This Is the Dirtiest City in New York (It’s NOT Manhattan)

Written by Sharon Parry
Published: February 26, 2024
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New York (New York State) is a mid-Atlantic state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It has an area of 47,126 square miles and is the fourth most populous state in the US as it is home to 19,571,216 people. There are 62 cities and 393 towns in varying states of cleanliness but which is the dirtiest city in New York State? If you thought it was Manhattan, you are wrong, and here’s why.

Why Is Yonkers the Dirtiest City in New York State?

Yonkers has the dubious honor of being the dirtiest city in New York by the Lawnstarter website which collected data on 200 cities. Other New York State cities in the running were New York, Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo, but Yonkers topped the list. It ranked as the 10th dirtiest city in the US overall out of 200 included in the analysis.

To define ‘dirty’, the assessors used a combination of pollution metrics (such as air quality, water quality violations, and greenhouse gas emissions) combined with other factors such as the number of homes with mold, mice, rats, and cockroaches. Added to this were measures of infrastructure (including the number of landfills and junk yards) and consumer satisfaction, such as dissatisfaction with litter collection.  

What’s the Impact on Public Health?

Overall, Yonkers has a moderate risk from air quality. Particle pollution and ozone are a particular threat to public health. Particulate matter is produced by industry and transportation. Breathing in these tiny particles can increase the risk of heart disease, asthma, and low birth weight. This is because they travel deep into the respiratory tract.

Mold growth in houses is a public health risk because inhaling and touching mold spores can cause an allergic reaction. Sufferers can get symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose, a skin rash, and red eyes.  

The Impact a Dirty City Has on Animals

Pets and wildlife living in Yonkers can also be affected by pollution, water quality, and the presence of landfills. The city stretches along the Hudson River, where there is an array of nature reserves and parks. The Saw Mill River also flows through the city, but it has had a troubled past concerning pollution. The area’s industrial past and illegal dumping and sewage overflows left the river in a sorry state in the 1990s. It also contained very high concentrations of metals. This has affected the survival rates of native species, including herons, eastern painted turtles, and redbreast sunfish.

Environmental Satisfactions in Yonkers?

Untermyer Gardens

Keeping public areas free of litter improves satisfaction.

©Brian Logan Photography/

As part of the assessment process, the attitudes of local residents were taken into account. A higher proportion of residents in Yonkers found the city dirty and untidy and were dissatisfied with pollution. They were also dissatisfied with garbage disposal. When residents are unsatisfied with these factors, it can lead to increased illegal dumping of waste, which further damages the environment. What’s more, studies have shown that the presence of litter can have a negative impact on mental health.

Cleaning up Yonkers

It’s not all bad news! There are plenty of groups and organizations committed to cleaning up Yonkers. For example, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has partnered with other groups to reduce contamination levels in the Saw Mill River. This has been achieved by cleaning up selected areas, launching outreach campaigns to reduce dumping, and restoring critical watershed and riverbank areas.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Droneandy/

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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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