By SEWELL CHAN (NYT) 788 words
NEW YORK TIMES, METROPOLITAN DESK
Clash Over Trash Plan Exposes the City's Fault Lines
Published: June 27, 2006
In a last-ditch effort to influence talks between Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the City Council over a long-term strategy for handling the city's trash, hundreds of residents, advocates and elected officials crowded City Hall yesterday for a six-hour hearing that exposed tense divisions of race, class and geography.
Residents of the Upper East Side denounced a plan to reopen a waterfront waste-transfer station at East 91st Street that was closed in 1999. Parks advocates assailed a recycling station proposed for Pier 52 on the Hudson River, at Gansevoort Street. And a Brooklyn councilman said the burden of handling the city's trash had disproportionately fallen on low-income black and Hispanic neighborhoods and called the Bloomberg plan -- which calls for the construction of four city-owned marine transfer stations -- sensible and fair.
'It's a very sensitive issue,' the sanitation commissioner, John J. Doherty, said after testifying in defense of the plan. 'We know that. Garbage rises to the top very quickly, especially when something's going to happen in your neighborhood.'
Councilman Michael E. McMahon of Staten Island, who presided over the hearing, said it would be the last hearing before Mr. Bloomberg and the Council agree on a final Solid Waste Management Plan, culminating a process that began when the mayor presented a draft plan in October 2004.
The Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, recently signaled support for the Gansevoort station and has promised a vote on the plan this summer.
The plan is the first comprehensive effort to grapple with the 2001 closing of the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, which had been the major repository of the city's residential waste since 1948. The plan calls for the construction or reactivation of four trash-transfer stations: two in Brooklyn, one in Queens and one in Manhattan, at East 91st Street.
Environmental groups have generally supported the plan because it calls for moving more of the city's trash by rail or barge rather than by trucks and emphasizes recycling. Three groups -- the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense and the New York League of Conservation Voters -- reiterated their support for the plan yesterday.
The plan, however, has run up against fierce opposition in several neighborhoods.
For instance, the containers would pass through the Howland Hook Marine Terminal on Staten Island until they could be taken by rail or barge to landfills or incinerators in other states. Mr. McMahon said the plan was overly reliant on Howland Hook.
'You're asking us to endorse a plan that will have all the containers going to Staten Island without knowing how they're going to get off of Staten Island,' he said.
Harry Szarpanski, the assistant sanitation commissioner for long-term export, replied, 'We're investigating other options other than just going to Howland Hook.' To discuss specifics, he added, would hinder the city's negotiations with contractors.
Four lawmakers whose districts include the proposed 91st Street transfer station appeared at the hearing to denounce the proposal: Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, State Senator Liz Krueger, Assemblyman Alexander B. Grannis and Councilwoman Jessica S. Lappin. Several of them noted that the access ramp to the proposed transfer station would go through the grounds of a popular recreation center, Asphalt Green.
The Sanitation Department's general counsel, Robert Orlin, insisted that that the environmental effects would be minimal.
'An environmental review was done, a thorough review was done, and no significant impacts were found,' he said.
The Gansevoort element of the plan also was criticized, by three state lawmakers -- Senator Thomas K. Duane and Assembly members Deborah J. Glick and Richard N. Gottfried -- and by the Friends of Hudson River Park, an advocacy group.
Councilman Charles Barron of Brooklyn accused the Manhattan residents of hypocrisy. 'Race, class and cash have been always factors in how waste is moved in this city,' he said, adding that trash transfers had long been concentrated in poor neighborhoods. 'Where were you for all these years?'
'It's disingenuous when you raise those issues now because it's coming to your community, but as long as it was in our communities it was all right,' Mr. Barron said. 'And as long as you delay this plan, the trucks are still going to be coming through our communities.'
He added: 'We have to be honest and fair. Manhattan has to share their burden of waste. It can't keep coming to the Bronx and Brooklyn, in particular. If you have a better plan than this, then give it to us.'
Similarly, Veronica Eady of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, who represents a coalition of community groups in neighborhoods with transfer stations, said the plan would 'achieve real and immediate reductions' in traffic and pollution and urged the Council to pass it 'as soon as possible.'
Photos: Philip Opher of the Upper East Side, top, wore his opposition to a transfer station there on his lapel; Councilman Charles Barron of Brooklyn said Manhattan had let poor areas bear the burden for too long.; Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's plan for disposing of the city's garbage was debated at City Hall yesterday in a crowded six-hour hearing. (Photographs by Cary Conover for The New York Times)