Volume 76, Number 18 | September 20 - 26, 2006

Neighbors, electeds trash Gansevoort transfer plan

By Albert Amateau

The Bloomberg administration and the City Council made yet another pitch to West Side residents last week to support a marine transfer station for recyclable trash on the Gansevoort Peninsula and an expanded Department of Sanitation waste transfer station at W. 59 St.

Villagers and most elected officials again overwhelmingly opposed a new Department of Sanitation facility on the 8-acre peninsula at Gansevoort St. which is planned as part of the 5-mile-long Hudson River Park now under construction.

But Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who as councilmember from the Village had opposed the plan, sent aides to the Sept. 13 hearing to confirm her support of the waterfront transfer station, which the Council approved in July as part of the city’s 20-year Solid Waste Management Plan. Quinn was out of town last week but staff members delivered her message.

The city previously presented the Gansevoort M.T.S. plan to Community Board 2 information meetings in 2004 and last year, but won little support from residents who jealously defend parks in a neighborhood with very little public space.

The S.W.M.P., a response to the garbage disposal crisis since the closing five years ago of the Fresh Kills landfill, is intended to make each borough responsible for its own garbage, instead of the current reliance on three locations in Williamsburg-Greenpoint, the South Bronx and Southeast Queens.

Although the city contends the new transfer station at the end of Gansevoort could be compatible with the peninsula’s park use, Villagers and other park advocates insisted that 60 truckloads of paper, metal and glass per day crossing the park bikeway-walkway would destroy its public open space.

Moreover, local state legislators — Assemblymember Deborah Glick, who represents the Village, appeared in person — last week reaffirmed their intention to block amendments to the state Hudson River Park Act to allow the transfer station on Gansevoort.

“Under the Hudson River Park Act, this proposal is illegal,” declared Glick, adding, “The city failed to look at alternatives.”

Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, from the district covering the Chelsea and Clinton waterfronts and co-author of the 1998 Hudson River Park Act, issued a statement affirming his opposition to the Gansevoort M.T.S.

Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, from the Upper West Side, told the packed Sept. 13 meeting at the Village Community School auditorium on W. 10th St. that she would fight the implementation of the S.W.M.P that calls for expanding the present use of the Department of Sanitation pier at 59th St.

The 59th St. pier is also slated for park use and is within the waterfront stretch controlled by the Hudson River Park Act.

The 59th St. pier, currently used to transfer waste paper by barge to recycling in Brooklyn, would become the transfer station for most of Manhattan’s commercial waste. The recyclable paper would shift to Gansevoort, which would also transfer metal and glass to the recycling center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

But Brendan Sexton, a former Sanitation commissioner, said the city did not adequately investigate rail transfer alternatives to the Gansevoort and 59th St. marine transfers.

“Most of the city is unaware of the Empire Line — the train you take to Albany and Montreal — which runs below grade for 50 blocks. There are opportunities for rail transfer at 30th St., 33rd St., 36 St.,” said Sexton, a consultant whose home and office are located in the Village.

The rail line currently carries 18 trains per day, leaving many opportunities for rail transfer, according to a statement submitted by Congressmember Jerrold Nadler.

Albert Butzel, president of Friends of Hudson River Park, characterized the city assertion that a Gansevoort M.T.S. was compatible with the park as “100 percent fantasy.” Butzel acknowledged that he participated in discussions three years ago with the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which is the lead agency in the Gansevoort and 59th St. M.T.S. plans. But he told the Sept. 13 meeting, “I’m 180 degrees opposed to the plan now.”

Butzel noted that a road along the north edge of the peninsula to a new marine transfer station would have to ramp up to the facility on the western end.

“It would be equivalent to a section of an elevated highway,” he said.

Regarding the 59th St. marine transfer station, Butzel said the Hudson River Park Act permits its continued use if the footprint area remains what it is now. But to handle the increased volume of commercial waste replacing paper, the superstructure on the pier would have to be at least twice as tall as it is now, Butzel estimated.

