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Wine and Garbage? NYC Trash Train Plan Draws Upstate Protest

Wine and Garbage? NYC Trash Train Plan Draws Upstate Protest

The winemaker who supplied the sacramental spirits for Pope Francis' visit to Manhattan has a new label named for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio: "No Trash! De Blasio Blush."

The wine from Eagle Crest Vineyards is part of a campaign against a proposed 20-year, $3.3 billion contract to ship trainloads of New York City garbage to the state's largest municipal landfill, Seneca Meadows, which spans 400 acres in central New York's Finger Lakes region.

"The Finger Lakes shouldn't be the garbage dump for New York City," said Eagle Crest owner Will Ouweleen, whose winery in Conesus is 40 miles west of the landfill. "Send us your tourists, not your trash."

Wine Enthusiast Magazine named the Finger Lakes "2015 Wine Region of the Year" in recognition of the world-class quality of its wines and the economic impact of wine tourism.

But the Finger Lakes region also has four of the state's largest landfills, where half of all municipal solid waste in the state — and some from out of state — is buried. Seneca Meadows, just south of the New York State Thruway, is the biggest, receiving up to 2 million tons of trash annually. The New York City deal would add 24 to 36 rail cars — or 2,495 tons — every day, but those rail cars will simply replace most of the tractor trailers already hauling the city's garbage to Seneca Meadows.

Steve Churchill, who represents the town of Seneca Falls on the county Board of Supervisors, said the sight and sulfurous smell of the landfill along a main travel route into the Finger Lakes region makes a bad impression on tourists.

"We're smelling it day after day," said Rich Swinehart, CEO of Waterloo Glass, which supplies bottles for many of the Finger Lakes wineries and is across the street from Seneca Meadows.

Local residents and businesses who oppose the landfill see the rail proposal as a way to extend the life of the facility past its current permit date of 2023. But it's not clear how they can stop the New York City contract, which needs only the approval of city Comptroller Scott Stringer. Several members of the coalition had traveled to a city hearing on the contract two weeks ago in hopes of making their case.

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