On May 15 at 12 noon, residents of Manhattan's Yorkville and East Harlem neighborhoods demonstrated on the steps of City Hall with the chant, "Dump the Dump." There were a reported 300 people in attendance, despite the rain. City Council members Jessica Lappin and Dan Garodnick were on hand to lend their support. Jed Garfield, president of Residents for Sane Trash Solutions, along with the group's vice president, David Mack, delivered comments at the podium. Dr. Jennifer Ratner, an active neighborhood resident who practices Pediatric Hematology-Oncology and Pediatrics, introduced speakers. A mock check was presented to the city in the amount of $245 million, earmarked to go back to services for the community, such as firefighters, police, and parks.
Why the rally? Because this year the city has plans to demolish the East 91st Street Garbage Station, which has been closed for years, in order to build a 10-story Garbage Marine Transfer Station (MTS) on the same site.
It's almost impossible to transverse these communities without seeing posters against the proposed MTS on store windows, or being handed a leaflet while waiting for a Crosstown bus.
"New York City is spending $400 million to pollute the neighborhood, severely impair the quality of life and threaten kids," said Mack. "The community is very motivated to fight this disastrous project."
There are plenty of facts being disseminated, from stats and safety concerns to escalating costs. If the deal goes through, the Marine Transfer Station would be the only one in the five boroughs to be located in a residential neighborhood.
The top concern is that the proposed facility entrance ramp would pass through Asphalt Green, the health and sports center that has more than one million visitors per year. One-fifth of that number is comprised of children.
Yorkville and East Harlem have the worst air quality in all of New York City, with the highest asthma rate for residents of East Harlem. The station would be located approximately 250 feet from the Stanley Issacs and Holmes public housing residential complexes -- where over 2,000 people live. Residents for Sane Trash Solutions says that the project would increase the area's air pollution by at least 16 percent.
I contacted Charlie Platt, outside counsel for Residents for Sane Trash Solutions, with a list of questions. He responded by e-mail:
What are the goals of the May 15 demonstration?
To demonstrate that the proposed MTS is an industrial plant that will be right in the middle of a densely populated residential neighborhood where middle and lower class New Yorkers live. Industrial plants don't belong in any residential neighborhood for any reason.
What is the exact nature of what will be taking place at the MTS facility being proposed?
The city proposes to build a huge industrial plant that is 10-stories high and two acres wide in the East River at 91st Street. The plant would be capable of processing more than 5,000 tons of garbage a day, 24 hours a day, six days a week, and will be accessed by up to 500 garbage trucks a day. The city will build a huge ramp for these trucks right through the middle of Asphalt Green, which is an athletic facility that serves thousands of city kids every day.
Why has the price tag on the MTS skyrocketed from $45 million to $250 million?
Only the city knows why it dramatically underestimated the cost of this project to jam it through the City Council. We think the real cost is more than $400 million, which is absurdly expensive at a time the city is laying off firefighters and cutting children's programs. The cost will be even higher because all the garbage from this facility will have to go to very expensive landfills.
Where will the solid waste from the facility be dumped?
In landfills that have never been identified, but that will be very expensive and environmentally insensitive.
Why is the city generating bids on construction if the Army Corps of Engineers have not yet granted a permit?
The city's plan has always been to jam this project through before the public realizes this is not a sane trash solution.
Who is spearheading this placement?
The mayor's office and Christine Quinn on the City Council.
Organizers announced that another rally is planned for Saturday, May 19, hosted by Rep. Carolyn Maloney. It will take place at Asphalt Green. The time for the gathering is currently called for 12:30 p.m.
Image courtesy of the Residents for Sane Trash Solutions website