Dr. Leonard Greenberg

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View of the city skyline partially obscured by smog, New York, 1973.

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Greenberg, City Commissioner of Air Pollution control, answers questions about pollution in the city.

Jay Nelson Tuck moderates.

Panelists: Peter Franklin, Robert Bird, Henry Kurtz, Ed Stover and Jim Farrell


Air pollution comes from people living closely together and from industrialization.

If the intensity of automobile traffic increases and we have adverse weather conditions, New York's air pollution levels could rival Los Angeles's. "Smaze" was caused by a temperature invasion (a lack of diffusion of contaminates). This happens in LA frequently, but not often in NYC. It's a high concentration kept in place by a high level of warm air.

Controlling air pollution requires applying means to every source of pollution, like automobiles, buses, broilers, incinerators, etc. We attempt to determine the source and then decide the best technique for control.

We know which sources are the most important. We know who uses most coal and who blows most coal out of the stack. One of the worst sources is the 59th St Power Plant, owned by NYC.

When a source of pollution is small (an apartment house), we can remedy that condition in a short time. When the source is a huge power plant, it's more difficult. You can go for speed or accuracy.

Surveying the air for pollutants.

One of the most difficult parts of controlling air pollution is that we don't have the techniques. Apartment house incinerators are bad in design, but they have not come up with a design that is capable of doing the job they need it to do. Once we have a solution, we can put it in to effect, and people won't complain about the soot on the window sill.

Public awareness is important. It's illegal to burn an apartment house incinerator after 5pm, but if a citizen lets the Department know, they can do something about it.

A great deal of research is being done today, more than was being done 5 years ago. The Federal government is spending about $3 million a year. The industry is doing a good job of going along with us. Renovation of con ed plants.

There appears to be a relationship between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, but there is good data to indicate that air pollution plays a part as well.

Controlling air pollution is not like purifying water. Influence of New Jersey on New York City air quality.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 72275
Municipal archives id: LT8234