Environmental Indicators Paint an Unwholesome Portrait of Lower Manhattan
Two clusters of Lower Manhattan neighborhoods rank among the worst in the five boroughs for various environmental hazards and risk factors, according to data compiled by the administration of Mayor Eric Adams. The City’s online Environment and Health Data Portal groups Battery Park City, the Financial District, Greenwich South, the Civic Center, and the South Street Seaport into “Lower Manhattan,” while Tribeca is part of “Greenwich Village-SoHo.” (These catchments will be referred to here as “Downtown” and “Tribeca,” respectively.) While these communities are ranked favorably according to many of the metrics tracked in the Data Portal, both are affected by harmful environmental conditions.
One worrisome indicator is the local benchmark for tracking fine particulate matter, defined as inhalable particles that are 2.5 micrometers or smaller (about one-thirtieth the diameter of a strand of human hair). These particles (labelled PM2.5, and quantified as micrograms per cubic meter) are known to travel into and fasten to the surface of deeper parts of the lung, where they are associated with tissue damage, lung inflammation, and multiple types of cancer. For Tribeca, the PM2.5 measurement is the second worst in the City, at 8.22 micrograms per cubic meter. (Only the Chelsea-Clinton area measures higher.) Downtown ranks sixth in PM2.5 exposure, with 7.58 micrograms per cubic meter.
Similarly, the local prevalence of nitrogen dioxide spikes for both communities. Known as NO2, this pollutant, measured in mean parts per billion (ppb), is formed by combustion. It is documented to harm lung tissue and cause breathing problems, while also contributing to smog and acid rain. Local NO2 exposure ranks third City-wide in Tribeca, with 21.3 mean ppb, followed by Downtown, which scores 21.5 mean ppb.
Somewhat predictably, Downtown’s low elevation puts it at third-worst for flood risk of any community in New York, with 95 percent of its land falling within zones that must be evacuated during extreme weather events. (Only Coney Island-Sheepshead Bay and the Rockaways are more at risk.) Tribeca ranks sixth, with 82.2 percent of its land meeting the same criteria.
Measured by the availability of tree shade, Tribeca is the fourth-lowest in New York, with 9.34 percent of land area covered by tree canopies, while Downtown ranks 11th from the bottom, with 14.1 percent.
Gauged by the share of adult residents who report rats or mice outside their buildings, Tribeca is the sixth-worst in the City, with 49.2 percent complaining, while Downtown fares slightly better, with 42.2 percent voicing concerns.