Until March of 2001, the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island had the dubious distinction of holding the majority of New York City’s trash. And for anyone who experienced the gargantuan landfill (it was one of the two manmade structures visible from space, along with the Great Wall of China), it certainly smelled that way.
Since then, New York’s trash has been distributed throughout the five boroughs. But the city put heavy emphasis on sending most of its trash to the outer boroughs—in the South Bronx, in Hunts Point, and much of it got transported, by truck, through the Williamsburg and Greenpoint area. The trucks had to make thousands of trips back and forth to transport all the garbage here, hurting the air quality and creating ubiquitous eyesores for residents.
But for Greenpointers who may have been holding their breath (and noses), hoping not to bear the brunt of the city’s trash heaps any longer, a solution has started to come together. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as a cadre of local political and environmental leaders, have been advocating for a marine transfer center on the Gansevoort peninsula in Manhattan (known now as the Meatpacking District). The proposed waystation, which would virtually get rid of the garbage trucks that run through the neighborhood, requires approval by the New York State Legislature but, as of press time, has not been proposed or voted on by lawmakers.
The proposed Gansevoort station would transport glass, plastic and other recyclable materials to a plant in Sunset Park. Coupled with another proposed marine transfer for commercial waste at Pier 99 at W. 59th St in Manhattan, the transfer station would cut about 5,000 truck trips through the neighborhood, according to Mayor Bloomberg’s office.
The Gansevoort station is part of Bloomberg’s sweeping PlaNYC. The crutch of this plan, the Solid Waste Management Plan (SWAMP), is to have each borough handle its own trash rather than exporting it to lower-income communities.
“In a family, each member should expect to do a fair share of the chores,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “And in the city’s case, each borough must share the duties and responsibilities that come with being part of this great metropolis. When it comes to greener, more equitable solutions for our city’s environment and health, our response should not be ‘NIMBY’— but ‘YIMBY.’”
But three legislators from the West Village and Chelsea are set to block this motion because, they say, other options for a transfer station, notably Pier 76 on W. 34th St. have been ignored by City Hall. They are angry that part of Hudson River Park will be used for the station.
“The mayor has clearly made a decision that nobody else can have a good idea but him,” Deborah J. Glick, assemblywoman for that district, told the New York Times.
But the plans for the station, and the subsequent political agreement, does not impact the West Village area so severely. The plans for the transfer station project that it will only take up about 1.4 acres of land (the park totals 550 acres and stretches from 59th St. to Battery Park City) and pedestrian and bike lanes will remain open during the construction. There is also an agreement to allot further monies for park space in the future.
But the opposition seems small. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has supported the station, which is in her district, and fought for the cushier agreement with Mayor Bloomberg.
“It’s fair,” Quinn said at an event advocating for the station last week. “We’re done with the days of putting noxious uses in the outer boroughs and communities of color.”