Coming from the Jersey Shore where all is bright, sunny, sandy, grassy, and clean, I can’t help but notice the stark difference in lifestyle just an hour away in New York City. I’m always overwhelmed by the massive amounts of traffic and honking, the rush of every kind of person from every single direction, a different pungent odor every few steps, and black garbage bags thrown all over the sidewalks. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the city, but I leave there feeling grimy and dirty every single time without fail.
As grimy as I feel after spending a day in New York City, it does not even close to compare to the conditions there in the nineteenth century. Garbage was literally tossed out onto the street and left to rot. When you threw something out it wouldn’t go anywhere, it would just stay where you left it. According to Levy, “Human wastes were generally disposed of on-site in a backyard septic tank or cesspool- a situation that is a major menace to public health (34).” This led to contamination of drinking water because their water sources came from wells and streams, causing water-borne diseases. By 1898, the Metropolitan Board of health forbade “the throwing of dead animals, garbage, or ashes into the streets”. This was a step towards improvement. When the water carriage sewer was invented in England, it was an important solution for all of the waste that was just being thrown around. However, actually building a water carriage sewer system needs major planning.
Frederick Law Olmsted, an amazing US planner and urban designer, designed a bunch of communities where all of the sewage elements are integrated in his design. He took into account the land for health and aesthetic reasons. Olmsted believed that having parks helped “ventilate” a city. He then designed New York’s Central Park along with Calvin Vaux in 1857. This beautiful park provides a sense of “country” in a city full skyscrapers.
After learning more about New York City, I realized that its struggle with sanitation is a continuous battle that they seem to be winning. It improved drastically since its urbanization and only continues to improve. Where there are millions of people there is going to be tons of trash, that part is inevitable. It’s how all of this waste is dealt with that is important. Today, sanitation workers, often called “New York’s Strongest” work endlessly to remove the remains of our action packed day.
Levy, John M. Contemporary Urban Planning. 11th ed., New York, NY, Routledge, 2017.
Fons, Hannah. “A Look at Sanitation in New York – One Man’s Trash…Is Still Trash.” The New York Cooperator, The Co-Op & Condo Monthly, cooperator.com/article/one-mans-trashis-still-trash/full. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.