Greenpoint Gazette

Activists Seek to Clean-Up North Brooklyn’s Trashy Reputation

BY Jeff Mann

It’s not exactly breaking news, but there’s a lot of garbage in Greenpoint/Williamsburg and there are a lot of very big trucks hauling it through the neighborhood. Just in case the evidence from your eyes (and nose) are not enough, the Williamsburg/Greenpoint Organization United for Trash Reduction and Garbage Equity (OUTRAGE) conducted a study to prove the point.

OUTRAGE facilitated the study of truck traffic and air quality in the community in 2009 to compare with the results of their 2004 study. The results, which were announced on Thursday, November 17th, in front of PS 132, showed that despite promises by the city to reduce the number of waste transfer stations in North Brooklyn, the community still houses the highest concentration of these facilities, where nearly 40% of the city’s waste is processed. Truck traffic increased at four of the six intersections at which it was measured, most notably at Greenpoint Avenue and McGuinness Boulevard, where 80 trucks passed per hour as compared to 20 per hour in 2004. Overall, an average of two trucks per minute passed the surveyed intersections – of those, 50% were waste trucks.

At a rally held to coincide with the release of the results, elected officials, community leaders, advocates and residents joined OUTRAGE to express their disappointment with the city for failing to implement its Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP), which it approved in 2006. Among its goals are the formation of an equitable waste management infrastructure and the reduction of the number of truck trips involved in moving waste.

To alleviate some of the burden on communities like Greenpoint / Williamsburg, Jamaica, Queens and the South Bronx, SWMP called for the creation of waste handling facilities throughout the city. Lawsuits brought against the city to stop construction of these new facilities have further delayed SWMP’s implementation.

Councilmember Reyna / Photo: Jeff Mann

“For too long, New York City has relied on transfer stations concentrated in low-income communities, unfairly burdening them with the brunt of waste handling,” said Councilmember Diana Reyna. “Implementing the Solid Waste Management Plan will greatly reduce borough inequity and environmental injustice.”

In addition to traffic and noise issues, the community has to bear the hazardous effects of processing most of the city’s garbage. According to the OUTRAGE study, dangerous levels of particulate matter in the air increased over 355% on days when truck traffic was present on community streets. The smallest of particles, which pose the largest threat to respiratory health, increased over 1,000% on days waste transfer facilities were open.

“Our study confirms serious concerns that have long existed in our community,” said OUTRAGE member Michael Hoffman. “We have children and seniors who live and go to school in close proximities to the truck routes used by waste transfer stations and who are exposed to these dangerously high levels of air pollution every day. It is time for the city to relieve us of all this truck traffic and to implement a more just distribution of transfer stations throughout the City.”

Hofmann’s wife Laura suffers from asthma. She recalls times when the soot on window screens was so thick, it would take an entire afternoon to wash them down. “It’s disgusting that we have to go through all this when there are steps that the city could be taking,” she said. “The SWMP is approved; it’s just a matter of implementing it. It’s about time they did it.”

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