Computer Underground Railroad Enterprises
Nayer's Notes

H A R L E M,  N E W   Y O R K, U. S. A.

"The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe."  Albert Einstein
Ergonomics Made Simple
Free Computer Training
How To Bridge
The Digital Divide
Harlem Environment
Pictures of
Harlem's North River Sewer
& Riverbank State Park
Cyber & Rasta Crowns
African American History
NYC - WTC Toxic Alert

Harriet Tubman
The Moses of Her People

Empowerment & Spirit
Downloads & Links
J. Nayer Hardin
Nayer's Political Blog
Environmental Overview

The Sewers

Earthquake Dangers

Flood Dangers

Rodent Disease Transmission

Respiratory Problems

Environmental Overview

Harlem is an environmental disaster area, and has been for some time.  So is all of Manhattan, especially this side of the falling of the World Trade Center. According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, heart disease, cancer, and AIDS caused the most deaths in 2001 among Central Harlem residents. "The death rates for most causes were higher in Central Harlem than in New York City as a whole, particularly for AIDS, lung disease, drug-related deaths, and kidney disease."


"Pollution, fetal changes linked in study

Wednesday, February 16, 2005 Posted: 10:45 AM EST (1545 GMT)

NEW YORK (AP) -- A study of New York City newborns suggests that prenatal exposure to air pollution may be linked to genetic changes associated with an increased risk of cancer, researchers have said.

The study by Columbia University followed 60 newborns and their non-smoking mothers in low-income neighborhoods, primarily in Harlem and the Bronx.

Their exposure to combustion-related pollutants caused primarily by vehicles was measured by backpack air monitors worn by the women during the third trimester of their pregnancies.

When the babies were born, genetic alterations were measured. Researchers found about a 50 percent increase in the level of persistent genetic abnormalities in the infants who had the higher levels of exposure, said Dr. Frederica Perera, director of the center and senior author of the study.

"We already knew that air pollutants significantly reduced fetal growth, but this is the first time we've seen evidence that they can change chromosomes in utero," Perera said Tuesday.

She said the kind of genetic changes that occurred have been linked in other studies to increased risk of cancer."

(the article from February, 2005 is no longer posted on CNN.  The original address to get a copy was )

Welcome to the 21st Century.  This is a time of great realization, requiring an honest look at where we’ve been, what we’ve done, how to fix what is wrong and support what's right. 

The problem of urban pollution is not limited to Harlem.  I've recently put up a page with the story of a baby born in Compton whose brain did not split into lobes until months after he was born and moved away from the toxic canal next to where he was carried.  Click Here to see that page.  

The EPA has maps of the various superfund toxic dump sites.  Click Here and put in your zip code to see what your neighborhood looks like.  

 When this research was first began in 1992 as Project Noah, the author had no idea how deep the pollution goes.  By 1998 I could not pretend not to know that I was endangering my life just by being there amid all the pollution.  It was a week after I took the second round of photos at the open sewer that I left.  I don't live in Harlem any more, though Harlem is my heart.  After completing five years of environmental research in Harlem concerning the 5 open sewers, sludge making facility in the South Bronx across the river, earth quake fault line on 125th & 145th Streets, extreme rat problem during the era of hanta virus, residual lead and pesticides, flood dangers, and a plethora of poverty pimps, I left in '98 and still haven't gone back.  I keep in touch on line.  Throughout the years I held out a hope that I was wrong.

For more than a decade there's been a warning that Harlem's air, land and water supply can be toxic to the human body.  Her air is polluted from the five surrounding sewage treatment plants - one has a state park on top (pictured below), a marine transfer station, bus depots, pesticides, noise, etc. Her soft soils and the buildings on it are chronically assaulted with vibrations from cars, trucks and busses on streets and highways, trains running above and under ground, planes flying above dropping the known carcinogen, benzene, onto land containing lead deposited from past gasoline standards.  Due to economics or ignorance, many people are still drinking tap water with its chlorine levels that have been linked to bladder cancer.  Health and Hospitals is among Harlem's largest industries, if not the largest.

There is a lot of work to do to clean up Harlem, and many other locations in America, but it's doable. 


