Upper East Siders Try to Make Waste Transfer Plan Into Mayoral Issue

Categories: Trash Talk

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One neighborhood in the contentious battle over the location of the city's temporary garbage dumps is looking to up the stakes. This week, an Upper East Side community organization, Residents for Sane Trash Solutions, released a study highlighting the adverse impacts of putting a waste transfer station, or temporary dump, in their neighborhood. They also pledged to mobilize "thousands of New Yorkers to support only politicians who publically [sic] oppose the new garbage dump."

It's no secret that waste transfer stations are ugly, messy affairs. Essentially, they function as holding stations for garbage from all over the city until the trash is diesel-trucked out. Residents for Sane Trash Solutions claims that such a station in their neighborhood will result in an 8 percent increase in respiratory-related hospitalizations for children. A study by their partner organization, Pledge 2 Protect, also claimed that the location of the waste transfer station would disproportionately affect public housing and residents of color.

So why is the city trying to put a temporary dump on the Upper East Side? You have to look at the context, says Gavin Kearney, director of environmental justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI). The Upper East Side waste transfer station is part of a plan, passed in 2006, to relieve the outer boroughs of the disproportionate garbage burden that their neighborhoods--largely low-income and of color--already carry.

"The report essentially misses the point," Kearney says. "The question for me is 'How should waste generated by people on the Upper East Side be handled?"

Right now, the Upper East Side doesn't have a waste transfer station. Residential garbage goes to New Jersey, and commercial garbage from restaurants and business goes "God knows where," says Eddie Bautista, executive director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance. However, Bautista points out that the majority of the city's waste goes to two communities in the outer boroughs--North Brooklyn and the South Bronx.

In the South Bronx, asthma rates are already eight times higher than the national average, and much of it due to the traffic from waste transfer stations and power plants. "We handle 23 percent of the city's waste overall, and 100 percent of Bronx waste," says Angela Tovar, urban planner at Sustainable South Bronx. Putting a waste transfer station that would ship by barge in the Upper Easte Side, she adds, would reduce diesel truck traffic, and therefore public health problems, throughout the city.

Still, Residents for Sane Trash Solutions aren't backing down. "I feel for my fellow residents in Brooklyn," Asbjorn Finsnes, executive director of Residents for Sane Trash solutions, said. "But two wrongs don't make a right."

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The biggest impact of this is not on the tony UES - most Upper East Siders are not impacted - but on the NYCHA project and rec center adjacent to the station.  The City's PR campaign that this is the UES is just that, a campaign.  Mayor Bloomberg lives on the UES.  Low income minorities in the project and East Harlem live near the transfer station.  So, the City is again giving it to the poor, but under the guise of sticking it to the wealthy.


As Gavin Kearney's question points out, Upper East Siders would rather ship their trash to low income outer borough communities than handle their own waste. That's not acceptable. Communities such as mine, Greenpoint, have learned that land uses such as garbage dumps & waste water treatment facilities are necessary. And we've worked with city officials to help make those facilities run better, be attractive and so forth. But we also know what's fair. And it's not fair or acceptable practice to expect certain communities to carry the burden of most of the city's solid and fluid waste. Greenpoint's digester eggs and DEP Nature Walk around the Newtown Creek Water Pollution Control Plant are becoming tourist attractions. And cleanup efforts of the filthy Newtown Creek way are on their way. We are doing our part and then some. It's time for Manhattanites to do their share. Outer boroughs are undergoing development that we deserved a long time ago. We deserve the opportunity to economic development that includes theaters, restaurants, and so on. Presently, Manhattan is where you go to eat, and Brooklyn where you go to dump & flush. We won't have it! It's time for all Boroughs to pitch in and handle their share of the city's waste. 


Why should ALL the Waste Dump Stations be in Bronx,Brooklyn,Queens and Staten Island !!!

These rich Upper East doucebags should not be exempted. Poor people have rights too.

Jane Kelly
Jane Kelly

Must be nice to be so wealthy & entitled that you can just treat the rest of your city like it should be the dump sight for all your over-consuming crap. Manhattan used to be more than just an enclave for the rich, its not even fun anymore, even the Village is an antiseptic mall, so sad.

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