Riverbank State Park Extra Info

SELF-QUIZ       Ten Questions on Riverbank State Park (click to open)

RECOMMENDATIONS for extra reading


1962   (March 28) At a closed meeting, the New York City Planning Commission decided that the previously designated site between 70th and 72nd Streets on the Hudson River should not be used for a sewage treatment plant. According to a historical account in the Fordham Urban Law Journal,  the commission said “the West 70th Street-West 72nd Street site should not be used for any purpose that could be detrimental to the adjacent residential and cultural development.” The proposed new site for the plant was West Harlem between 137th and 145th Streets.

1968   The City purchased the site for a sewage treatment plant in Harlem.

1980   Architect Richard Dattner was chosen by a committee of state officials and community representatives to spearhead the design and development of a rooftop state park and recreational facility.

1986  The sewage treatment plant in West Harlem began operations in April. Shortly thereafter, community residents began to experience problems with their health including increases in asthma, chronic bronchitis, headaches and sore throats.

1988   WE ACT was founded and began to formally advocate for the community. 

1993   Riverbank State Park was opened. Although the sewage treatment plant in West Harlem is owned and operated by New York City, the park above it is owned and operated by New York State.  In order to create the park, the state obtained an easement for the air rights above the treatment plant. See a description, from the Urban Land Institute of design challenges and construction costs.

2011   A catastrophic fire caused the shut down of sewage treatment operations at the North River Treatment Plant and for more than a week raw sewage was diverted directly into the Hudson River.

2015   The City (NYCDEP) released a notice on air quality monitoring improvements. See: “Department of Environmental Protection to Increase Air Monitoring in Riverbank State Park and the Nearby West Harlem Neighborhood,” Dec. 10, 2015.



Data Source: New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, annual attendance figures by facility