New Yorkers complain about a lot of stuff. A little while back we showed a 311 map by the Furman Center with vermin, broken street lights and partying dominating complaints. Gothamist shared this map by Matthew Frank, founder of Aqueous Advisors, who took information from the 1910 Metropolitan Sewerage Commission report.
Why 1910? Don’t forget the first sewage treatment plant in America wasn’t built until the late 19th century in Brooklyn. The first sewers were laid in 1849 after a massive cholera attack, and took over 50 years to build, so there was probably great interest in the new technology. The Metropolitan Sewerage Commission itself was “created to improve the sanitary condition of the harbors, and protect the public health,” according to Frank.
Frank also notes the following:
- The smell of banana oil was concentrated around Canal Street. Painters and paint-shops in the area may have used it as a solvent.
- Breweries and brewery smells were concentrated in Yorkville, the German population center of Manhattan.
- Midtown smelled better than downtown, and the west side better than the east side.
We’d also like to point out the “strong fecal odor” on the east side on 67th Street, 96th Street and 12th Street. Today, the city monitors the sewers remotely rather than physically going down manholes.
Here’s a direct link to Frank’s Google Map and his blog post. Read more about NYC’s sewer system: the train that used to take the city’s sludge all the way to Texas, and the modern Digester Eggs that process which manages wastewater from Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.