Thursday, July 16, 2009

Board Rejects Company's Trash Disposal Plan

Maspeth Truck Traffic Would Increase

By Conor Greene

Waste Management’s plan to transport trash from a new facility on Review Avenue to the Maspeth rail yard for transportation to out-of-state landfills was resoundingly rejected by Community Board 5 members because it will result in more truck traffic in Maspeth.

At its meeting last Wednesday at Christ the King High School, the advisory board unanimously voted in favor of a Sanitation Committee resolution rejecting Waste Management’s current plan. Instead, the resolution suggests that the company use the adjacent Newtown Creek to barge the containerized trash out of the area, build a rail spur at its Review Avenue property or purchase part of the former Phelps Dodge property or another site where a rail spur can be accessed or built.

Waste Management has applied to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for permission to replace its existing truck-based solid waste transfer operation at 38-22 Review Avenue in Long Island City with a new rail-based transfer facility that would accept trash from neighborhoods within community boards 1-6 in Queens. However, the plan would require the company to transport the trash one-and-a-half miles from Review Avenue to the Maspeth rail yard at Rust Street.

It is this aspect of the plan, which would result in 85 round-trip truck trips daily between the two sites, that didn’t sit well with board members. “This whole plan – pardon the pun – stinks,” said Robert Holden before the vote.

“We all know how congested that area is now.” Sanitation Committee Chairman Paul Kerzner noted that the area was already backed up with traffic at 9:30 on a recent morning. “This is just going to add to it,” he said.

Holden also noted that the containerized trash will be loaded onto trains near the Clinton Diner at Rust Street and Maspeth Avenue. The transfer will take place in the open, near the former St. Saviour’s property and homes. He questioned whether the plan meets requirements that this type of facility be located at least 400 feet from homes and parks.

The resolution notes “there was significant opposition” to the plan during a public information session the company held last month at Martin Luther High School. In addition, “there was unanimous agreement that for several important reasons, a better waste transport plan needs to be found.”

The “major reasons” for the board’s objection to the plan include that it “would mean additional handling of garbage” in order to get it loaded onto trains; that “the Maspeth community would have dozens of additional movements by tractor trailers daily” between Review Avenue and Rust Street; that the additional traffic “would mean significant increased air pollution hazards to Maspeth and adjacent communities,” and because the truck traffic would cause hazards, especially navigating tight turns such as from Rust Street onto Maspeth Avenue and after leaving the rail yard.

The resolution instead urges Waste Management to barge the trash directly from its facility, build a rail support at its 38-22 Review Avenue property - which is adjacent to LIRR tracks that are only used by two passenger trains daily - or investigate other nearby properties such as the former Phelps Dodge sites.

“Part of this former Phelps Dodge site would be further from residents than the Maspeth rail yard, where there is a residential area across the street,” the resolution notes. “By reducing the handling steps associated with transporting residential garbage… barging of garbage or establishing a rail spur may prove less expensive over time.”

Under the current plan, Waste Management will build a new, fully enclosed transfer facility at the Review Avenue site. The current facility is permitted to receive up to 958 tons of garbage per day. Under the new plan, the site will be able to handle up to 2,100 tons per day and will typically receive about 1,150 tons per day, according to the company. The facility would receive 134 deliveries daily from garbage trucks, in addition to the tractor trailer trips to Maspeth. The company claims that each train will carry between 60 and 68 containers, which is the equivalent of 51 to 58 tractor trailer loads.

In response to CB 5’s vote, a Waste Management spokeswoman said the company met with the community board “and other stakeholders several times” to discuss the project and obtain input. “We are committed to continuing this dialogue with the community and to working with the city to address the issues that have been raised,” wrote Rachel Amar.

Amar noted that the city Department of Sanitation identified Waste Management’s Review Avenue property as a site for handling residential waste under the city’s Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP). “The plan was developed over several years with input from environmental groups and other stakeholders and was approved by the City Council in 2006,” she wrote. “The SWMP is designed to manage the city’s municipal solid waste in a more sustainable, efficient manner over the next 20 years, by shifting NYC’s waste exports from a truck based system to a rail and barge based system, reducing truck traffic and vehicle emissions.”

Still, some residents aren’t accepting the additional truck traffic without a fight. Maspeth activist Christina Wilkinson has organized a rally at the Clinton Diner at 11 a.m. Saturday to call on the city to prevent additional truck traffic and instead preserve the former St. Saviour’s property, which is being offered for sale for $8.5 million. In addition to members of local civic groups, Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Tony Avella (D-Bayside) are expected to attend, along with other elected officials’ representatives.

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