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Upper East Siders Trash Plans for East 91st Street Garbage Facility

By Amy Zimmer | June 16, 2011 9:57am

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

GRACIE POINT — Hundreds of Upper East Side families flooded Asphalt Green's basketball court Wednesday night to trash the city's plans to re-open a garbage transfer station at East 91st Street and the East River.

They don't want a facility that will bring up to 54 garbage trucks an hour barreling through the densely populated neighborhood on their way to dump up to 5,280 tons of trash a day at the station — just feet away from soccer fields.

"I think it's disgusting," Liz Banner, 54, a resident in the area for 16 years who swims at the rec center, said of the plans.

"I love the Asphalt Green," she said. "They're going to ruin a great thing. No one is going to go out of their apartments to come here. It's going to smell so bad."

Stephanie Braunstein, a scientist who has three children, ages 7, 5 and 1, worried for their safety. "It's going to be dangerous for the kids, for their health and air quality," she said. "Asphalt Green is such a nice complex. It will be a shame to destroy that."

The $125 million 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 aims to lessen the burden on neighborhoods that have had a disproportionate number of trash facilities.

"For decades, New Yorkers who live in communities of color have endured more than their fair share of our city's trash," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in a statement. "This plan achieves greater equity and environmental justice for all New Yorkers."

She noted that her own West Side district will be getting a waste transfer station, also, "to help ensure the borough is taking full responsibility for its waste."

But Maury Mischel, a father of two young daughters who works on Wall Street and lives near Asphalt Green, said locating a trash facility in a thriving neighborhood would undermine the tax base that has blossomed here in the last decade.

"Who's going to buy my apartment if they build this?" he asked. "The co-op [I live in] almost went bankrupt when there was a sanitation plant here."

Some Upper East Siders remembered that garbage facility, which had been in the neighborhood from the 1940s up until 1999 — when locals succeeded in a fight to close it — and was less than half the size of the newly proposed waste transfer station.

Some even remember the former municipal asphalt plant built in the 1940s, which was transformed into Asphalt Green's sports center in 1984.

An appellate court recently ruled that Asphalt Green is not a public park that would need state approval for the trash facility's non-park uses since many of the center's activities require membership fees.

Residents like Mischel, whose daughter's public school, P.S. 151 uses Asphalt Green, didn't understand why the Parks Department's trademark leaf was posted all around. "You can see it's a park by their own hands."

More than 1,300 people have signed a petition against the facility.