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Residents Not Buying City Claims of Odorless Dump at E. 91st Street

By Amy Zimmer | February 28, 2012 7:47am

UPPER EAST SIDE —  Rat infestations, bad air quality and dangerous intersections are among some of the problems residents fear will take over their neighborhood if the planned East River waste transfer stationat 91st Street gets built.

An overflow crowd of 300 residents at the Asphalt Green recreation center warned city officials at a Community Board 8 committee meeting Monday of potentially devastating effects of putting a facility with a ramp next to the rec center’s popular ball fields. 

Department of Sanitation Deputy Commissioner Harry Szarpanski, however, told residents that the city’s environmental anaysis found there would be no adverse impacts from the dump.

"At no time will waste be exposed to the outdoors," Szarpanski told residents about the state-of-the-art facility that would transfer trash from a contained truck to a contained barge. He said that negative air pressure inside the station would clamp down on smells.

There was a garbage facility at the site from the 1940s until 1999 but, because the proposed one will be bigger than its predecessor, the city needs a dock permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

It doesn’t have that yet, though that hasn't stopped the Bloomberg administration from seeking bidders for the three-year construction project.

The station is designed to handle up to 5,280 tons of waste, but it 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, according to Szarpanski.

Officials also said they would have a “stringent” pest control program to combat the rodent infestation that plagued the area with the old facility.

City officials insisted that the new, bigger space would be able to process trash faster, so trucks wouldn’t need to line up along York Avenue like they did previously.

“If a queue is forming,” Szarpanski said, “trucks will be radioed not to come to the facility but to go to the garage.”

He also said that, with ultra-low sulfur diesel eco-friendly trucks, the fleet would be emitting 90 percent less carbon dioxide than when the previous facility was operating.

Residents didn’t buy Szarpanski’s claims, and they were upset to see the proposed truck routes for the facility, which will go down Second Avenue to East 90and East 86 streets.

"Are you going to buy children their asthma medications?" one resident asked.

Jennifer Ratner, a pediatrician who has been fighting the facility with the new group, Residents for Sane Trash Solutions, couldn't see how the trucks wouldn’t be harmful to children’s health.

“How is it OK to queue trucks in the middle of a park?” she asked.

Residents are still hoping to convince the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the new facilty will endanger fish. The plan's foes are also claiming that the trash at the facility would attract birds and, therefore, need Federal Aviation Administration approval since its less than five miles from La Guardia Airport and two Manhattan heliports.

Residents also demanded answers about the facility’s cost, but Szarpanski was vague. He said that $125 million was budgeted for the project, but that after a winning bidder was selected, the Bloomberg administration "will adjust the cost."

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.

“We do not need garbage trucks polluting our air, snarling our traffic and ruining our neighborhood,” City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin said at the meeting.

“This dump does not belong in this residential neighborhood or any residential neighborhood.”