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Manhattan Marine Transfer Station Moves Forward Despite Opposition

Neighbors’ and politicians’ main concerns are garbage truck traffic and poor air quality from diesel emissions.

A long-fought marine transfer station slated to open in a residential area on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in 2020 continues to move forward. Its strongest opposition has shifted its energy from efforts to shut the station down to mitigating its potential impacts once it begins receiving garbage from four boroughs. The waste is currently trucked to interim transfer stations in New Jersey while the New York City Department of Design and Construction oversees construction of the New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) facility, being built by Skanska-Trevcon JV.  

“Everybody has to accept the fact that it is going forward. The goal is to hope for the best but prepare for the worst – traffic, garbage trucks and odor will happen,” says James G. Clynes chairman of Manhattan Community Board 8. The volunteer agency assembled a task force to stop the project, though the task force is now focusing on monitoring construction and fielding concerns from the community where the station will operate, home to public housing and a large recreation center with outdoor fields.

Neighbors’ and politicians’ main concerns are garbage truck traffic and poor air quality from diesel emissions.

“Manhattan’s Upper East side has the highest asthma rates in all of Manhattan,” claims Clynes. “We are requesting that the general contractor monitor air quality on a daily basis.”

The station would receive a few hundred tons per day of residential and commercial waste, a figure that was negotiated and cut from a capacity of over 700 tons per day.

DSNY has made other concessions, including agreeing to move the entrance from 91st to 92nd Street, meaning the facility will not intersect the heavily traveled space where the recreation center is, as originally planned.

“The Department of Sanitation is as committed to being a good neighbor at the East 91st Street MTS as we are at all of our new facilities. All four marine transfer stations are designed to minimize disruption to communities,” says DSNY Chief Keith Mellis.

Mellis points out the marine transfer stations’ engineering controls such as containerized refuse, rapid roll-up doors, vermin controls, odor neutralizers and flood proofing.

In addition to providing the alternate 92nd Street entrance ramp into the facility, DSNY will station one of its employees at the entrance ramp when the site is in operation to control truck and pedestrian movements.

New York Council member Ben Kallos is among those who is skeptical. He has introduced legislation to the city council that includes proposed installation of air quality monitors and hourly readings for specific toxins at all of the city’s marine waste transfer stations, though his office says the legislation currently lacks sufficient support from the council.

While Kallos has resolved that the 91st Street station will likely launch, on August 24 he told Waste360, "I oppose the construction of a marine transfer station in any residential neighborhood. New York City's Upper East side is one of the most densely populated census tracks in the country. Forcing hundreds of trucks every day through its narrow streets, past public housing and next to a park where hundreds of children play, is a risk we don't take anywhere else in the city, and shouldn't take here."

The MTS is part of the city's solid waste management plan (SWMP) to handle New York city's waste. The SWMP mandates a switch from long-haul trucking to a system of marine and rail transfer stations spread throughout the five boroughs.

According to Mellis, the plan is anticipated to reduce the city's annual greenhouse gas emissions by 34,000 tons and cut annual truck travel by 60 million miles.

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