Thursday, September 24, 2009
Residents, Business Owners Protest Waste Management Expansion Plan
By Conor Greene
Civic leaders and elected officials gathered in front of Waste Management’s Review Avenue property on Monday to call on the city to reconsider its solid waste disposal plan, which will increase the amount of local truck traffic in West Maspeth.
The press conference, which included Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), members of the Juniper Park Civic Association and local business owners, was called in response to a plan by WM to expand its waste transfer station under the city’s Solid Waste Management Plan.
Residents and officials are objecting to the plan because it would require the company to truck residential waste from Review Avenue, where it is delivered by city sanitation trucks, to the Maspeth Rail Yard at Rust Street, a trip of about 1.5 miles each way. Instead, the community is calling on WM to either purchase a nearby property that has access to the existing rail line running through the area or the adjacent Newtown Creek, or to at least build a rail spur on the Review Avenue property, which is next to the track.
“This is just one more example of the city not reaching out to the community to find appropriate solutions,” said Avella. “We’re calling on the city to take a second look at this plan and… together come up with a plan that works. This doesn’t.”
The solid waste management plan was approved by the City Council in 2006. Then Councilmembers Eric Gioia, who represented that section of Long Island City and Maspeth at the time, and Dennis Gallagher, who represented parts of Maspeth, both voted in favor of the plan, according to city records.
The facility is currently permitted to receive up to 958 tons of trash per day. Under the new arrangement, the site will be able to handle up to 2,100 tons per day and will typically receive about 1,150 tons per day. As a result, there would be at least 65 round trip truck trips each day between Review Avenue and the Maspeth Rail Yard.
Crowley, who holds Gallagher’s old seat, said she is “outraged” by the current plan and suggested that WM instead look into using other nearby sites that have creek and rail access, such as the former Phelps Dodge property. She said “it’s not fair for our families” to have the amount of trucks in the area increased, especially since the local asthma rate is “through the roof.”
“Waste Management has to go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan that will work for our community,” added Crowley.
Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, noted that the WM facility is located on contaminated land. “So they’re going to build on a toxic site and then pollute the air,” he said. “This whole plan stinks to high heaven.” He also criticized the city for allowing WM to run public hearings on the proposal. “A private company ran a public hearing notifying the public on what’s to come,” he noted.
Holden called on Mayor Bloomberg, who is seeking reelection to a third term in November, to intervene. “If he wants to be mayor for four more years… We haven’t heard any indication that he wants to work with the community,” the civic leader said.
Maspeth civic leader and business owner Tony Nunziato made it clear that this isn’t a case of residents demanding that the project not take place in their backyard. “We’re not saying keep it out – we’re saying put it in the right spot… This is not a case of NIMBY,” said Nunziato. “It’s an easy request.”
Richard Sherman, the second generation owner of Williams Valve Corporation – located on one side of the driveway used by WM to access the facility from Review Avenue – accused the city of ignoring the needs of small businesses. “When it comes to us, they don’t really care,” he charged. “They’re going to permit the expansion of a toxic waste dump… We feel as taxpayers that we have the same rights as anyone else.”
While the WM expansion will only create about 10 additional jobs, Avella pointed out that there ultimately will be a net loss of jobs in the area because neighboring employers are leaving the area as a result of the project. He lamented that the city continues to ignore the input of those living and working near the site. “These people have good suggestions – it’s time [the city] started listening to them.”
Last week, a WM spokeswoman said the company is taking into account the community’s input but wouldn’t say if construction of a rail spur or the purchase of a nearby site is being considered. “We continue to listen to the community comments regarding the Review Avenue project and are evaluating our future options in response to these concerns,” wrote Rachel Amar. “Waste Management can’t speculate on the basis of any rumors.”
A LIRR spokesman said the agency has "not yet received any specific proposal" on allowing WM to use the tracks and will evaluate the plan once it is officially presented.