Air, buildings, streets and parks
 need to be cleaned and reinforced,

Sewers need to be covered and secured,

Non-toxic to humans pesticides need to be used,

Earthquake and flood disaster plans
need to be put in place. 

Internet access during a natural or unnatural disaster secured.


Again, the situations I mentioned are not generic to Harlem. For example, off the the east side of lower Manhattan are two sewers across the river, Newton Creek and Red Hook.  I've only been to North River and Wards Island.  The same rats that run in Harlem go downtown too.  Traffic downtown is much greater than uptown traffic.  And in the event of an earthquake under the ocean that sends a tidal wave through NYC, lower Manhattan would be hit first, and hardest, leaving no rescue services for Harlem.

Any one of these problems solved can result in many communities healing.  Though I don’t live in Harlem any more she will always be my home. A place of good people where the world is within walking distance, creativity in all fields is encouraged, and the parties can last all day and night long.  Another example of encouragement is that even though the police were killing the bookies of Harlem, they  were supported by her people.  The end result of  how to move cash through the community is now called LOTTO.

The Sewers

SewerWindows.jpg (35673 bytes)


SecondaryTankswithwindow.jpg (39007 bytes)


Harlem Surrounded by 5 Open Sewers, North River, Wards Island, Tallmans Island, Hunts Point and Bowery Bay Water Pollution Control Plants:  

The two most obvious, North River (135th & Hudson River, 10027) and Wards Island (Wards Island, NYC 10035) Water Pollution Control Plants (Sewage Treatment Plants) are on the west side of Harlem and in the river off of the east side respectively.  

In great part due to the open windows at all ends of the North River Water Pollution Control Plant, and outdoor tanks at Wards Island, Harlem is breathing, daily, volatile organic compounds (VOC's -airborne living organisms) from these sewage tanks.  

Across the river on the east side, Harlem is also close to Hunts Point Water Pollution Control Plant, Tallmans Island Water Pollution Control Plant, and Bowery Bay Water Pollution Control Plant.  Click right to see a list of the NYC sewer system

Politics and common sense need to merge in Harlem.  Her best park, Riverbank State  Seniors.jpg (42023 bytes)Park, is located over the North River plant and has people, among them children and seniors, exercising over an open sewer…not healthy.  The NYC EPA says “The roof of the building is the home of Riverbank State Park, a popular recreational facility with three swimming pools, an amphitheater, an athletic center, a skating rink, a restaurant and sports fields - and, of the two New York State park facilities in the City, the only one built on top of a water pollution control plant.”  It’s won many awards while placing Harlem residents in danger of toxic chemicals, methane gas and mutating germs. 

Established Harlem leadership had decided to put a Hudson River mall just south of the sewer.  Don't they think that the funk from the sewer may affect the quality of the meal?  Environmentalists are being honored in Harlem who keep the conversation about odor and flow rather than toxins and germs coming off the sewers.  

Sewer System As A Source of Germ Disbursement:  “The greatest danger…in breathing of sewer air is that of inhaling with it the living particles (bacilli, etc.) contained or developed in the excrement of diseased persons.” {Roger S. Tracy, Handbook Of Sanitary Information For Households, NY Appleton, 1895}

Sick people from all over the world come to New York City to benefit from her extraordinary medical system.  Though hospital waste is handled separately from the general sewer system, during the time before sick people check into the hospital, and, if they remain in the city, after they leave, they are using the general sewer facilities. 

In this time of terrorism, toxic materials (both medical and chemical that could cause illness and death) can be dropped into the sewer system and a large portion of the population could be impacted days after the event.  Floating material could contain harmful elements and the results, devastating.  This is because many, if not all of the NYC sewer plants, are not covered and in some cases could be easily contaminated from street or building levels without the culprit being noticed. 

  At North River, the large windows by the tanks are open.  At Ward’s Island, the tanks are outside.  Though we are encouraged to take comfort in the fact that chlorine kills 85-95% of the germs in the sewer, the more relevant question is what is in the other 5-15% that is strong enough to survive chlorine, food additives, genetically altered foods, human growth hormone,  antibiotics, etc.  Consider what happens when those strong germs and toxic chemicals get together in North River’s secondary tanks, with their steam wafting off the tanks next to open windows.  Also, the additional chlorine put into the environment via tap water and flushed into the river can have a seepage effect on the land it comes in contact with, further empowering mutating bacteria. 

