UPPER EAST SIDE — Six women and one man were arrested Friday morning at a protest of the city’s plan to cut down several 30-year-old trees at Asphalt Green as part of its East 91st Street Waste Transfer Station project.
Carol Tweedy, the executive director of Asphalt Green, Kelly Nimmo-Guenther, head of the anti-transfer station group Pledge 2 Protect, Gus Christensen, democratic candidate for the 76th Assembly District and Regine LaCourt, a NYCHA resident, were arrested along with members of other advocacy groups.
“It’s such a travesty that people had to be arrested over this,” said protester Jennifer Rattner, who also heads preservation group Friends of the East River Esplanade.
“Law abiding citizens, some senior citizens, who are trying to protect a park.”
Some protesters blocked the entrance to the construction site, holding signs that read "Endangering Children is Never the Answer," and "Stop the Dump," before being arrested by the NYPD.
The protest was organized in response to the city’s plan to remove several trees that separate Asphalt Green’s athletic fields from the planned ramp to the transfer station. The city notified Asphalt Green representatives by email Tuesday that they would begin removing trees the following day.
After push back from Asphalt Green and the community, the Department of Design and Construction changed the date to Friday.
Advocates argued that Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia had agreed to commission a study to look at alternate locations for the ramp and that no work should commence until the study had been completed.
The proposed ramp will bisect Asphalt Green's outdoor recreation area, dividing the playground from the athletic fields. Advocates argue that the garbage trucks that use the ramp will pose a threat to the health and safety of the thousands of children who use Asphalt Green each year.
“We have met with the city and Sanitation Commissioner and they said that they would look at other locations for the ramp,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney. “This does not feel like they are negotiating in good faith.”
Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said that she has commissioned an engineering study to examine alternate locations for the ramp and that she is open to the idea.
“If it’s doable, if it’s feasible, I’m open to it,” she said. “We want to be good neighbors.”
Garcia said that she had warned community groups several weeks ago that the trees would need to come down no matter what because they border an old ramp that needs to be removed.
Protesters who live in the immediate area said that roughly 30 police officers were onsite as early as 6:15 a.m. for the 6:30 a.m. protest, which drew dozens of people.
After remarks from elected officials including Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Sen. Liz Krueger and City Councilman Ben Kallos, police told protesters that they needed to move away from the gate that blocks the entrance to the ramp area.
The police warned protesters three times to step away, according to witnesses. Those that did not move were arrested, while the crowd chanted “No, no, no.”
The seven people arrested were charged with disorderly conduct, according to the NYPD.
“We as a community joined together in a grassroots action to exercise our First Amendment rights,” said Councilman Ben Kallos.
“It’s a dark day for democracy when an administration is arresting seniors and NYCHA residents who are trying to protect a children’s playground from a garbage dump.”