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North Brooklynites Urge Next Mayor to Open Controversial UES Waste Station

By Meredith Hoffman | February 28, 2013 5:02pm

GREENPOINT — North Brooklyn residents are urging the city to open a controversial Upper East Side waste station — saying it will help lessen the current pollution burden on neighborhoods like Greenpoint and Williamsburg.

Brooklyn politicians, residents and environmental advocates are pushing back against vocal Upper East Side advocates trying to convince mayoral candidates to oppose the East 91st Street marine transfer station, demanding that politicians dedicate themselves to an equally shared trash responsibility.

"The burden of the city's waste can't just be in a few communities, " said Courtney Renken of the non-profit Organization United for Trash and Environmental Equity for North Brooklyn. "Everyone should have their fair share."

Last week, Council Speaker Christine Quinn was the only one of five candidates at a forum to pledge she would open the Upper East Side station, advocates said, noting that the city had already planned to open the station by January.

Williamsburg Council Member Diana Reyna applauded Quinn's stance and said that the station had "experienced too many delays" already.

"Ultimately, this issue is about justice, and the just action right now is ensuring that the Upper East Side marine transfer station breaks ground immediately," Reyna said in a press release. "Any mayoral candidate that does not stand strong on borough equity will have to answer to North Brooklyn.” 

Most mayoral candidates did not immediately respond to calls requesting comment. And Bill de Blasio refused to state whether he would push the Upper East Side station's opening.

"I have long supported the Solid Waste Management Plan because it is a five-borough plan. Every borough must do its part, including Manhattan," he said of the city's plan to place waste stations throughout the city.

But he suggested that Upper East Side residents' protests might influence his decision to move forward with the East 91st Street station.

"I also believe in listening to communities when they raise real concerns like the effects of Sandy or the safety of children," he said of residents' complaints. "People have a right to be heard — and a responsible leader listens."

And members of Residents for Sane Trash Solutions who have fought the UES station claimed that the station's opening would have no impact on other city neighborhoods, since the East 91st Street Station's waste currently goes to New Jersey.

The project's opponents have argued that the station, which is adjacent to the Asphalt Green Athletic Fields, would overwhelm the residential neighborhood with garbage trucks and release toxic fumes.

But Kate Zidar of the Newtown Creek Alliance, who has encouraged residents via social media to call mayoral candidates about the issue, said that the station's opening could lessen Greenpoint's heavy waste truck traffic.

Though Zidar acknowledged that the residential waste currently went to a Newark station, she said the Upper East Side station would still help alleviate Brooklyn truck traffic. The East 91st Street station would also accept commercial waste that currently travels circuitous routes to leave Manhattan.


"The East 91st Street facility will only handle waste collected by trucks that are already in the Upper East Side. The trucks will collect waste generated by Upper East Siders and move it onto barges," she explained in an email. "Without the marine transfer station, this waste will continue to unnecessarily rumble through overburdened areas in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Newark by truck."

Zidar said that the Upper East Side station was not a "silver bullet" in fixing North Brooklyn's environmental problems, but that it was "part of a bigger plan that gets at garbage equity."

But Residents for Sane Trash Solutions' president Jed Garfield insisted that no equity would be achieved by opening the Manhattan station.

“Elected officials and candidates are erroneously saying that the East 91st marine transfer station will provide greater 'borough equity' but that is a lie," Garfield said. "At the present time, the residential garbage that has been allocated to go to the East 91st Street dump is not being transported to other NYC boroughs. Manhattan’s residential waste is not trucked through any other borough of New York City and the construction and use of  a new East 91st Street marine transfer station will not lessen the garbage load of other boroughs.”