Volume 74, Number 35 | January 05 - 11, 2005

Villager photo by Elisabeth Robert

A cyclist on the Hudson River Park bikeway passed Gansevoort Peninsula. The city wants to put a marine waste transfer station for recyclables on the peninsula, which also is to have a park.

Gansevoort recycling plan comes around again

By Albert Amateau

For the second time since last September, Villagers met this week to hear more about the Department of Sanitation proposal to build a marine transfer station for recyclable waste as part of the future conversion of the Gansevoort Peninsula into a section of the Hudson River Park.

However, the presentation by Kate Ascher of the city Economic Development Corporation at the Jan. 3 hearing did not allay doubts about the compatibility of the Sanitation facility with park use of the peninsula that extends one block into the river in the angle between Little W. 12th and Gansevoort Sts.

Nevertheless, for compelling environmental reasons, the goal of the city is to reduce truck traffic through city streets and to increase recycling by establishing marine transportation for garbage and recyclables.

But the prospect of up to 65 trucks per day, including private commercial carters at night, arriving on the Village waterfront from all over Manhattan to dump paper, glass and plastic recyclables into barges for transfer to Sunset Park in Brooklyn was more than most people at the hearing was willing to accept.

And the expectation that the Department of Sanitation would make an unspecified capital payment to fast-track the park conversion of the peninsula, now used as a Sanitation garage, wasn’t specific enough for most people at the hearing.

Ascher reminded the audience that the implementation of the entire project is seven years away because Sanitation will not give up its current use of the peninsula for at least that long.

She acknowledged that plans for the project so far are conceptual rather than specific. Before going ahead with the project, Ascher said, the city needs support from the community and local elected officials, because the state legislature would have to amend the 1999 Hudson River Park Act — which, among other restrictions, limits municipal uses in the waterfront park. The marine transfer station project also requires permits from the U.S. Corps of Engineers and from the state.

Connie Fishman, president of the Hudson River Park Trust, which is building the 5-mile-long park between Chambers and 59th Sts., noted that the park legislation deadline for Sanitation to leave the marine station on W. 57th St. has already passed, “but there is no deadline for Gansevoort — the language only says ‘best effort.’ ”

One state legislator, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, is withholding support, at least for now. She told the Jan. 3 meeting that she resents the encroachment on designated riverfront parkland.

“Community Boards 2 [covering the Village] and 4 [covering Chelsea] have the least amount of park space in the city,” said Glick. “To have it nibbled away by commercial uses and now nibbled away by municipal uses is a little weird,” she added.

Fishman said, in response to a question from Glick, that the estimated cost of the Gansevoort Peninsula park conversion was $25 million to $30 million, excluding environmental remediation of the site, which for many years had a garbage incinerator.

Glick replied that the community needed to know how much Sanitation would contribute to the park conversion as a form of rent for staying on the peninsula seven more years. “What are we talking about here?” she asked, “Is it $1 million a year? That’s ice in winter. Unless we know what the payoff is, we’re not able to make a decision,” she said.

Glick also made light of the proposal to incorporate an educational component into the marine transfer station, saying she doubted “the educational value of watching trucks dump recyclable into barges.”

Frieda Bradlow, a Village resident and member of the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board, speaking on her own behalf, predicted that the transfer station would provoke countless noise complaints to Community Board 2.

“We’re in a bind. [The city] doesn’t want to go through the process for permits and legislation unless it gets community approval and the community doesn’t want to buy a pig-in-a-poke and needs more specific plans,” Bradlow added.

Shirley Secunda, a Community Board 2 member and urban planner, said the community’s choice in the matter is barely relevant, “seeing that Sanitation is going to be there for seven years.”

Ellen Peterson Lewis said she doubted the ability of even the “greenest,” most environmentally conscious marine transfer station to eliminate 100 percent of the odor from the operation.

Ann Arlen, former member of Community Board 2 and chairperson of its Environment Committee, criticized the idea that commercial recycling trucks could come to the Gansevoort Peninsula during the late-night hours so as not to interfere with park users. “The park is indeed used at night,” said Arlen, referring to the bikeway/walkway along the river.

Keen Berger, Democratic district co-leader, agreed. “I just moved close to the park and it’s very busy 24 hours a day. The Village rocks all night long,” said Berger.

But environmental advocates said the project was an important possibility for the former working waterfront.

Nancy VandenBerg, a resident of W. 15th St. and a recycling advocate who enjoyed the industrial waterfront even in decay, said, “I miss watching the city in action. So do many of my neighbors. A live barge facility for our recyclables, discreetly masked and landscaped to minimize noise and air pollution, is a boon, not a blight,” she added.

Antonia Bryson, speaking on behalf of the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board, said the board supports the proposal for the Gansevoort transfer station. Marine transfer would help replace the current use of trucks to remove all waste and recyclables in Manhattan, which “creates unacceptable air pollution and traffic congestion,” she said.

Ramon Cruz, co-author of “Trash and the City,” a study by Environmental Defense, an environmental advocacy group, also spoke in support of the Gansevoort project.

Don MacPherson, head of the C.B.2 Waterfront Committee who conducted the hearing, said the committee would schedule at least two more meetings on the Gansevoort Peninsula but would not vote at this time on a recommendation to the full board.

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