U.S. Water News Online
NEW YORK -- Decades have passed since advocates began their
push to rid the Hudson River of industrial waste, and the city has
worked to beautify Manhattan's once-desolate West Side with grassy
parkland for joggers and bicyclists.
So why not add a beach?
Some state officials and environmentalists want to develop one
along the river just steps from the Meatpacking District when a city
sanitation department depot relocates by 2012.
The plan faces technical and regulatory hurdles and could take
years to complete, but perhaps the most daunting challenge will be
persuading locals and tourists alike to take a dip in the river, with
its reputation as a floating funeral home and garbage dump.
"Haven't they found bodies out here?" asked Sephora Rosario, 32,
staring out at the choppy water not too far from where she grew up.
"Who would jump in there?"
Often, those quickest to dive in are the environmental advocates
who say the Hudson River is far cleaner than it has been for most of
the last few hundred years.
"I'll swim in the Hudson now," said Carter Craft, director of the
Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, which works to increase funding for
city water access and ecological protection. "It's safe if you know
what you're doing."
Advocates warn that swimmers must stay out of the river for
several days after rainfall -- when the city's drainage system dumps
raw sewage directly into the Hudson. Within a three-minute walk from
the proposed Hudson River Park beach site, muddy discharge is visible
around one of the pipes.
Craft and other advocates say the sewage isn't usually a problem
and any future beach could simply be closed after storms. But city
regulations are more stringent, requiring that beaches be at least
500 feet from overflow pipes. One rule prohibits any beach along
Manhattan's West side.
Analysts with the state's Hudson River Estuary Program know that
such city regulations can be overturned. They included the local
proposal in a study of 13 possible Hudson River beach sites between
New York City and the upstate city of Troy. The Hudson River Park
Trust is considering including the beach alongside a grassy park area
they plan to create on the proposed site.
For now, the site is hardly a place to relax. It has long been a
depot for garbage trucks, and people hurry past to avoid the smell.
One day workers might cart in loads of sand, but currently the north
side of the outcropping is covered with sharp rocks and jagged wooden
Such eyesores haven't stopped Craft from swimming in the river's
"We'll be getting in the Hudson," Craft said of his summer plans.
"Why go to the beach when there's water at the end of your street?"
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