“That’s a nice view corridor for the park,” he said with sarcasm.

But one Village group, the Westbeth Artists Residents Council, came out in favor of the Gansevoort M.T.S.

“The true test of our convictions is doing what we believe is correct even when it is not in our own best interest,” said George Cominskie, president of the Westbeth Council, which voted on Sept. 11 to support the transfer station.

“I think most of us agree that we should have citywide recycling,” Cominskie said. “But when the city wants to put a recycling center in our neighborhood, many people object. We recycle like mad in this neighborhood, we expect others to do the same and now we have to be a part of the solution.”

In addition, a coalition of environmental groups, including Natural Resources Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters and Environmental Defense told the Sept. 13 meeting that the S.W.M.P. program’s emphasis on marine transportation as opposed to trucking trash would benefit both the city at large and neighborhoods in Manhattan.

“We’ve concluded that if these facilities are properly designed and managed and subject to a full public review and participation, they could have minimal impact on the Hudson River Park and the city’s waterfront, while providing major benefits to Manhattan residents and the city as a whole,” said Eric Goldstein, N.R.D.C. director.

“We’ve looked at alternative proposals for rail transfer and for using the city tow pound at Pier 76 but they have problems,” said Jim Tripp, chairperson of Environmental Defense. The group, however, supports further investigation of all alternatives, Tripp said.

Kate Ascher, E.D.C. vice president for infrastructure, who presented the latest version of the M.T.S. plans last week, said the Gansevoort facility would generate half as many truck crossings of the H.R.P. bikeway-walkway as there are now. The peninsula, long used by the Department of Sanitation, still accommodates the department’s mound of highway salt and is used to park garbage trucks for several Sanitation districts serving the southern part of Manhattan.

Under the proposed plan, about 60 trucks would deliver recyclable material to the peninsula mostly between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and another 30 trucks would deliver privately collected paper between midnight and 4 a.m., Ascher estimated.

Ascher said the proposed road along the north side of the peninsula to the new facility would be able to hold 38 trucks at rest.

“But there will never be 38 trucks at the same time — there will be no queuing on the road,” Ascher promised.

Nevertheless, most of the speakers last week wanted Sanitation uses off Gansevoort. Mike Bradley, a former operations director for the Hudson River Park Trust and currently involved in the development of Riverside Park South between 59th and 72nd Sts., disputed the city’s estimate that the Gansevoort and 59th St. facilities would reduce truck trips in Manhattan. He estimated the plan would increase truck traffic by 400 percent

“I don’t see how driving a truck from the Lower East Side to Gansevoort and tipping it into a barge to send it to Sunset Park is any better than driving the truck to Sunset Park,” Bradley said.

Ann Arlen, former Community Board 2 Environmental Committee chairperson; Carol Feinman, speaking for the Federation to Preserve the Greenwich Village Waterfront and Great Port; Carol Yankay, a member of Community Board 2; and Freda Bradlow and Ellen Peterson Lewis, public members of C.B.2 committees, were against the transfer stations.

Arthur Schwartz, head of the Com-munity Board 2 Waterfront Committee, said the board had previously gone on record opposing the Gansevoort station.

A lawsuit last year by Friends of Hudson River Park resulted in a settlement under which Sanitation agreed to end its current uses on Gansevoort by 2012. The settlement also calls for Sanitation to get off the Hudson River Pier on 59th St. by 2008. The Friends have threatened to go to court again to block D.S.N.Y. facilities on the piers.

The S.W.M.P. that the city adopted in July also includes a new marine transfer station to replace an old one on the East River at 91st St.

The 91st St. facility was challenged in a lawsuit by ACORN, a coalition of low- and moderate-income families, but was upheld Sept. 19 by Judge Michael Stallman, who ruled the 91st St. M.T.S. was adequately reviewed. Stallman agreed with the city that it would reduce truck traffic and promote equity among each of the five boroughs in managing solid waste.

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