Volume 76, Number 3 | June 7 - 13 2006

Quinn talks trash; backs Gansevoort transfer site

By Albert Amateau

Christine Quinn, speaker of the City Council and councilmember representing the Village and Chelsea, this week threw her support behind a proposed marine transfer station on the Gansevoort Peninsula for recyclable waste.

The proposal, part of the Department of Sanitation’s 10-year Solid Waste Management Plan, would require state legislation because the 8-acre peninsula where the department currently parks garbage trucks and stockpiles road salt is designated by the New York State Hudson River Park Act of 1998 as part of the 5-mile-long Hudson River Park.

Speaking for Quinn at the June 5 Community Board 2 Parks and Waterfront Committee meeting, Carmen Cognetta, lawyer for the City Council’s Sanitation Committee, said Quinn’s support is guided by the principle that every borough must take care of its own garbage.

“It’s been the guiding principle since the closing of the Fresh Kills landfill,” said Cognetta, conceding that it will be most difficult in Manhattan with limited space options. A marine transfer station for garbage is being built on the East River at 91st St. despite considerable community opposition, he noted. The Council speaker feels the burden of handling garbage and recycling cannot fall entirely on poor communities and every neighborhood has to do its fair share, he added.

The station to be built on the northwest corner of the Gansevoort Peninsula — which is located on the west side of the West Side Highway across from the Meat Market — would accept between 40 and 60 sanitation trucks bringing recycled metal, glass and paper to be transferred by barges to a $20 million facility being built by the firm Hugo Neu in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

The station would receive recyclables from city garbage trucks between noon and 3 p.m. five days a week. However, at a later date, the station might also take commercial-waste trucks bringing recyclable paper between 10 p.m. and midnight for barge transfer to Brooklyn. The night operation would involve about 10 trucks per night, Cognetta said.

First presented two years ago to Community Board 2 as a park-compatible facility that could also serve as an environmental education center, the proposal generated strong opposition among residents, and elected officials, especially Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, a co-author of the Hudson River Park Act, and Assemblymember Deborah Glick, whose district includes the peninsula, which extends one block into the river at Gansevoort St. The community board, whose resolutions are advisory, voted against the project.

In addition to state legislation, the project would require an environmental impact study, a city uniform land use review procedure and review by the Hudson River Park Trust, the state-city agency building the riverfront park. Responding to a question from Arthur Schwartz, chairperson of the Parks and Waterfront Committee, about a timetable for the project, Cognetta said, “We’re looking at seven, eight — 10 years.”

The response to the proposal at the June 5 meeting was again negative. Elizabeth Loeb, a new member of C.B. 2, said she sympathized with the principle that communities of color and low-income neighborhoods should not get all the undesirable uses, but she called for a study of alternatives to the Gansevoort Peninsula station.

“You’re going to bring trucks across Hudson River Park with people, baby carriages and bikes going this way and your trucks going that way,” said Lois Rakoff, resident chairperson of the Bleecker Area Merchants and Residents Association, showing with her hands the conflicting cross paths.

In a telephone interview on June 6, Assemblymember Glick said she understood that Quinn, as speaker of the City Council, does not want to be seen as parochial and has to look beyond her own district. But Glick noted that Community Boards 2 and 4, covering the Village, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, are among city districts with the least amount of park space.

“We also have other impacts, like the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels,” Glick said “The Hudson River Park is intended to redress that imbalance and the Gansevoort Peninsula is the largest land mass in the park,” Glick said adding, “I have no intention of supporting legislation to sever the only useful piece of land from the park.”

Last February, when the City Council heard the Gansevoort transfer station proposal, Gottfried said in a joint letter with Glick that the Hudson River Park Act specifically mentions that 80 percent of the Gansevoort Peninsula should be devoted to park use.

Wendy Pastor, an aide to Gottfried, said on June 6 that Gottfried remains opposed to a marine transfer station on Gansevoort Peninsula.

Moreover, Friends of Hudson River Park, a community-based advocacy group for the 5-mile-long riverfront park, sued the Department of Sanitation last year and won a settlement in October in which the department agreed to get its trucks and salt off Gansevoort by 2013 and turn the peninsula over for park use.

The settlement also provided that the department would pay $21 million to the Hudson River Park Trust as rent for use of the peninsula for the next seven years. But the settlement does not preclude a new Sanitation Department marine transfer station on the peninsula.

Nevertheless, Daniel Alterman, the attorney who represented the Friends in the lawsuit, said earlier this year that the organization would do everything in its power to prevent any nonpark uses on the peninsula.

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