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91st Street Garbage Facility Could Cost City More Than $400M, Opponents Say

By Amy Zimmer | May 15, 2012 3:46pm
Residents for Sane Trash Solutions protested the East 91st Street garbage station at City Hall on Tuesday.
Residents for Sane Trash Solutions protested the East 91st Street garbage station at City Hall on Tuesday.
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DNAinfo/Amy Zimmer

CITY HALL — Opponents of a hulking garbage facility expected to rise 10 stories along the East River at 91st Street, near a densely residential neighborhood, put forward estimates that the controversial trash transfer station could cost the city more than $400 million — almost double the city's latest budget allotment.

According to an independent study released Tuesday by Residents for Sane Trash Solutions, the city has vastly underestimated the cost of creating the waste-transfer station, starting out with a $50 million estimated budget in 1999, to $125 million in 2011, to an estimated $226 million in February. 

"New York City is spending $400 million to pollute the neighborhood, severely impair the quality of life and threaten kids," said David Mack, vice president for Residents for Sane Trash. "The community is very motivated to fight this disastrous project."

The group conducted its analysis using potential cost overruns for projects on or near water, costs for potential litigation and the need for approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The community group mobilized nearly 100 Upper East Side and East Harlem residents to come down to City Hall in the rain to raise a stink about the project they believe will be a burden not only on their area but on the city's coffers.

A spokesman for the Bloomberg administration defended the project.

"This isn’t about costs estimates, this is about one thing: wanting other neighborhoods to handle their trash," mayoral spokesman Marc LaVorgna said in an email. "Our plan gives each borough some responsibility for its own trash and it's going to reduce the number of vehicle trips needed to dispose of waste, which will reduce traffic and emissions."

More than 10 years ago, the city projected a budget of $50 million for the marine waste transfer station, the group's report said. Then, the capital budget released last year penciled in $125 million for the construction costs of the facility, expected to be completed by 2015. Now, the budget released in February includes nearly $120 million in "contingencies," the report from Residents for Sane Trash Solutions pointed out.

That puts the project's budget at $226 million — which is listed on the Executive Budget released earlier this month.

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, which have had a disproportionate number of trash facilities.

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, sanitation officials have said.

Residents are outraged at having those trucks rumbling through their streets, especially since the ramp leading to the facility is next to the popular Asphalt Green rec center's ball fields.

"It defies common sense to build a dump within arm's length of where children play ball," said Jennifer Ratner, a pediatrician who has been fighting the facility with Residents for Sane Trash Solutions.

The group also pointed out that the station is near several public housing projects, Metropolitan Hospital, and roughly 45 schools, churches and other houses of worship.

A coalition that includes the Organization of Waterfront Neighborhoods, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and the Natural Resources Defense Council, among others, issued a statement, saying that the facility will have "state-of-the-art emissions controls" and a number of conditions that will "further minimize community impacts."

"The collection trucks that will use this MTS will be those that are already collecting waste in and around the Upper East Side," the coalition noted.

Without the 91st Street facility, "Upper East Side waste will continue to be trucked to an incinerator in the Ironbound community of Newark, in the case of residential waste, and to truck-based transfer stations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, in the case of commercial waste, where it will then be taken out of the city on long-haul trucks."