Monday, February 9, 2015

NY Times: "Unreasonable" To Move Transfer Station Away From Residential Neighborhood - Relocate Access Ramp Ok

E. 91st Street & York Avenue.  Current Marine Transfer Station entrance.  For decades the community complained about the putrid smells originating from the sanitation facility and its operation and pedestrian issues especially for children.   After vehement community opposition the station was finally closed in 1999 after nearly 60 years of operation.  The city is currently building a much larger facility at the same location.  (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)

In a recent editorial The New York Times praises former Mayor Bloomberg's plan to build the city's only Marine transfer station in the middle of a residential community -  one with the highest density as well - and de Blasio for not buckling. 

"The Bloomberg plan was a good one,  and still is. Mayor Bill de Blasio deserves credit for sticking with it under pressure," a Times January 26th Editorial states. 

Instead of not building a massive, 10 story facility between the Asphalt Green and DeKovats Playground the Times is backing a plan to move the access ramp.  Ignoring the irresponsible siting of the new facility and the fact that building it smack-dab in the district of then Council Speaker Gifford Miller was political payback for his Mayoral aspirations to unseat Bloomberg,  the Times opines that the  Solid Waste Management Plan "was built on the reasonable and fair idea that each borough needed to take adequate responsibility for its own trash."

The Times also fails to address why that exact spot is apparently the only possible location  suitable in Manhattan's 32 miles of shoreline.

The Bloomberg administration had desperately sought to portray the opposition to the siting of the transfer station on East 91st Street in Yorkville as an "environmental racism" issue. 

The battle to prevent another controversial waste transfer station, this one in Brooklyn near Coney Island,  has generated little in the main-stream media.   For a decade residents, environmental groups and elected officials have been fighting against the proposed SouthWest Brooklyn Waste-Transfer Station in Bensonhurst off of Shore Parkway near Bay 41st Street & 25th Street on a former incinerator site. 

The site is adjacent to the 73-acre Calvert Vaux Park and Gravesend Bay which are important bird and fish habitats. 

- Geoffrey Croft


Nearly a decade ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration declared “a new era of solid waste stewardship,” a veritable trash Enlightenment, when it adopted a plan that would handle New York City’s garbage for the next 20 years. The plan was built on the reasonable and fair idea that each borough needed to take adequate responsibility for its own trash, according to the New York Times. 

 That era hasn’t quite arrived — it awaits the completion of one key element, a marine transfer station on the East River in Manhattan, near 91st Street and York Avenue, where trash will be unloaded from trucks onto barges for shipment out of state. Nobody loves a floating dump, but this station has met ferocious opposition from Upper East Side residents alarmed by the prospect of noise, fumes, congestion and traffic accidents. The resistance continues, even though the station is well underway; hard hats and cranes are digging and lifting and are expected to be done by late 2016 or early 2017.  

A proposal for a new ramp location would relocate it one block north to E. 92nd street instead of the current plan between the Asphalt Green and Dakotas Playground.  (Rendering: Courtesy of Sam Schwartz Engineering) 

The Bloomberg plan was a good one, and still is. Mayor Bill de Blasio deserves credit for sticking with it under pressure. Fairness in this case trumps not-in-my-backyardism. And Yorkville and East Harlem are not doomed.

But this doesn’t mean that the worries are incomprehensible or that the plan can’t be improved. The road to the bridge to the station, over the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, cuts right through the middle of an athletic center called Asphalt Green, which is used by many schoolchildren. It’s an unsettling juxtaposition — a continual stream of garbage trucks so close to little children’s swimming lessons and soccer games, and a toddlers’ playground.  The city says that it has the situation well in hand: that sidewalks and turn lanes will be carefully designed for maximal safety, and a person will actually be stationed at the corner to direct trucks and keep pedestrians safe.

Opponents are not placated. Asphalt Green hired Samuel Schwartz, an engineer and a former city traffic commissioner, to come up with something better, which he did: a plan to shift the access to the station a block north, using a service road of the F.D.R. Drive, so that garbage trucks go around and behind — instead of through — Asphalt Green. It’s an intriguing idea that could go a long way toward making parents and children breathe easier. The city’s sanitation commissioner, Kathryn Garcia, says her agency is looking at Mr. Schwartz’s plan, with engineers calculating its costs and feasibility. A decision is expected in a few weeks.  

Later,  Speaker Gifford Miller, center, accepted the facility but as a compromise proposed an alternative waste management plan that would only take in recyclable paper.   "I don't think it's ideal to locate any kind of a transfer station in such a residential neighborhood in the middle of a park," he said.  The speaker was unable to muster the two-thirds majority votes necessary to override the Mayor's veto. (Photo: Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times) 

The city should seriously consider the benefits of Mr. Schwartz’s idea, for increased safety and for the station’s peaceful coexistence with its unnerved neighbors. Some of those neighbors, though, will probably continue fighting the long war: At a recent meeting on traffic safety at a church a few blocks from Asphalt Green, transfer station opponents heckled Mr. Schwartz, demanding that he abandon his compromise proposal and instead join their fight to sink the transfer station completely. 

 That’s an unreasonable demand. What’s reasonable is Mr. Schwartz’s compromise, which has the twin benefits of helping the neighborhood’s children and ensuring the success of Mr. Bloomberg’s and Mr. de Blasio’s well-considered plan for all the city’s waste.

The abandoned Department Of Sanitation Waste Transfer Station on East 91st St. (above-center) is nestled between the Asphalt Green, a 9 acre recreational facility and  DeKovats Playground located on the Upper East Side. The prior facility has been removed to make way for a massive 10-story one.  

(Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.  

Read More:

New York Times Editorial Board  - January 26,  2015 

New York Times - June 16, 2005 - By Nicholas Confessore 

A Walk In The Park -  November 6, 2014 

A Walk In The Park - October 12, 2014 - By Tony Ard

Thompson Trashes Proposed UES Waste Transfer Station - Quinn Stands Firm
A Walk In The Park - May 31, 2013

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