UPPER EAST SIDE — Nissi Kyomukama has a message for the city regarding the proposed waste transfer station at East 91st Street.
“We deserve better from our city,” the 7-year-old Kyomukama says in a television ad that began airing Monday night.
Sponsored by anti-transfer station group Pledge 2 Protect and recreation facility Asphalt Green, the ad is the first step in a television campaign to take the fight over the waste transfer station to a wider audience.
In the 30-second spot, Kyomukama highlights the fact that to get to the transfer station, hundreds of garbage trucks each day will drive on a ramp that bisects Asphalt Green’s sports fields and a playground. The facility plays host to thousands of kids each year, including Kyomukama, who has taken swimming lessons through Asphalt Green’s free Waterproofing program and also attends day camp there during the summer.
“Trucks driving where kids play is just dangerous,” she says in the ad, which is airing airing on local and cable news stations, and is also available online.
Asphalt Green spokesman Eric Soufer would not disclose how much the ad buy cost, but said it was a “substantial investment.” Soufer also said that the groups have discussed creating more ads and will make that determination in the coming days.
The East 91st Street site was one of four new transfer stations adopted in 2006 under former Mayor Bloomberg’s waste management plan, which attempted to spread the burden of waste management more evenly among the five boroughs.
During his campaign, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his support for the plan. His administration has continued to move forward with construction at the site, despite protests from the community.
Community stakeholders, including representatives from Pledge 2 Protect and Asphalt Green, have recently been meeting with the Department of Sanitation to discuss ways to mitigate their concerns. They have asked that the city put a pause on construction during these discussions, particularly in regards to relocating the ramp.
However, two weeks ago, the city went ahead with the planned removal of several pear trees that separate the area between Asphalt Green’s playing fields and the proposed ramp location. Many in the community saw this as a sign of bad faith in the discussion process.
“We paused our ad launch while we continued to discuss our concerns with the Administration, and the city responded by cutting down trees that provided critical summertime shade to our children,” said Pledge 2 Protect President Kelly Nimmo-Guenther. “Now that the city has made it clear that they won’t pause construction, we need to educate New Yorkers about why it makes sense to consider the better, more progressive alternatives that we are proposing.”
The Department of Sanitation did not specifically address the ad when asked for comment.
So far, the ad has met with mixed responses, with some YouTube commenters calling it “NIMBY propaganda” and criticizing the use of Kyomukama, an African-American child, as the spokesperson for what many see as a predominantly white area.
Soufer disagreed. He pointed out that Kyomukama lives in Yorkville, the neighborhood surrounding Asphalt Green, and attends a nearby public school.
“We think Nissi is a great spokesperson precisely because she’s representative of the average Asphalt Green child user,” he said.