By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The city should not move forward with the construction of trash processing plants because there are too many environmental concerns about the proposed facilities, according to Republican mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis.
Catsimatidis, one of three Republicans running in the Sept. 10 primary, called for a moratorium on facilities in the Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) that have not yet been built, including the proposed waste transfer station near Shore Parkway and Bay 41st Street in Bensonhurst.
"The city's Solid Waste Management Plan simply does not make sense and should be put on hold," Catsimatidis said.
The Solid Waste Management Plan, approved by the City Council back in September of 2006, is designed to rely on a network of waterfront marine transfer stations to process trash and prepare it for shipment to out-of-state disposal sites. In addition to the Bensonhurst location, another site slated to get a marine transfer station is East 91st Street in Manhattan. Like the Bensonhurst site, the Manhattan location has been the target of protests from community residents and civic leaders.
Catsimatidis said that according to the city's own numbers, the Bensonhurst marine transfer station will have the capacity to process up to 4,290 tons of garbage per day. The trash will be brought to the facility on trucks through Brooklyn streets and then loaded on to barges to be taken to an undisclosed landfill.
Building the facility would require dredging parts of nearby Gravesend Bay to allow for barges to transport trash from the location. Community leaders and residents have expressed concern about the dredging bringing to surface dangerous carcinogens and chemicals, including mercury and lead left there by the incinerator that previously occupied the site.
The area is also prone to flooding and another Sandy-like storm could also bring these chemicals to the surface if the area is dredged, Catsimatidis said.
Assemblyman Bill Colton (D-Gravesend-Bensonhurst) recently led a protest demonstration against the marine transfer station plan.
There are also concerns about live ammunitions being unearthed due to the dredging, Catsimatidis said. In March of 1954, a barge unloading live ammunition from the aircraft USS Bennington capsized in Gravesend Bay with 219 tons of munitions. In January 2008, then-congressman Vito Fossella and Colton sent a letter to Robert Gates, the U.S. defense secretary at the time, requesting an inspection of Gravesend Bay for live anti-aircraft shells.
"Putting waste transfer stations in populated areas or areas that have unique environmental concerns - anywhere in this city - doesn't make sense,” Catsimatidis said.
“For years, community residents and elected officials of both political parties have been expressing their concerns regarding dredging at this location to build the waste transfer station. I have heard the concerns of the people of southwest Brooklyn about this proposed location," he added.
The New York City Department of Sanitation has maintained that the Solid Waste Management Plan is safe and environmentally sound.
Several environmental groups have supported the plan. Earlier this year, the New York League of Conservation Voters called on all of the mayoral candidates to support the plan in its entirety. The plan is fair to all neighborhoods of the city because it spreads out the responsibility for disposing the city's trash to all boroughs, officials at the league stated.
“Prior to the plan's implementation, the overwhelming majority of the city's garbage was trucked into low-income and minority neighborhoods outside of Manhattan. For decades, those communities faced disproportionate environmental burdens including noise, reduced air quality and odors. The Solid Waste Management Plan addressed this environmental injustice by requiring each borough to handle its own share of waste,” a statement from the league reads.
Catsimatidis, the founder of the Gristedes supermarket chain, is running against former deputy mayor Joe Lhota and DOE Fund Founder George McDonald in the primary in two weeks.