By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Residents, elected officials, teachers, students, and activists of southern Brooklyn from Bay Ridge to Mill Basin gathered at the promenade near the Caesar's Bay shopping center in Gravesend on Sunday to protest a proposed garbage transfer station the city wants to place in the neighborhood.
“The city's plan to construct and operate a dangerous garbage station has united communities all across southern Brooklyn. From Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, Seagate, Manhattan Beach, Gerritsen Beach, Mill Basin, we are all here united,” proclaimed Mark Treyger, an aide to Assemblyman William Colton.
“The construction of the garbage dump will have an impact on this part of Brooklyn with garbage trucks coming down our blocks, congesting our streets, bringing with it noise and stenches.”
Just over a year ago, Assemblyman Colton held a protest at the same location.
“When they originally started fighting this plan, it was 2005,” Colton said. “There were hearings in 2008 and 2009 before the Department of Environmental Conservation, and we started a lawsuit in June of 2012. They need a reminder that we are not going to back down from this fight until they dump the dump.”
Colton has gotten much support throughout the fight, including recent backing from a new group, STRONG - Sandy Task-force Recovery Organized by Neighborhood Groups - which feels that a waste transfer station in the area is even more dangerous in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which devastated the region last October.
“We already have had to deal with a lot of mold as a result of the flooding, and we don't want to deal with all of the poison that dredging would kick up and would be washed ashore next time,” said Igor Oberman, who is running for the city council in the 48th district.
The proposed site of the waste transfer station is Bay 41st Street and Shore Parkway, which is the same site at which a garbage incinerator stood for over 30 years. Protestors charged that there are high levels of mercury, lead, arsenic, and merix, an insecticide that was used at the incinerator before it was banned in 1976, that will be exposed if the city dredges Gravesend Bay to make way for the new dump.
There are up to 14,000 tons of garbage produced in New York City each day. In 2005, in an effort to manage this waste, the city came up with a plan to build 12 garbage transfer stations that would be spread out throughout the entire city. Currently, the plan calls for just three stations to be built, and many protesters felt an unfair burden placed on southern Brooklyn.
“When this thing was first pitched, it was an environmental justice issue,” said Ludger Balan of the Urban Divers Estuary Conservancy. “The idea was equity, where everyone would share the garbage. That idea seems long gone now, and instead of everyone dealing with part of the burden, we're left to deal with it. Where's the equity in that?”
Assemblyman Colton was also upset that the DEC was able to get permits to build the waste transfer station before environmental impact studies were conducted.
“They never did any tests of the bottom of the waters even though we demanded it,” Colton said. “They deferred that until after the permit was issued. We believe that was a violation of the environmental conservation law.”
Still, the city appears to be ready to go ahead with plans. On Sunday, city spokeswoman Kathy Dawkins issued the following statement:
“The Department of Sanitation has done an extensive and thorough environmental review for the Southwest Marine Transfer Station, which was upheld by the courts. In fact, in a most recent decision dated April 16th, the Kings County Supreme Court dismissed all substantive challenges brought by Assemblyman Colton to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation permit which authorizes the Department to construct and operate the facility.”
Southern Brooklyn's hope now is that one of the city's mayoral candidates will aid them in its fight.
“Our appeal is clear - stand with southern Brooklyn, stand with the victims of hurricane sandy, and help us dump the dump,” Treyger said. “That goes to Christine Quinn, Bill Thompson, John Liu, Sal Albanese, Bill de Blasio, Joe Lhota, and the rest of them. The message is clear, stand with southern Brooklyn.”