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Trash Transfer Station Supporters Use Kids as 'Human Shields,' Foes Say

 The Democratic candidates for Manhattan borough president, from the left: Councilmember Gale Brewer, Councilmember Robert Jackson, Councilmember Jessica Lappin, and Julie Menin.
The Democratic candidates for Manhattan borough president, from the left: Councilmember Gale Brewer, Councilmember Robert Jackson, Councilmember Jessica Lappin, and Julie Menin.
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DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton

UPPER EAST SIDE — Trash talk has spread from mayoral politics to the Manhattan borough president's race, as East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station opponents now accuse one candidate of using children as "human shields."

The latest chapter in the ongoing sanitation controversy began Wednesday, when Manhattan Borough President hopeful Julie Menin penned an op-ed in the New York Daily News defending the station as "the right thing to do."

One op-ed line particularly set off a firestorm of flak against the possible Scott Stringer successor — when Menin said that "the facility will be visually barricaded from the surrounding residential community by Asphalt Green."

The director of Asphalt Green — a recreation complex which will be bisected by the on ramp leading to the MTS — shot back the next day with a letter to the editor.

"Is Menin really suggesting that the thousands of children who visit us will be human shields blocking the MTS’s impacts?" Carolyn Tweedy wrote.

Asphalt Green then sent out a mass e-mail, attributed to Tweedy, reiterating the same ideas.

"She made an outrageous claim, saying Asphalt Green will serve as a 'barricade between the MTS and the surrounding neighborhood," she wrote.

"Our facility and the thousands of children who use this sports and fitness center yearly should not be used as human shields to block the garbage trucks’ asthma-causing carcinogenic fumes from the rest of the neighborhood.  We are not willing to put our children on the front line."

Anti-MTS activist group Pledge 2 Protect also entered the fray with an e-mail blast and a social media mobilization.

Those correspondences also hit mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn for her continued support of the project.

"We’ve all heard of politicians playing fast and loose with the facts for political gain, but when those politicians show blatant disregard for the health and well-being of thousands of NYC children, they’ve gone too far," Pledge 2 Protect President Kelly Nimmo-Guenter wrote.

"We want to get the facts right and spread awareness about Quinn and Menin’s wrongheaded ideas."

She then wrote "here's how you can help," adding: "Tweet this: By supporting the East 91st St. MTS, @Quinn4NY & @juliemenin are unnecessarily putting over 31,000 kids in danger! #ues #swmp."

Menin and her supporters shot back, again claiming that the station — feared to bring a host of health and quality of life problems to the area — fostered "borough equity."

"I respect the community's concerns and stand by my op-ed," Menin said in a statement to DNAinfo.com New York. "Leadership is about making tough choices and solving problems. The plan the city developed relies on two solid principles that I support: borough equity and environmental justice."

"I intend to work with Upper East Side residents and every New Yorker to create a robust citywide recycling program that includes food composting and waste reduction so we can ultimately make the East 91st Street station obsolete."

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito agreed with Menin — and upped the ante by going on the attack against her opponents.

"The level of vitriol that Pledge 2 Protect is bringing to this debate is over the top," Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement.

"I stand with Julie Menin because her thoughtful op-ed took a tough and principled stance for borough equity and environmental justice without being filled with rhetoric."

A spokesman for the mayor also slammed Asphalt Green.

"There was a station operated safely in the exact same location for 50 years, including when the park was there. The claim by Asphalt Green using war references is as embarrassing as it is disgusting," Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote.

Menin's opponents Jessica Lappin, Gale Brewer and Robert Jackson have all publicly stated that they want the station to be reconsidered.