Volume 74, Number 24 | Octuber 13 - 19 , 2004

Talking Point

A Gansevoort park and recycling? It just might work

By Shirley Secunda

The Bloomberg administration’s intention to carry out its new recycling plan recently came to our community in the form of a proposal to set up a newly designed and less intrusively located marine transfer station than previously existed at the Gansevoort Peninsula. This was coupled with a suggestion that the full park we all want there might be quickly built, without encroachment by the new marine transfer station, as part of the effort. From what I understand, Community Board 2’s Waterfront Committee will be reviewing this proposal over the next few months and holding public hearings before any conclusion can be reached, understandably so, especially in view of the board’s prior resolution against sanitation uses on the peninsula.

In my own opinion, the city’s proposition offers a promising opportunity to make this long-awaited, long-stalled amenity, which otherwise would take years to be built, a reality in the near future. It also seems possible that increased funding for park construction might occur along with this action, as well as the chance to ask for additional amenities that the community desires. Therefore, I support proactive consideration of this proposal, especially given improving technologies, such as electric trucks, to mitigate environmental impacts.

However, I believe that much more information is needed, and a methodology of built-in safeguards to which the city commits is necessary before any serious consideration and educated decision by the community can be made. I think that, before we go further, it is essential for the city to address the following crucial issues and concerns and present its findings and solutions in detail to the community:

Timetable - The actual realistic start and completion dates for both park and marine transfer facility should be outlined, along with a comparative timetable for successive milestones.

Trucks - Information should be presented on the size and type/technology of trucks to be used, how they will be upgraded in the every three years of vehicle change that was cited, and when a fully “clean” fleet at the site is anticipated, with an outline of anticipated reduction in emissions as upgrades occur.

Tugboats – A description should be given of how well the emissions of tugs, in comparison to trucks, can be contained environmentally, accompanied by a commit-ment to new tugs or improvement of existing tugs for low-sulfur, more environmentally friendly engines and a timetable for achieving this.

Odor control – An overview of state-of-the-art technologies for reducing offensive odors (application and examples), how and when they would be used and a commitment to using them is needed.

Access for pedestrians and bicyclists – An approach to avoid interference by trucks with the safe, unfettered passage of pedestrians and bicycles needs to be worked out, for example, an underpass or overpass might be feasible.

Design/engineering – A design of the park/facility/ access road has to be created that self-enforces limitations on impacts (for example, a one-lane access road to limit number of trucks entering at any one time), rather than relying on expressed good intentions or ordinary enforcement, which by and large have been ineffective.

Recycling education center – The proposed educational center may not be the most community-beneficial, effective use of the free space in the anticipated structure, especially since recycling operations will occur at a different site. A rationale for why this use was chosen as well as alternative uses that can benefit the community should be presented.

Ensuring promised implementation – A strong, legally airtight mechanism must be devised that can guarantee the realization of agreed-upon goals and schedules, especially for completing the park, in clear, community-comprehensible language.

Cost –Sources of funding must be revealed to ensure dedicated availability.

Research – The best, most environmentally friendly technologies should be investigated, and innovative models of technology and design explored to be shared and considered with the community for optimum benefit and environmental alleviation (for example, concerning design, a less-imposing structure and easy access to waterfront views and enjoyment; concerning technology, state-of-the-art methods to contain stench).

Process – Last, but not least, these findings and proposed solutions should be presented to the community at a public information session in spoken, written and visual form that is highly accessible, so that the information then can be thoroughly evaluated and discussed in public hearings.

The city’s hint of a chance to green-light the park at Gansevoort is encouraging, but right now, it’s lacking in any substance. My feeling is that once the facts are out there and the issues and commitments are resolved, there’s a real potential for getting it done.

Secunda is vice chairperson of Community Board 2’s Traffic and Transportation Committee and an urban planner.

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