Upper East Side Garbage Protest Now Has 5 Mayoral Candidates on Board (UPDATE)

Categories: Trash Talk

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Like a fairy godmother, it appears that the mayoral race has bestowed righteous hype on one of the city's least sexy issues. With today's addition of Bill Thompson, a total of five mayoral candidates are now standing in opposition to rehabbing an Upper East Side waste transfer station--after a vocal group of Upper East Siders threatened to make their cause into an issue of votes.

Over the past month, Anthony Weiner, John Catsimatidis, Joe Lhota, and Sal Albanese have also signed the petition, organized by UES coalition Pledge 2 Protect, to "oppose garbage dumps in any residential neighborhood."

One problem: The "any residential neighborhood" part doesn't ring quite true. The only reason the city wants to make the 91st Street marine transfer station functional again was because it was part of a deal, passed in 2006, that mandated that each borough take responsibility for its own garbage. Manhattan, unlike every other borough, currently does not have a waste transfer station.*

Garbage inequity is also why residential neighborhoods from South Williamsburg to the South Bronx have been fighting for the UES station seven years after the legislation was passed. Their neighborhoods see child asthma rates up to eight times higher than the national average, largely due to the diesel trucks hauling garbage past their homes and schools.

Pledge 2 Protect has argued that if the UES waste transfer station goes ahead as planned, asthma rates in the neighborhood will see an 8 percent increase.

Still, 19 of the city's 58 waste transfer stations are located in North Brooklyn alone, and they process nearly 40 percent of the city's overall waste. The Bronx, meanwhile, processes 23 percent. Community organizers in these areas have argued for more than a decade that if the UES were to take care of its own waste, some of their burden from diesel trucks would be relieved.

As Sustainable South Bronx urban planner Angela Tovar has pointed out in the past, moving garbage by barge at the UES station would reduce diesel truck traffic, one of the major causes of respiratory issues.

So far, Christine Quinn has been the only candidate to hold firm to the 2006 plan--an area that her opponents increasingly see as ripe for political leverage.

Update, 5/31/13:
In addition to Quinn, mayoral candidate and public advocate Bill de Blasio has come out in support of the 2006 garbage equity plan. ""I voted for the five-borough solid waste plan in 2005 and 2006 because I believe that every part of our city should share responsibility for keeping New York clean," de Blasio said in a statement. "For too long, neighborhoods in the outer boroughs and those north of 96th Street - particularly low-income neighborhoods - have borne a disproportionate and inequitable share of that responsibility."

"I believe residents have valid concerns that must be addressed in the implementation process, but I continue to support the five-borough plan and the construction of the East 91st Street facility."

*Manhattan's residential waste goes to New Jersey. Most of the city's garbage, however, is commercial waste from Manhattan, and trucked to the outer boroughs before being moved elsewhere.

Send your story tips to sbrownstone@villagevoice.com. Follow her on Twitter here.

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My family and me grew up on the Upper East Side, I played in the ruins of the Asphalt Green during the 70s and 80s as did my relatives and friends. No one cared about us as kids when the garbage way station was being used back then nor did anyone care that the Asphalt Green was abandoned and run down back then. Since the Upper East Side is now seeing a boom in high rise building construction for affluent New Yorkers people need to realize that the amount of trash has increased ten fold. The streets are filthy, litter and dog feces are every where. People no longer curb their dogs but rather, walk their dogs on the sidewalk and block pedestrians. The fact is Manhattan needs a way station due to the increase in the population and the amount of trash being produced. It would have been nice had Pledge 2 protect been there to protest this matter 20 or 30 years ago. But hey, those of us that are TRUE YORKVILLE did not come from affluent families. Our parents were blue collar workers. And as such, we did not matter.


As usual, the media doesn't have the facts straight.  It would take too long to go through everything here, but let's just go through a few.  

First, the city is not "rehabbing" anything.  It is demolishing the old structure that was built back in the 40's, and it is building a new structure that is many times larger than the old one.  The only reason the city can even contemplate putting the MTS in this densely populated residential area is because the old one (which was built when the neighborhood was industrial) is grandfathered.  Without this legal loophole, the city would not be allowed to put an MTS on that site now.  No one, has ever argued that simple fact.  So, the 5 mayoral candidates who have signed the pledge are absolutely correct -- this is the wrong site for a trash dump.  To disregard the complete change in character of the neighborhood from industrial to 100% residential is unconscionable.  This is the ONLY MTS in the city to be sited in such a neighborhood.  The others are all in industrial zoned areas.  (Go to www.sanetrash.org to see video clips showing the locations in each borough - you will immediately see the difference).

Second, this article implies that, without an MTS in Manhattan, the other boroughs will be burdened by Manhattan's garbage.  This is not the case.  Manhattan's garbage is currently trucked to a waste-to-energy conversion facility in NJ.  Accordingly, the "borough equity/environmental justice" argument has no legs to stand on.  Manhattan already takes care of its own garbage without burdening the other boroughs.

Finally, everyone in NYC should note that the Independent Budget Office very clearly reported that if the city goes forward with this project, the cost for handling Manhattan's trash will increase over 2.5 times the current cost.  This additional, and unnecessary, expense will be a burden on all boroughs, not just Manhattan.



1.The zoning argument—and the idea that the neighborhood was not an appropriate site to permit the MTS—has been dismissed multiple times. See the 2011 state appellate court decision below. The court also ruled that the DEC complied with regulations and fulfilled its "duty of assessing whether the requested permits should be denied on the ground that the facility would harm public health, safety, and welfare." http://decisions.courts.state.ny.us/ad3/Decisions/2011/512059.pdf

2.While that accounts for residential waste, it does not account for Manhattan's commercial waste, which is dumped in the outer boroughs, then sent elsewhere.

3.     IBO acknowledged their calculations don't take into account environmental toll. This also doesn't take into account the externalized costs of public health problems in the outer boroughs—asthma hospitalization rates, cardiac issues, lost work days, and a host of other expenses due to diesel truck traffic.

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