady refuge on a hot day and a state-of the-art recreational facility, Riverbank State Park is a benefit to the community. Is it a salve to past injustices? There are still challenges associated with emanations from the sewage plant and the complications of a park floor that is also a 28-acre roof.



CLICK on the image above to see a pdf version of the Riverbank State Park map.




Courtesy New York State Parks: Riverbank State Park