91st Street Garbage Hub Could Get Twice the Amount of Trash, Lawsuit Says
YORKVILLE — Critics of a proposed waste transfer station on the East River waterfront at East 91st Street slapped the city with another lawsuit Monday, accusing Mayor Michael Bloomberg of underestimating the total amount of garbage that could end up at the site.
State Assemblyman Micah Kellner joined several of his constituents in filing the fourth lawsuit against the 91st street sanitation facility, which critics fear could be saddled with close to 4,300 tons of garbage per day.
That's more than double the estimated 1,800 tons of garbage proposed by the city when it conducted its environmental review for the site. Because of that, the city should have conducted another environmental review, according to the project's foes.
“The mayor is so arrogant he thinks the law just doesn’t apply to him,” Kellner said. “But I’m here to say nobody’s above the law especially when the health and safety of our seniors and children are put in danger.”
The city approved the facility in 2006 as part of its broader solid waste management plan that included several similar hubs that would 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, which have had a disproportionate number of trash facilities.
But the suit alleges that the city has since abandoned some of its other hubs, which could mean the site would become a repository for more than twice the amount of garbage that was once proposed by the city, Kellner said.
The change in tonnage could send hundreds of garbage trucks through the neighborhood a day, he said. Such a change should require the city to make a new assessment of environmental impacts under state law, he added.
“They’ve decided to abandon whole portions that would’ve taken tons and tons of trash,” Kellner said. “That has to go somewhere and it’s going to come here, but the mayor doesn’t want to admit that out loud.”
The city received the complaint Monday afternoon and was still in the process of reviewing it, according to Carrie Noteboom, senior counsel the city’s Law Department.
At a community meeting in February sanitation officials said the station was designed to handle up to 5,280 tons of waste but will only process an average of 720 tons of residential waste (or 72 DSNY trucks) and 780 tons of commercial waste (or 71 commercial trash trucks) each day.
Those living near the Upper East Side facilty — whose ramp would be within feet of ball fields at the popular Asphalt Green Recreation Center — have been fighting it since it was approved. They've staged protests and filed several lawsuits that claimed the project violated zoning and health regulations.
Courts struck three previous lawsuits down.
The latest lawsuit has frustrated some envirornmental groups support the facility, saying the move delayed what they felt were much needed reforms to the city's waste management system.
"Manhattan generates more waste than any other burrough, but it doesn't handle enough of it," said Gavin Kearney, director of environmental justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, in a separate interview. "With the delay, it's a lot of time and resources spent on something that should've been resolved a long time ago."
Neighbors said that while they didn't necessarily disagree with that sentiment, they felt that the waste site shouldn't be located in a residential area, but instead in a more industrial part of the borough.
They remained determined to stop it.
“I want my grandkids to live in my apartment eventually,” said Eugenie Ophar, 83, who has lived in the area for 17 years. “But I’m worried it’ll start to stink.”
“We’ve seen the neighborhood change from an industrial to a residential area,” said Kathie Morin, a publicist who has lived in the area since 1980. “It’s a lovely neighborhood now and it’d be a shame to see that go away.”
At one point during the press conference, a woman pushing a stroller as she jogged by shouted, “Micah Kellner, you’re my hero.”
Before the project moves forward, the city needs a permit to build a new dock from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
A spokesman from the agency said, "We're sill reviewing all the information and we will have a decision soon."