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City Clears Major Hurdle for E. 91st Street Waste Station

By Amy Zimmer | July 23, 2012 7:18am

MANHATTAN — The Bloomberg administration has passed a major hurdle in its quest to build a controversial 10-story marine waste transfer station at East 91st Street along the East River.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over the nation’s waterways, has issued a permit for the facility’s construction, city officials said Sunday.

Upper East Side residents and elected officials who fear the project’s potential negative environmental impact on the area had asked the federal agency to deny the permit, claiming the new dock for the facility would pose a threat to the East River’s ecosystem. 

The permit from the Army Corps represents the final regulatory obstacle for the city, which is presently finalizing a bid request for construction and expects to select a contractor shortly. City officials anticipate the $240 million station will be operating by 2015.

“This permit enables us to move forward with the construction of a marine transfer station at East 91st Street that will handle a significant portion of Manhattan's waste,” Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway said in a statement.

“We are on track to break ground before the end of this year."

The 91st Street facility is part of a citywide Solid Waste Management Plan, passed in 2006, which aims to cut down truck emissions and traffic by moving more trash by barge.

It was designed to enable every borough to bear some responsibility for handling its own trash and lighten the burden of some neighborhoods, like the South Bronx and Greenpoint/Williamsburg, which have had a disproportionate number of waste transfer stations.

Residents near 91st Street, however, are outraged at having garbage trucks rumbling through their densely populated residential 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," Jennifer Ratner, a pediatrician who has been fighting the facility with Residents for Sane Trash Solutions, had said at a rally against the station.

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.

But city officials noted that the location of the new facility had housed a waste transfer station before — for nearly 50 years until 1999.

All of the waste will be processed indoors with state-of-the-art odor controls, and the trucks will have a private access road to cross over the FDR to get to the facility, officials said.

Opponents, led by State Assemblyman Micah Kellner, have filed several lawsuits against the project, claiming that the city should have conducted another environmental review because the station could be saddled with 4,300 tons of garbage per day, more than double the estimate when the city initially conducted its review of the site.

The project’s foes also claim that the city’s price tag is grossly underestimating the costs, which they calculate will be closer to $400 million.

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.