Issues Tank: Local Residents Cringe as Quinn Supports Waste Transfer Station
Bill Adams, a proud Upper East Side resident, remembers distinctly what they neighborhood was like twenty years ago when the marine waste transfer station at 91st Street was in operation.
"These garbage trucks drip really, really unpleasant liquids on the street, and so even when they weren't here the streets just stunk abominably," Adams said with a look of disgust.
The waste station was shut down in the late 1990s. But after years of debating with residents like Adams, Mayor Michael Bloomberg relished a moment of victory when his administration's plan to reopen the aged marine waste station was approved. That was in 2006.
Today, the gates in front of the station remain locked and the facility sits vacant. But that will not be the case for long if City Council speaker Christine Quinn is elected mayor.
“This plan, a citywide solid waste management plan, is based on the belief that boroughs need to move to greater self-sufficiency for their own garbage,” Quinn said at a forum with fellow democratic mayoral hopefuls last week at the 92nd Street Y. “We need to stop the historical position of placing all of our municipal garbage facilities in lower income communities of color.”
Quinn, fighting to be heard as the crowd erupted in criticism, called the waste transfer station a solution to “environmental racism.”
As speaker, Quinn worked "[to divert] thousands of waste every day from overburdened neighborhoods, and reducing pollution and congestion on city streets by three million truck miles per year," according to her campaign website.
Close to 70 percent of New York City’s garbage is handled by 14 stations in the South Bronx, 5 in Queens and 15 in Brooklyn, according to The New York Times.
While the Republican candidates present at the forum confidently said they would not reopen the waste station, the Democrats — aside from Quinn — were a bit more reluctant.
“There are real health concerns, there are real concerns about the safety of our children, there are real concerns about the aftermath of Sandy and they simply haven’t been addressed,” said Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate.
Bill Thompson, the city comptroller during Mayor Bloomberg's first two terms, commented on the vulnerability that lies within Asphalt Green, the outdoor recreation center that neighbors the waste station.
“I was talking to one of the tenant leaders of one the housing authority developments a couple blocks away,” Thompson said. “She’s still recovering from the asthma that she had before as that site used to be used for a transfer site.”
Linda Gridley, who has lived in the neighborhood for over twenty years, says her children used to play baseball in Asphalt Green. Now she says she is concerned about the health effects the waste station is expected to produce.
“[Asphalt Green] is all about fitness and health and you put a dumping station right next to it,” Gridley said. “It’s ridiculous.”
The city said last July that it expects the waste transfer station to be fully operational in 2015.