In 1962 in New York, a sewage treatment plant was to begin being built on the West Side of Manhattan, next to the Hudson River at 72nd street. This neighborhood was and remains today a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood. Due to neighborhood dissatisfaction with the plants proposed locations, the city decided to move the plant into Harlem.
It was just another story in a long-standing American narrative of environmental injustice against communities of color; white politicians and planners shifting the noxious, the unpleasant, and the dirty public and private works of our cities onto neighborhoods with minimal political influence. The North River Wastewater Treatment Plant, as it is known, began construction in 1972. By the time it was partly operational in 1989, it was already controversial — spewing fetid, rotten-egg odors and coinciding with an increase in asthma rates and other respiratory related ailments in the surrounding area.
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