Breathing in the Big Apple has never been so pleasant — but the bar is really low. 

According to a new survey, opening your window at home within the boroughs currently brings in the freshest it has in a decade. 

And yet, despite the improvement, the New York metro area still ranks 12th worst of the cities surveyed on high-ozone days, Gothamist first reported.

The findings come from the New York City Community Air Survey, “the largest ongoing urban air monitoring program of any U.S. city,” according to its website.

Published this month, the survey — a collaboration between the city’s Health Department and Queens College — has been collecting air quality data since 2008 (and through the fall of 2021) in an effort to track changes, “estimate exposures for health research and inform the public.” 

The result of the project is a series of cleanly formatted graphs, maps and blurbs on the Health Department’s website, as well as the encouraging assessment that, despite still being pretty grody, NYC is significantly less so than it was 15 years ago. 

“New York is as clean as it has ever been,” Columbia University assistant earth and environmental sciences professor Dr. Róisín Commane told Gothamist, before adding “I’m not saying it’s clean…I’m saying it’s a lot cleaner than it’s been.”

The concrete jungle is, unsurprisingly, not exactly the cleanest place on Earth.
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“Cleaner than it’s been” here means that concentrations of the dangerous pollutant particulate 2.5 and nitrogen oxide have both been approximately halved, sulfur dioxide (which is produced when certain fuel oils are burned) has become almost nonexistent and, possibly as a result, asthma-related hospital visits have decreased. 

(The concentration of the compound ozone and asthma-related visits by very young children, however, have remained consistent.) 

New Yorkers will find it obvious to hear that the survey found air quality changes by neighborhood, with densely packed Midtown, Manhattan sporting the highest concentration of pollutant particulate matter 2.5, followed by Greenwich Village and Soho. 

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