Park in Harlem renamed for retiring Assemblyman Herman 'Denny' Farrell

Governor Andrew Cuomo and state leaders renamed Riverbank State Park in Harlem after retiring Assemblyman Herman “Denny” Farrell. The park sits on top of a wastewater treatment facility, and Farrell played a critical role in ensuring that the park get built. Zack Fink reports.

Riverbank State Park is unusual in that it sits atop a sewage treatment plant in Harlem.

On Tuesday, state officials formally named the park after outgoing Democratic Assemblyman Herman "Denny" Farrell, who was first elected in 1974.

"This park was the same then as it is now in its design. And it's the same then as it is now," Farrell said. "It does a lot."

According to Governor Andrew Cuomo, the wastewater facility was originally slated to be built near 72nd Street on the West Side. But the community opposed it, and the treatment plant was built in Harlem instead.

It was a practice that was all too common in New York during the 20th century, which some have dubbed "environmental racism," since it disproportionately targets poorer neigborhoods and people of color.

But it was Farrell who spoke up, saying if the plant is built here, the community needs a park on top for recreation.

"And Denny said, we have to do something. We have to make this park a reality. The community has suffered long enough. It's unfair. It should have never been moved. The only reason they moved it is, the rich white people on 72nd Street didn't want to have it," Cuomo said.

It's been a trying time for the state Legislature. Late last week, we learned that Assemblyman Mike Simanowitz of Queens had died. And also last week, we learned that Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle's daughter Lauren had pased away at age 31.

Cuomo and state leaders headed to Rochester shortly ater the ceremony to attend the wake for Morelle's daughter. Among those attending was Republican state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who announced last month that he had undergone treatment for alcohol abuse.

Flanagan declined to speak in detail about his rehabilitation.

"Health matters, I'll keep the way they are. But I was very clear and very forthright," Flanagan said. "I'm just taking care of myself. And working probably harder than ever."

Lawmakers are not due back at the Capitol until January.

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