There have been huge efforts put into cleaning up New York’s waterways and air pollution in the past few years; before these changes were undertaken, New York’s dock area was in a great decline that lasted decades after the main shipping moved to a more modern superport in New Jersey.
Even though there has been a vast clean-up, the narrower streets of the city are a long way from being perfect, potholes abound and floods occur frequently due to the 100+ year old water mains that burst almost every other week. Staten Island used to host the world’s largest garbage dump (Fresh Kills), but that was closed by force in March 2001 due to air pollution – though it did reopen as an emergency dump for the World Trade Center debris.
New York has a poor recycling record, only 13% of its garbage is not dumped in landfill sites around the country. Rudolph W. Giuliani announced the appointment of Kevin Farrell as the 41st Commissioner of the New York City Department of Sanitation in March 1999, he said that, ‘the disposal of waste is obviously the problem.’
Kids used to dive from the piers of the Hudson River as recently as the 1950s, after which it became horribly polluted by industrial waste and 200 million gallons of daily sewage. The sewage problem ceased when a new treatment plant opened on W125th Street in 1986. The two now-closed General Electric manufacturing facilities were the worst polluters of the area, dumping polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs directly into the rivers and killing all the fish.
That is all in the past though, the fish are returning and it is actually possible for anglers to catch blueback herring, yellow perch, striped bass and blue crab in the Hudson River – health official claim that it’s now okay to catch and eat fish from the river, though it isn’t generally advisable to do this frequently, especially if you are a vulnerable health risk due to illness, old age or pregnancy. See http://www.hudsonriver.com
If you are intending to move to, or vacation in New York the real threat of pollution comes from the noise, especially if you hail from quieter corners; car horns, sirens and trucks drive some newcomers to distraction 24 hours a day – but eventually you’ll let yourself be taken over by the chaos and you’ll hardly notice it, at least not until you leave again on vacation.