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East Village Recycling Center Will Relocate to Appease Neighbors

By Julie Shapiro | March 23, 2012 8:21am

EAST VILLAGE — A busy recycling center that residents say is "destroying" their quiet East Fourth Street block will soon move around the corner onto Avenue C, the manager announced Thursday.

Residents have been complaining for years about the outdoor recycling center, which is part of the Fine Fare supermarket, saying it is a magnet for fights, drinking and public urination thanks to the crowds of people who hang out there waiting to redeem bottles and cans.

To take the burden off of East Fourth Street, Fine Fare agreed this week to move the recycling machines onto Avenue C, which has fewer residents and is a wider, more heavily trafficked street, said David Vargas, the East Village Fine Fare's general manager.

"We're doing this to accommodate the community because they've been complaining," Vargas said. "It doesn't make any difference to us."

Fine Fare will bring in an electrician this weekend to begin wiring the machines' new location, and the supermarket will also apply for a permit from the Department of Transportation, because the recycling center sits on the sidewalk, Vargas said.

The recycling machines could move as soon as a couple of weeks from now, Vargas said.

East Fourth Street residents were thrilled to hear about the potential solution on Thursday.

"It's a win-win situation," said Ayo Harrington, 59, president of the All the Way East Fourth Street Block Association, who has been fighting against the recycling center for years.

"The Avenue C side of the store is not as residential, and it's not as hidden either," Harrington continued. "It's more of a public space."

Harrington, who has lived on East Fourth Street since the late 1980s, said she and her neighbors worked hard to renovate crumbling buildings and plant community gardens, so they were horrified when the recycling center opened about three years ago, drawing lines of people pushing shopping carts filled with bottles and defecating in the street.

"Instead of walking up the street smelling the community gardens, we were walking up the street smelling human feces," Harrington said. "It was disgusting and just disheartening. It felt like there was going to be no end."

The idea of moving the recycling center to Avenue C came out of meetings between residents, elected officials, 9th Precinct officers and Community Board 3.

"We don't know if it's going to solve the problem, but it's an excellent thing to try," said Susan Stetzer, CB3's district manager. "It's been a lot of work…but we were successful."

East Fourth Street residents are now turning their attention to replacing the East Village's two supermarket recycling centers with a stand-alone center in a more industrial part of the neighborhood. The first step is a feasibility study, which won the support of Community Board 3's Transportation and Public Safety Committee earlier this month.

"I don't think it's a permanent solution," Harrington said of the Fine Fare center's upcoming move to Avenue C. "This is important for our block and this is important for our community, but it is not the end of the story."