By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
"First Sandy, now the Sanitation Department is hurting us!"
That was the cry from residents of southwest Brooklyn who took part in a protest rally Sunday against the city’s plans to move ahead with the construction of a trash plant on the Gravesend waterfront.
Protesters charged that they suffered a great deal during the storm last October and that trash plant will inflict more pain on them.
Led by Assemblyman Bill Colton (D-Gravesend-Bensonhurst) and local political leaders, dozens of residents took part in a protest demonstration against plans by the Dept. of Sanitation to construct a trash plant, called a marine transfer station, on the Gravesend Bay waterfront at Shore Parkway and Bay 41st Street. The new station would be built on the former site of the southwest Brooklyn garbage incinerator, which operated for nearly 40 years until it was closed during the Giuliani Administration.
The rally took place outside the Caesar’s Bay shopping mall, located on the waterfront on Shore and Bay Parkways, a short distance from the proposed trash plant site.
Under the city’s plan, garbage would be trucked to the marine transfer station. The trash would then be compacted at the plant and placed on barges for shipment to out of state landfills.
“The people of southern Brooklyn have suffered enough from the impact of Hurricane Sandy. We do not need a garbage station built and operated in our community to only further hinder our quality of life and hurt our families,” said Mark Treyger, one of the rally’s organizers. Treyger is a Democratic candidate for City Council in the 47th Council District (Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst).
Opponents of the trash plant charged that the facility would increase truck traffic on their streets. The truck traffic would lead to increased incidents of asthma, caused by the truck fumes, residents said. The constant pounding of the trucks on the roadways would mean more wear and tear of local streets, protesters said.
Colton, who filed a lawsuit last year to try to stop the plant, said there are also environmental hazards. Gravesend Bay would have to be dredged to make room for the barges that would transport the trash out of the plant, he said. The dredging process will bring toxins in the bay to the surface, Colton charged.
“The former southwest Brooklyn incinerator, which was located and illegally operated for over 30 years by the city, 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. We simply cannot allow the city to go forward with this plan,” Colton said.
Toxic chemicals such as mercury, lead, and arsenic that are buried at the bottom of Gravesend Bay after being spewed into these waters by the former southwest Brooklyn incinerator, Colton and other protesters charged.
Residents also noted that the plant is located in an evacuation zone and that if there another large coastal storm like Super-storm Sandy that causes large amounts of flooding from storm surges, the toxic chemicals at the bottom of Gravesend Bay will end up in homes, schools, nursing homes, and other public spaces.
The rally was organized by Sandy Task Force Recovery Organized by Neighborhood Groups, or STRONG, which was founded in January by Treyger, and civic activists Priscilla Consolo and David Portalatin.
Leaders of STRONG have formed a new coalition called Dump the Dump and are seeking to galvanize opposition to the trash plant in Bensonhurst, Gravesend, and other communities in Brooklyn including Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Mill Basin, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, Bergen Beach and Bay Ridge.
The marine transfer station on Gravesend Bay is part of the Bloomberg Administration’s solid waste management plan, a multi-faceted proposal approved by the City Council in 2006. The goal of the plan was to spread the responsibility for dealing with trash to neighborhoods in all five boroughs rather than centralize it at a single location such as the old Fresh Kills Landfill, which was the bane of Staten Islanders’ existence for decades. The Gravesend plant is one of several planned at various sites around the city.
Belinda Mager, a spokeswoman for the Dept. of Sanitation, defended the plan to build the trash plant. “The Southwest Brooklyn Marine Transfer Station is a vital part of the city's Solid Waste Management Plan,” she wrote in an email to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
“It will handle solid waste from the surrounding communities. At the marine transfer station, the waste will be compacted, containerized, and shipped out by barge avoiding truck traffic on local roads and enhancing the quality of life. The marine transfer station won overwhelming support from the City Council,” Mager wrote.