The water in North River’s secondary tanks frequently has steam coming off them, which lifts some germs and they become air borne. Harlem's infant morality rate in the year after the North River Plant went into operation was 2.5 times higher than the rest of the City.  Yet the discussion is limited to odor and flow, which haven’t killed anybody.

When you connect the dots between when the North River plant was open and rises and falls in her infant mortality rates over the years, you’ll see a direct correlation.

North River Plant and Infant Mortality Rates 
in NYC & Harlem 1984-1993




1984 - 
Plant Construction



1985 - Plant built


















1991 - 
Primary Tanks Covered






1993 - Crack in tank



What needs to happen to correct the problem?  

First, the windows need to be covered or at least the tanks sealed, like what was in the original plans.  “The problem with covering and air treating the secondary tanks is one of expense … NYCDEP’s rough estimate for subjecting the secondary tanks in a similar odor control system as that for the primary tank is in excess of $100 million.”  From “The Smell of Success?  An assessment of Odor Control Measures at the North River Water Pollution Control Plant” (June, 1994) 

Where are they shopping?  Tiffany’s?  We need to honestly evaluate the situation at hand. Consider using sealed aircraft aluminum covers for the secondary tanks and using a NYC labor pool, featuring Harlem residents trained for the job. 

Community residents will be motivated to do a good job because they and their families are breathing the air. 

Second, regular testing of the sewer's contents and airborne materials need to be done and the results published.  The people have a right to know what's in the air, water and land.  As we remove or control the cause of the problem, the effects, what we experience as reality, will diminish like what happened in 1991 when the primary tanks were covered.

Earthquake Dangers

Earthquake Fault Lines: Running down 125th Street through some of Harlem’s mass transit routes, including an elevated subway, is an earthquake fault line.  In 2003 it gave us a reminder of its presence. It’s been reported that there is also a fault line under 145th Street too. 

Most of the buildings on the streets of Harlem are brick or stone and are not strong enough to withstand a major earthquake.  Given Harlem’s population density and mass transit system, there needs to be a well known and understood civic plan for addressing a large earthquake with special attention paid to an earthquake under the ocean that could produce a tidal wave that would run up the Hudson and East Rivers and flood the valley portion of Harlem. 

The New York City Area Consortium For Earthquake Loss Mitigation has detailed maps and information.  For example, their map of soil strength shows that where the mall is about to be built is on soft soil, which is most vulnerable during an earthquake.  When you click on the map, notice how much of Harlem is soft soils.  Most of the firehouses are located in masonry buildings.  During a 5.0 or greater earthquake, this is a problem.

On Saturday, October 27, 2001 at 6:16 am et the New York Daily News online reported that a minor earthquake shook New York. 

"A magnitude-2.6 earthquake hit under Manhattan around 1:42 a.m., said Dr. John Ebel, director of the Weston Observatory at Boston College, which monitors seismic activity in the Northeast. "That's more than a tremor. That's a small earthquake,"  Ebel said.

"The last significant natural seismic event to strike the city was a magnitude-2.4 earthquake on Jan. 17."  That's two in the year that had the additional vibration pressure of the falling of the World Trade Center.

Flood Dangers

Harlem, Below Sea Level,  At The Beginning Of Global Warming:

The typography reveals that much of Harlem is located below sea level.  On the west side, you can drive your car right into the river if you want. Both ends of 125th Street could become flooded and the area’s population located in central Harlem could be under water in a short amount of time. Scientists have already warned about a massive tidal wave that could come from the falling of rocks from the Canry Island Volcano.  It could take out most of the east coast.  

Since the Wall Street and Mid-Town areas are closer to the ocean, they may flood first, which, as we learned during the falling of the WTC, would mean few if any resources available for Harlem residents other than themselves.

