It's been decades since industrial waste flowed into the Hudson River and the city has worked to clean up the once-industrial west side of Manhattan with grassy parkland for joggers and bicyclists.
NEW YORK It's been decades since industrial waste flowed into the Hudson River and the city has worked to clean up the once-industrial west side of Manhattan with grassy parkland for joggers and bicyclists.
So why not add a beach?
Some state officials and environmental advocates want to develop a beach along the river just steps from the dowtown Meatpacking District -- now a hip bar district -- when the city sanitation department relocates by 2012.
The plan faces several 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 advocacy group 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. A three-minute walk from the proposed Hudson River Park beach site, the 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 (150 meters) from overflow pipes.
Analysts with the state's Hudson River Estuary Program have no such qualms. 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 proposed 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 for now, the north side of the outcropping is covered with sharp rocks and jagged wooden stakes.
That hasn't stopped Craft from swimming in the dark waters.
"We'll be getting in the Hudson," Craft said. "Why go to the beach when there's water at the end of your street?"
Source: Associated Press