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New York, New York, USA (Public Health)
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Cholera in Carroll Gardens


Across the East River in the borough of Brooklyn, an environmental turn-around has already taken place, in a modest neighborhood called Carroll Gardens. Here elderly immigrants still cling to the ways of their European heritage.

Since the 1860s the Gowanus Canal has run through the heart of Carroll Gardens, providing passage for barges. It was a lifeline for the city's expanding economy, but over the years the canal outlived its usefulness. Its waters became polluted. Suspecting that this could be a health threat, in the early 1980s the neighborhood demanded that the canal's water be analyzed.

Scientists identified typhus, typhoid, and a virulent strain of cholera in the water, and a $458 million Red Hook Sewage Treatment Plant was built to keep the Gowanus Canal water clean in December of 1989.

As word spread about the cleanup, Carroll Gardens began to change. Shops, restaurants, coffee houses, and housing began to spring up along the canal. Today new waves of immigrants are moving in: young professionals from middle America, drawn to the community because of the promise of a waterfront promenade, and the warmth of it's old world charm.

In the end, the people of Carroll Gardens, the people of New York City, are no different from those in Mexico City, Istanbul and Shanghai. The quality of their lives is controlled by their ability to cope with change.



Public Health | West Nile Virus

More than a century ago, great waves of immigrants came to the United States, many fleeing from religious or political unrest. Most came in search of economic opportunities, and their gateway to America was New York City. By the 1930s New York's population was seven million, and it overtook London as the world's largest city.

Ringed by water and built of steel, this is a mega-city that works. Water and air quality are relatively high and all of its sewage is treated before leaving the city. Above all, New York is still a beacon for those seeking a new life; a city where more than half its population are foreign born or are the children of immigrants.

With an incidence of asthma triple the New York City average, Harlem has been called a public health disaster.

From the air it's hard to distinguish between affluent neighborhoods and those in need. Except over Harlem. Lush parkland is visible along much of the city's shoreline. When the green space ends, Harlem begins, and so does an invisible pollutant: diesel fumes. Harlem is home to six of Manhattan's seven bus depots, and their combined diesel fuel emits very small particles that are easily breathed into your lungs, and are very hard to expel. This contributes to a virtual epidemic of asthma in Harlem.

Graffiti expresses the frustration of some city residents

Graffiti expresses the frustration of some city residents


With an incidence of asthma triple the New York City average, the community has been called a public health disaster. Recently, wastewater and sewage treatment plants were constructed along the Hudson River. Though originally planned for a downtown neighborhood, when its affluent citizens complained, the plants were built in Harlem.

Video Excerpt: New York has many advantages over Mexico City, Istanbul and Shanghai. When its first wave of immigrants arrived over 100 years ago, the city was forced to create an infrastructure to deal with the needs of its burgeoning population. That infrastructure still works today.
NOTE: This video was shot before September 11, 2001, and shows the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
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But thanks to the efforts of community leaders, health conditions are slowly improving. A plan to expand the city's waste facilities in Harlem was stopped, as the community continues to fight for environmental equality.


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