MANHATTAN — As the city moves forward with demolition for the planned East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station, a Washington Heights state senator slammed the "ritzy" opponents of the project as being unwilling "to carry their fair share of garbage."
At a recent public forum, State Sen. Adriano Espaillat said the trash station would help alleviate air quality and asthma problems in Upper Manhattan brought on by the trucking garbage through the neighborhoods.
"Marine transfer stations will reduce the number of truck trips through our neighborhood but more importantly, it will change dramatically how we handle our garbage," Espaillat said.
He added that trash trucks usually hop off the Cross Bronx Expressway and cut through his uptown neighborhoods before dumping it.
"So we fought to ensure that garbage is handled in a different manner, that it's handled through marine transfer stations," he said.
Espaillat also said that anti-MTS activists' claims that the project constitutes environmental injustice — by bringing vermin, noise, as well as a host of health and traffic-safety concerns to the East 70s, 80s and 90s — are off-base. He suggested that Yorkville's MTS opponents — as well as those who oppose the planned Gansevoort station — are wealthy and want to put the burden of Manhattan's waste on poor neighborhoods, he said.
"Gansevoort is a very high-end neighborhood near the Meat Packing District. They didn't want the transfer station there. Now Gracie Point, right next to Gracie Mansion, they don't want the marine transfer station there," Espaillat, who in 2007 introduced the Gansevoort project bill to the state Assembly, said. "So all these neighborhoods that are ritzy don't want to carry their fair share of garbage and how we handle garbage.
Kelly Nimmo-Guenther, president of anti-MTS group Pledge 2 Protect, agreed that sanitation centers created respiratory ailments, but disputed Espaillat's position that the East 91st Street Station would help the Heights.
"I'm going to completely agree with him about the asthma rates as far as the East Harlem area. Where the transfer station is going is East Harlem [and] Yorkville," she said. "Putting the dump here, though, is not going to change what he's speaking about. I would love to be able to tell him that that releases his burden, but it doesn't."
Nimmo-Guenther added that the MTS will only handle garbage from Union Square to East 116th Street on the Upper East Side, "which do not impact anywhere up in the Washington Heights area."
Rather, Nimmo-Guenther reiterated the Pledge 2 Protect's long-standing argument that the MTS would disproportionately hurt poor minorities, as it's a stone's throw from public housing and East Harlem, she said.
"Right next to Asphalt Green is NYCHA housing, which never gets mentioned. No one ever says anything about that," she said. "I want the people that live right there in project housing...to have a voice."
Nimmo-Guenther also worried about activity taking place on the East 91st Street site — which city officials confirmed to DNAinfo.com is pre-construction demolition.
"Obviously the project starting in any form is of high concern," she said. "We know that there's asbestos, there's rumors of arsenic. We're only hoping and praying that city is taking that down in a safe manner."
City officials have maintained their previous response to East 91st Street opponents, saying it is part of New York's long term waste management plan and promotes borough equity in garbage disposal.
Demolition is "on schedule to be complete by March 2014," officials added.