Saw Mill River
Although the river shares its name with a highway, it is also known as the first major waterway in New York State to be "daylighted" in 2011. In the 1920s, the United States Army Corps of Engineers buried the last 2,000 feet (600 m) of the river, originally including a small gorge, in a flume under most of Getty Square (Downtown Yonkers) neighborhood. In 2011, the river was the first major New York State river to be "daylighted" by removing the parking lot that covered it. The effort was marketed as trying to reverse the Joni Mitchell song Big Yellow Taxi's lyrics that read "They paved paradise to put up a parking lot." A second section of the river, also in Getty Square in Yonkers in the Mill Street Courtyard, will be "daylighted" in 2014. The groundbreaking for the Mill Street Courtyard section occurred on March 19, 2014.
Known as Nepperhan Creek in the 17th century, the river by the 19th century had seen industry grow up along its lower portion. The New York and Putnam Railroad ran along the river from Putnam County to central Yonkers, and thence to Tibbets Creek and the Harlem River.
The New York and Putnam Railroad was constructed along much of the River's bank in the late 19th century. Privately owned, service was ended on various parts of the line between the 1940s and the 1980s. The main line of the railroad is now devoted to bicycle and pedestrian paths. They are the South County Trailway on the parts south of Route 119, and the North County Trailway north of 119.
In 2008, Groundwork Hudson Valley, the coordinator of the Saw Mill River Coalition, received a three-year $889,183 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Targeted Watershed Grant. It was one of only 15 recipients of a nationwide pool of more than 100 applicants.
After three years of planning, the City of Yonkers and its partner agencies including Groundwork Hudson Valley and Creative Habitat broke ground on December 15, 2010, on a $34 million effort to expose parts of the flume to daylight, part of the city's $3 billion redevelopment plan. The first phase of the project, which exposed a two-block section of the river in the Getty Square neighborhood of downtown Yonkers, was completed in December 2011. A public space around this portion of the river, called Van Der Donck Park, was designed by City of Yonkers and Groundwork Hudson Valley with help from the Project for Public Spaces. In all, the plan is to expose a total of six blocks of river by 2015 or so. The project has stimulated real estate investment in the area.
The river is surrounded by several major roads, such as the Saw Mill River Parkway, which parallels the river along its west bank for much of its route through Westchester County; New York State Route 100; New York State Route 9A; and other suburban road development. Most storm drains from these roads lead into the river. The runoff from streets and untreated storm drains from communities around the river contain pesticides and garbage among other objects. Sedimentation has also been a problem in the river for several decades. These problems are being alleviated through government and community efforts.
- BioBlitz 2009 Information
- "Saw Mill River celebrates some 'daylighting' in Yonkers". lohud.com / The Journal News. 6 December 2011. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
- Brenner, Elsa (9 August 2012). "Restored River a Boon to Yonkers". New York Times. Retrieved 13 January 2014.