Returning streams to the open restores their function
as green infrastructure — the concept of using natural
processes to cleanse runoff, curb storm surges and perform other environmental services — and recaptures
a lost public amenity. By preserving — or in this case
restoring — critical natural areas, daylighting streams
is a smart growth approach to creating more livable and
The Saw Mill River flows 23 miles from its headwaters
before emptying into the Hudson River in Yonkers, N. Y.
For nearly 100 years, the last half-mile passed through an
underground flume built to protect downtown Yonkers
from flooding and from the mix of human and industrial
pollution poisoning the river’s waters.
Today, a growing stretch of a cleaned up Saw Mill River
flows in the open through the heart of Yonkers — a catalyst for ongoing downtown revitalization efforts in the
city of 200,000 just north of New York City.
“It’s doing even more than what the city of Yonkers anticipated in terms of stimulating redevelopment of many old
and empty industrial buildings in the historic downtown,”
Saw Mill River is a catalyst for ongoing downtown revitalization efforts.
says Ann-Marie Mitroff, river program director for
Groundwork Hudson Valley, an environmental organization that helped lead the Saw Mill River restoration.
The first section of the Saw Mill River to be set free from
the flume — which remains in place to serve as an overflow channel during heavy rain — runs for two blocks
through a former parking lot that is now a park. Two more
sections of the $48-million daylighting project will add
a pedestrian walkway, courtyard and park, bringing the
total length of exposed river to about six blocks.
Daylighting the Saw Mill River adds a public amenity
while new zoning that was adopted at the same time
allows greater density — a one-two economic development punch generating a flurry of residential, retail and
office planning and construction in downtown Yonkers.
Daylighting also improves habitat for wildlife because
it restores the Saw Mill River’s bed and banks to a more
natural state. The Saw Mill River is home to the American eel, a species in serious decline up and down the East
Coast, so creating a healthy ecosystem and food chain
was an important goal.
Saw Mill River
in Yonkers, N. Y.