By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Opponents of the city’s plan to build a trash processing plant in Bensonhurst have found new allies from another part of town to work with to try and stop the controversial project from moving forward.
Members of the Sandy Task Force Recovery Organized by Neighborhood Groups (STRONG), a group founded by Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst), have joined forces with Pledge2Protect, an organization fighting to prevent a trash plant from being built on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Both groups are waging an 11th hour effort to keep the two trash stations from being constructed. But it’s unclear how much success they will have. The Bensonhurst plant, the Southwest Brooklyn Marine Transfer Station, has already been given the go-ahead by the city. In 2012, the city won the approval of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to move forward with the project.
Under the city’s Solid Waste Management Plan, approved by the City Council in 2006, four trash processing plants will be built along New York’s waterfront to compact household trash that will be transported there by Department of Sanitation trucks. The garbage will be compacted and then placed on barges for shipment to out-of-state landfills. A 2006 New York Times article on the council’s approval of the plan reported that the final vote was 44-5.
STRONG and Pledge2Protect held anti-trash plant rally Sunday on the Bay Parkway Promenade, next to the Caesar’s Bay Shopping Center. The shopping mall is a short distance away from the proposed site of the Southwest Brooklyn Marine Waste Transfer Station to be built at 1824 Shore Parkway, between Bay 41st Street and 26th Avenue.
At the rally, elected officials from Brooklyn and Manhattan raised concerns about the impact the two trash plants will have on the environmental, health, and safety of residents living near the facilities.
Assemblyman Bill Colton (D-Gravesend-parts of Bensonhurst), who has been fighting with the city over the Solid Waste Management Plan for several years, was one of the officials who helped organize the rally.
Colton noted that the Gravesend Bay plant would be located at the site of the former Southwest Brooklyn incinerator. The incinerator, which had been operating since the 1950s, was shut down in the 1990s.
“People living and working near the former incinerator have suffered enough at the hands of the city’s reckless waste management,” Colton said. “Residents near the former incinerator have reported increased rates of cancer, asthma, and other serious, chronic health problems. These people woke up each morning to find toxic ash from the waste incineration on their windows and cars. As we are still reeling from the aftermath of 30 years of illegal incineration, we cannot allow another dangerous plan to move forward and further wreak havoc on Southwest Brooklyn’s residents and environment.
“This dangerous garbage dump will cause serious harm to the public health, environment, and safety of the people of our neighborhoods in southwest Brooklyn,” Colton said. “The former southwest Brooklyn incinerator, which was located and illegally operated for over 30 years by the City of New York, spewed toxic ash containing dangerous chemicals into the waters of Gravesend Bay. If this garbage station is built, those toxic substances will be released into the waters across southern Brooklyn, such as Gravesend Bay and Coney Island Creek, and along the shores of Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Coney Island Beach. The City cannot go forward with this dangerous and toxic plan, and I am going to continue fighting on behalf of southern Brooklyn until this plan is stopped.”
The proposed site for the Brooklyn garbage station is in the middle of a residential neighborhood, according to opponents, who said many schools are located nearby, including 20 private and public schools within two miles from the proposed site. There are also buildings that house large numbers of senior citizens, including the Haym Salomon Home for Nursing & Rehabilitation, Regina Pacis Houses and The Sephardic Home.
In addition, many high-rise apartment and co-op buildings are located near the site, including the Contello Towers and Waterview Towers across the Belt Parkway. The buildings are 17 stories tall and are home for thousands of residents.
Opponents also pointed out that Adventurers Amusement Park & Entertainment Center is located within a stone’s throw of the proposed trash plant.
Making matters worse, according to opponents, is that Gravesend Bay will have to be dredged in order to make room for the docks that will have to be constructed to accommodate the new plant.
“This project will exacerbate contaminated conditions in Gravesend Bay and once again place Sandy victims and those previously impacted by the illegal incinerator in harm’s way due to its location in a severe flood zone that will impact Bath Beach, Coney Island, Sea Gate and beyond,” Treyger said.
“This is the last thing that incinerator and Sandy victims need while still dealing with the severe aftermath of burned ash and flooding. Our history in Southwest Brooklyn matters just like anywhere else in New York City, and for the sake of our families and future we will not relent in our fight for environmental justice,” he said.
Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) said while everyone in the city should share the responsibility of the disposal of the 11,000 tons of waste New Yorkers produce each day, “it must be done responsibly and it has been proven that the construction of a trash shipping terminal on Gravesend Bay would stir up extremely dangerous and deadly chemicals left in the water by the incinerator that formerly occupied this location for three decades.”
Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side) urged the city to re-think the whole plan.
“It is time to re-imagine our solid waste management plan to reduce, reuse and recycle, instead of putting Marine Transfer Stations in densely residential neighborhoods,” he said. “A forward-thinking plan for a greener city will provide relief to over-burdened neighborhoods and protect the thousands of residents and students within feet of these proposed marine transfer stations.”
There is strength in numbers, according to Assemblyman Micah Kellner (D-Upper East Side).
“I applaud Pledge 2 Protect and STRONG for forging an alliance to protect neighborhoods under threat from ill-conceived, over-budget garbage facilities that simply don’t belong in residential neighborhoods,” he said.
“I will continue working with my good friend and assembly colleague, Bill Colton, to fight for our communities’ quality of life,” Kellner added.