UPPER EAST SIDE — Holding umbrellas over their protest signs, Upper East Siders gathered at the entrance of the planned East River waste transfer station at 91st Street on Thursday to heckle the prospective bidders checking out the site.
"Dump the dump," and "Shame on you," they chanted as city officials escorted hard-hat workers to the planned facility up the road that bisects the popular Asphalt Green recreation center.
Residents wanted to give the prospective bidders a piece of their mind. Amid a years-long fight against the garbage facility, many were outraged to learn last month that the city started the bidding process even though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not yet issued a permit for the site's construction.
"It's the height of arrogance by [Mayor Michael] Bloomberg and his sidekick [City Council Speaker Christine] Quinn doing this without the Army Corps of Engineers issuing a permit," said Jed Garfield, president of a new community group, Residents for Sane Trash Solutions. "It's literally irresponsible."
The Army Corps is the federal agency responsible for issuing the permits to build the new dock at 91st Street, and will base its decision on how construction will impact fish habitats. Upper East Siders have been submitting paperwork to the agency about how the facility will imperil endangered fish, including the Atlantic sturgeon, Garfield said.
A spokesman from the Army Corps said the agency was still going through the paperwork.
Garfield's group is upset about the facility, which is designed to process 4,290 tons of trash a day — and up to 5,280 ton in emergency conditions.
They were also angry that the price tag has ballooned. The city's latest estimates put the project at $190 million up from $120 million.
"Hundreds of garbage trucks will be driving through a children's park every day if this transfer station is ever completed," Garfield said.
People who live near the planned facility insisted this was not about wealthy Upper East Siders crying "NIMBY."
"People tend to look at this like rich people are complaining," said resident Michele Kahn, 50. "I consider this area middle class and Stanley Isaacs [public housing] is around the corner."
She pointed to the ball field next to the road to the trash facility. "There are always kids in this field — and adults, too," she said, adding that they come from both Yorkville and East Harlem.
The East 91st Street garbage facility is part of the Bloomberg administration's larger plan, passed in 2006, to enable each borough to handle hauling its own trash and help the city move more garbage onto barges to cut down long-haul truck traffic. It also aims to lessen the burden on neighborhoods, like the South Bronx and North Brooklyn, that have had a disproportionate number of trash facilities.
Residents have spent years unsuccessfully fighting the project in the court system, with the third legal challenge being dismissed in December.
"A key component of the city's Solid Waste Management Plan is the principal of borough equity, meaning every borough must contribute to handling its own garbage," a spokeswoman for the mayor said. "That includes Manhattan — as much as Upper East Siders may disagree."
She said when the facility is built it will "eliminate thousands of trucks from the streets and fulfill our promise to make waste management more environmentally friendly."