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Hundreds Pack Upper East Side Church to Protest Marine Transfer Station

 Residents came out against the planned project on Tuesday, May 7 2013.The protest took place at  Church of the Holy Trinity , 316 E. 88th St.
East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station Protest
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YORKVILLE — Hundreds of residents blasted the planned East 91st Marine Transfer Station Tuesday, saying the project would leave poor and elderly residents vulnerable to high levels of pollution and vermin.

The newly formed coalition Pledge 2 Protect drew some 500 MTS opponents — including including Assemblyman and City Council contender Micah Kellner, City Councilwoman and Manhattan Borough President candidate Jessica Lappin, and mayoral candidate Sal Albanese — to a meeting at Church of the Holy Trinity at 316 E. 88th St. to sign a pledge against the project.

The protest largely reiterated long-standing concerns of project opponents, such as claims that an MTS poses health risks, perpetuates environmental injustice, and brings rats and noise to the neighborhood.

Lorraine Johnson, an Isaacs resident and one of the most vocal opponents of the station, lambasted the city's claim that the MTS fostered environmental equity.

"It is an injustice to think that we can just hop up and move out of the way. We're basically stuck," she said. "We don't have a choice to just go to the other side of the neighborhood."

Sarah Gallagher, who lives in the area and volunteers for neighborhood non-profit Upper Green Side, echoed Johnson's concerns, saying the MTS would foster the opposite of equity.

"The people in the luxury buildings will move away," Gallagher told DNAinfo.com New York. "The people in Isaacs and Holmes Towers — they are the hostages of this project."

The East 91st St. Station has long been part of the city's comprehensive waste management plan under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His administration has refused to change course, maintaining that the trash project fosters equity in waste disposal.

"Each borough will bear some responsibility for its trash and reduce the use of trucks used to transport garbage by moving to the use of barges, which is why the facility is located on the water," Bloomberg officials told DNAinfo in the past. "We cannot go back to the days when some boroughs got a free pass by sending their trash across a river or over a bridge."

Still, Kelly Nimmo-Guenther, president of Pledge 2 Protect, told the crowd how the coalition intended to put the brakes on the project.

"An election year offers us new opportunities," Nimmo-Gunther said. "We have to be very careful how we're going to do this, and we have to be strategic how we're going to do this."

Nimmo-Gunther said the movement's key goals included getting 20,000 signatures on the pledge, and later "spending significant resources communicating to you all how politicians stand on these issues."

"We're going to be showing them the numbers that we have," said Nimmo-Gunther.

She added that Pledge 2 Protect had already collected 7,000 signatories since its launch less than two weeks ago.

This mobilization might impact most directly City Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn, who supports the MTS project; many of her opponents either oppose the project or have said they are willing to further study the issue.

For Upper East Side politicians present Tuesday, the implications of MTS support were quite clear.

"You're not getting votes in this community," Kellner told DNAinfo.com New York, adding: "This neighborhood can swing this election."