Beginning in November 1971, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) embarked on a massive project called DOCUMERICA to document pollution and its effects in America. Over a hundred photographers contributed to the project. The result was more than 20,000 photographs that led to three decades of environmental revolution in the country. One of the project’s subjects was America’s cultural and financial hub, New York City. Danny Lyon, Arthur Tress, Gary Miller, Chester Higgins, Wil Blanche, and Erik Calonius were some of the photographers who documented the state of New York City in the 1970s before it became the beautiful city we now know it to be.
Manhattan Bridge Tower as seen framed by nearby buildings in Brooklyn, New York City. The borough remains one of the best surviving examples of 19th century American architecture, June 1974.
New York subway passing above the ground as it crosses the Jamaica Bay area, June 1973.
An abandoned car in the waters of Jamaica Bay, June 1973.
An illegal dumping area near the New Jersey Turnpike, facing Manhattan across the Hudson River. In the background is the World Trade Center and to the South is the landfill area of the proposed Liberty State Park, March 1973.
A large area of oil slick around Liberty Island in New York Harbor.
A building across Lynch Park in Brooklyn that was partially gutted by fire and yet still inhabited, June 1974.
The New York City Incinerator Plant in Gravesend Bay with a lot of household trash dumped in the front, May 1973.
Garbage problem faced by Great Kills Park Marina on Staten Island, May 1973.
Old refrigerators dumped in front of an incomplete apartment building at Breezy Point Highrise. Construction was stopped by the city in order to preserve the area for public recreation, May 1973.
An abandoned car and another unfinished apartment building in Breezy Point Peninsula, May 1973.
The skeleton of one of the several highrise apartments, May 1973.
Sand covers an abandoned car on the beach at Breezy Point, south of Jamaica Bay, May 1973.
The parachute jump tower at Steeplechase Amusement Park on Coney Island that was abandoned, May 1973.
An abandoned car on Plum Beach in Sheepshead Bay, May 1973.
The trash and debris are strewn about along the road to Jamaica Bay from JFK Airport, May 1973.
Heavy smog fills the air over George Washington Bridge, and a view toward the New Jersey side of Hudson River, May 1973.
A building set on fire by Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute to test wires and insulation, June 1974.
Among the shoreline debris at the JFK Airport is this abandoned car, May 1973.
A creek at Hunter’s Point near the JFK Airport with debris and trash floating around. The houses had no sewers and the community suffered severe pollution problems, May 1973.
Construction work on Lower Manhattan’s West Side. The World Trade Center can be seen in the background, May 1973.
Many of the subway cars in New York City were vandalized with spray paint, May 1973.
Another photograph of a subway car’s interior with graffiti, May 1973.
Abandoned car and tires were strewn around in the land owned by the JFK Airport at Jamaica Bay, June 1973.
Debris floating on Hudson River near the newly constructed World Trade Center, June 1973.
Houses at Hunter’s Point, Jamaica Bay, June 1973.
A barge loaded with ashes from the Gravesend Bay Incineration Plant, May 1973.