Volume 78 / Number 5 - July 2 - July 8, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

Villager file photo

In May 2007, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, at podium, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and other politicians from the boroughs held a press conference in front of the decommissioned Gansevoort Peninsula marine transfer station, in background, to stress the need for bringing the M.T.S. back online for barging recyclables.

Local pols trash fast Gansevoort M.T.S. deal

By Albert Amateau

West Side legislators were outraged at the agreement to build a marine transfer station for recyclable trash on the Gansevoort Peninsula that Mayor Bloomberg reached on June 24 with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

The Assembly voted 91 to 48 during the early hours of June 25, at the end of the last legislative session, over the strong objections of West Side Assemblymembers Deborah Glick, Richard Gottfried and Linda Rosenthal, to allow the M.T.S. to be built on the 8-acre peninsula, which is designated as parkland in the Hudson River Park.

The transfer station, to be located about where an existing but long-unused transfer station is currently located, would take 1.36 acres from the peninsula, including a 25-foot-wide access road and ramp. As part of the city’s long-range Solid Waste Management Plan, or SWAMP, the M.T.S. would move recyclables by barge to a large recycling plant in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The M.T.S. is intended to reduce the number of Department of Sanitation trucks that go through minority communities and make each borough handle its own trash.

Before it becomes final, however, the mayor, governor and leaders of the Assembly and State Senate must sign a memorandum of understanding about replacing and/or paying money for land that the M.T.S. alienates from park use on the peninsula. However, the M.O.U. has not yet been written and none of the details have been set.

The Friends of Hudson River Park two years ago won a settlement that forces Sanitation to get its current operation off Gansevoort Peninsula by 2013, but that agreement does not prohibit the transfer station. The Friends have made an alternate proposal for the transfer station to be on Pier 76, at W. 36th St. opposite the Javits Convention Center, but the city has said it would be too expensive.

“What really outrages me is that the city never looked at our alternative,” said Ross Graham, co-chairperson of the Friends. “The Friends reserves its right to file a lawsuit about the M.T.S. The fact is that nothing can be built on Gansevoort Peninsula until 2013, so the whole issue could be reopened.”

Assemblymember Glick said that when the Bloomberg administration met with legislators at the end of last year about the Pier 76 alternative, “They just flipped through the pages and said, ‘Oh, this will cost $300 or $400 million more.’ It was disrespectful.” Later, when the Friends submitted a detailed response to Sanitation’s objections to Pier 76, the department did not even acknowledge it, Glick said.

The M.T.S. legislation — amending the Hudson River Park Act of 1998 — will have to pass the State Senate when the Legislature is expected to reconvene on July 11 and be signed by the governor before the M.O.U. negotiations begin, Glick said.

She noted that the proposed legislation says that any new parkland to replace what is lost because of the transfer station and any new money to mitigate the loss of parkland would have to be supplemental and could not supplant existing park funds.

“The first step will be to find out what’s already accounted for in the park,” Glick said.

“There was great pressure from the mayor to make this happen,” said Wendi Paster, Assemblymember Gottfried’s legislative aide. “And the city was unwilling to give Pier 76 a good hard look as a viable alternative.” Gottfried, who represents Chelsea and Clinton, wants any Hudson River Park financial contributions from the city to make up for lost park space on Pier 40 and Pier 57, both earmarked for commercial redevelopment, as well for park space lost on Gansevoort, Paster said.

State Senator Tom Duane, whose district includes the Village and Chelsea, said on Monday, “I’ve always been opposed to using Gansevoort for anything but a park, and I remain opposed.” Despite the assumption by most people that the State Senate would pass the legislation in July, Duane said it was still not a certainty. “Nothing can be built on Gansevoort for at least three years, so a lot can happen between now and then,” he added.

Graham recalled that city officials have mentioned Pier 42 — just south of the Christopher St. Pier — which, long ago dismantled, exists now only as a pile field, as a possible replacement for land lost to the M.T.S. That, however, would involve the expense of replacing piles and reconstructing the pier, as well as the uncertainty of securing the approval of the state Department of Environmental Conservation and possibly the Army Corps of Engineers.

According to the amendment, the M.T.S. would be built “within 10 feet of and beneath the [existing] two-story structure west of the bulkhead line.” The access road for the transfer station would cross the Hudson River Park bikeway and walkway between the West Side Highway and the peninsula. The 25-foot-wide road would ramp up along the peninsula’s north side to an elevated road 20 feet above grade level leading to the transfer station.

The amendment legislation, however, says the project “is conditioned on the city…maintaining public access to the pedestrian and bicycle pathways…at all times during and after construction and operation of the…marine transfer station.”

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who represents the Village area most impacted by the project, last year joined the mayor in endorsing the Gansevoort M.T.S. The city presented the project to the Villagers two years ago with the proposal that the transfer station could serve as a working environmental exhibit to teach schoolchildren and adult visitors about the benefits of recycling.

A joint statement by Bloomberg, Silver and Quinn, along with Governor Paterson and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos hailed the project, which they said would save 30,000 truck miles per year on city streets.

But Village critics are still saying that the proposed 60 trucks per day hauling paper, glass and metal recyclables across the Hudson River Park bike and pedestrian pathway would make the peninsula unfit for park use and greatly increase diesel-particulate air pollution.

“I’m fit to be tied,” said Arthur Schwartz, Community Board 2 Waterfront Committee chairperson, on Monday, regarding the Gansevoort marine transfer station.

“For me, it’s not a legal or technical problem about transferring parkland to the Department of Sanitation, it’s personal,” Schwartz said. “My kids, 5 and 3, play in the water park at Pier 51, just 75 yards away from Gansevoort, where trucks will be pouring diesel particulates into the air and dumping it in the water park. It’s one of the busiest playgrounds in Manhattan.”

Schwartz also said the entire SWAMP is likely to be outdated by the time it all goes into effect.

“Cities all over the country, except New York, are working on new closed-system technology that turns putrescent garbage into methane gas or biodiesel fuel that has a lot less particulates than ordinary diesel,” Schwartz said. “I know the M.T.S. is for recyclables, but the city should be spending money on turning garbage into energy, instead of putting garbage onto barges and moving it somewhere else.”


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