The History of Pollution in New York City

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New York City has unique benefits in that there are tremendous amounts of people who live within close proximity to each other. This has resulted in higher uses of mass transit systems (such as: subways and buses). On average, New York’s total environmental footprint is 7.1 metrics tons per person annually. This is much lower than national average of 24.5 metric tons. The city contributes 1% of the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere for the United States each year. (“Inventory Greenhouse of New York City,” 2007) (Jarvey, 2006)

In spite of these benefits and lower levels of carbon emission, New York City was named the dirtiest city for 2012 in Travel and Leisure magazine. They cited poor air quality, water and large amounts of trash everywhere. This is problematic, as New York has been trying to consistently reduce the overall amounts of pollution for many decades. These conclusions are ignoring the positive transformations and how they have impacted New York. To fully understand what is taking place requires studying the history of pollution, its affects, causes, reasons and areas of improvement. Together, these elements will highlight the overall scope of these transformations and their impact on the quality of life inside the city. (Brown, 2012) (“Inventory Greenhouse of New York City,” 2007) (Jarvey, 2006)

A Timeline of Pollution

New York first started to experience pollution problems during the late 18th century. This is when the city was becoming a major center for trade and commerce. What made it such an ideal location is the area was surrounded by various fresh water ports. This made it easier for ships to access the port any time of year. (Waldman, 2013) (Jarvey, 2006)

As th...

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...milar kind of approach. In the long term, this has improves the quality of life inside the city by dealing with some of the most common issues impacting large urban centers. In many ways, one could argue that this is what helps to make New York such a popular destination.


Brown, R. (2012). Filthy Truth! New York Daily News. Retrieved from: report-article-1.1161800

Inventory Greenhouse of New York City. (2007). NYC Government. Retrieved from:

Jarvey, B. (2006). The Big Green Apple. New York, NY: Globe Pequot Press.

Reitze, A. (2005). Stationary Source Air Pollution Law. Washington DC: Environmental Law Institute.

Waldman, J. (2013). Heartbeats in the Muck. New York, NY: Empire State Editions.

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