Global Warming is already anticipated to reclaim coastal cities so action must be taken now to secure these areas.  Like in Holland, dikes or dams need to be built to help keep the ocean in the ocean and the land on the land. The best reference book I read on the subject is THE RISING TIDE:  GLOBAL WARMING AND WORLD SEA LEVELS by Lynne T. Edgertorn, Natural Resources Defense Council.

Rodent Disease Transmission

Rodent & Roach Transmission Of Disease: 

History is full of examples of rodent transmitted diseases taking out a large portion of a population, i.e. bubonic plague.  The millions of rats in Harlem and the South Bronx could infect their populations with a large array of diseases, beginning with Hanta Virus.  Information needs to be shared on both the risk and solutions available.  The CDC and NIH can contribute the materials needed to control the rodent population.

It has been reported that roaches contribute to asthma. 

As we learned from the West Nile Virus, rodent transmission is not the only concern.  We need to be aware of what animals we are interacting with and how to best interact with them.

Respiratory Problems

Air Pollution And The Link To Respiratory Problems Is Obvious. 

Clean air is a remote concept in Harlem, and that needs to change.  Though only a few miles wide and six miles long, she is surrounded by heavily trafficked highways, has had tons of residual pesticides spread within her houses and parks, has been exposed to industrial dry cleaners leaking poisons into her soil, and has severe roach and rodent problems.  Toxic mold has been found in Harlem, which can also affect respiratory health. 

According to the South Bronx Clean Air Coalition, "Disparities are staggering: children who live in Harlem or Hunts Point are five times more likely to be hospitalized than children in upper-income neighborhoods, according to a Health Department study. Lincoln Hospital recorded 14,300 asthmatic visits in its emergency room last year."

The majority of Manhattan’s bus depots are in Harlem. 

I failed to get a solid answer on what’s coming out of those stacks on top of the sewer. 

In an area with high unemployment, jobs could be quickly created to clean up the environment and help the people get and stay healthy.  For example, it is cheaper to clean up the environment than it is to treat the many sick people who have environmentally induced cancers, respiratory problems, etc.


About The Author

J. Nayer Hardin


Computer Activist


Photo by Bernard Hirschenson: Photographic Director, 
1960's Keep America Beautiful commercial, Co-inventor, CompUrest Keyboard Stand

For those who don't know me personally, let me introduce myself.  I am J. Nayer Hardin, a third generation Harlemite and a patent holding inventor of the CompUrest Keyboard Stand, U.S. Patent No. 5,188,321.  My grandparents moved there from Florida in the 1920's, my mother born there, and I lived and worked in New York City from 1972-98.  I lived and worked in Harlem during the 70's and from 1994-1998 as the Computer Underground Railroad.

While in Harlem I was blessed to have trained over 3,000 people how to use a computer either from my home, Convent Avenue Baptist Church, Minisink Townhouse, A. Philip Randolph Senior Center, and anywhere else I could find to train. My training notes are posted at - click on Free MS Training.

As a cyber advocate, I was exposed to information regarding the many environmental as well as computerization issues facing Harlem in the Information Age.  (Since left, I've learned these are international issues.)   For example, in 1993 I questioned in Harlem the creation of sludge, a fertilizer by product, at the nearby Hunts Point plant.   Sludge is being made from NYC sewage and converted into fertilizer that the government gives away to farmers for free.  Deaths have been reported as a result of humans eating sludge fed or sludge containing (like green onions that may old onto poorly washed food.  When I raised questions about the safety, my rent got doubled within six months and I found myself with other issues to deal with at the time.  By the time I resumed, the EPA had confirmed the practice as safe.  Now they are saying they're not sure. 

I also worked as Project Noah writing and distributing environmental and computerization information from street corners, malls, community boards, churches, community centers, wherever I could find a space. Though I love and miss Harlem, the financial and physical damage I did to myself during the time I was there still has not healed so I am unable to return at this time.  But life is grand because I'm reaching you through the web and pray to be able to make enough change long distance so I can safely return home one day..

I’ve put up two Microsoft PowerPoint 2000 slide shows.  The first is about the training and the second is pictures I took of the open sewer under Riverbank State Park. 

E-mail me at [email protected] and I'll send you the PowerPoint files.

By J. Nayer Hardin


Computer Underground Railroad Enterprises

Hosted by