Volume 17 • Issue 17 | SEPTEMBER 17 - 23, 2004

Some people dump on Hudson Park garbage idea

By Albert Amateau

The Gansevoort Peninsula, where the Department of Sanitation used to burn garbage and now keeps its trucks, is supposed to be transformed into a green seven-acre extension of the Hudson River Park sometime in the future.

So the city proposal at a packed Community Board 2 waterfront committee meeting on Monday to build a new marine transfer station for recyclable waste at the end of the peninsula provoked conflicting responses.

Some saw the proposal as a betrayal of the city promise to devote the peninsula to park use and keep garbage off the waterfront. Opponents also feared that diesel-fueled trucks and barges would pollute the air and the river.

The peninsula, located in the angle between Little W. 12th and Gansevoort Sts., looks like a pier but is really the remnant of a block-wide landfill created in the mid 1800s that extended from W. 10th St. to the mid W. 20s.

Kate Ascher, an executive with the city Economic Development Corp. told the meeting that the city has not yet decided on the location of the marine transfer station, but if it were on the Gansevoort Peninsula it could be built without altering the design of the proposed park extension.

But the project would bring up to 60 trucks and two barges moved by tugs to the peninsula. Recycling trucks would arrive on Route 9A from Lower Manhattan and from neighborhoods to the north.

Ascher said a new environmentally efficient “green” facility could enclose as many as 35 trucks at a time dumping recyclable metal, glass, plastic and paper into barges for transfer to a proposed new recycling processing center on the Sunset Park waterfront in Brooklyn.

The transfer station, part of a citywide recycling system, would also be an education center that would allow school children and adults to see the process and learn about recycling and the environment, Ascher said.

The current marine transfer station, unused for several years, would be rebuilt in a new position closer to the proposed service road for the existing fireboat pier extension on the north side of the peninsula. Ascher said there would be no outdoor queuing of trucks, the dumping into barges would be enclose and controlled to prevent recyclables from falling into the river.

Several environmental advocates at the meeting said they welcomed the Bloomberg administration’s new commitment to recycling, announced on Tuesday. But the big plus for parks advocates was the likelihood that the city and state would come up with money to transform the peninsula to park use sooner if it also included the transfer station.

“This is going to be an expensive part of the park to build – there’s a tremendous price tag on the Gansevoort part,” said Albert Butzel, president of Friends of Hudson River Park, adding that including a marine recycling transfer station “would have a significant effect on the government money for the park.”

But Stu Waldman, a West Village resident, indicated that trading a fast-track park for an unacceptable use on the peninsula was a devil’s bargain.

Ann Arlen, a former member of Community Board 2 who headed the environmental committee, said that air pollution from diesel fuel is a leading cause of asthma and that the tugs that move barges are the most polluting of all vehicles.

Noting that recycling trucks would arrive at the proposed transfer station on Route 9A, Zack Winestine, a West Village activist, said the project would make air quality worse for joggers and bike riders in Hudson River Park.

“The presentation is disingenuous at best,” added Winestine, “Would it be an education center for school children? How many school buses do you expect? West Side development is growing – what about the future?” he asked.

Ellen Peterson Lewis, another West Village activist, remarked that the transfer station would move raw recyclable material. “None of it will be sanitized. There is some inevitable putrescible material and it stinks,” she said.

Ascher acknowledged that there would have to be a system of odor control. The project, which she stressed was not a certainty, would also require state legislature amendment to the Hudson River Park Act.

“The only way this can get built is if there are answers to hard questions about pollution levels,” said Jim Tripp, an environmentalist and solid waste management advocate. “Just because this is a park, we’re going to have to be careful about this project.”

Don MacPherson, chairperson of the community board waterfront committee who conducted the Monday meeting, noted that the board had previously taken a position that no municipal services should be located on the peninsula. “That doesn’t mean that we refuse to discuss the issue,” he said.

But the committee declined to make a recommendation to the full board which meets Sept 23.

Connie Fishman, president of the Hudson River Park Trust, reminded people at the Monday meeting that the Department of Sanitation has frequently failed to meet its timetable to remove facilities like the salt pile from the peninsula. The marine transfer could help speed the process, she said, but it would require an amendment by the state legislature to the Hudson River Act that created the Trust and the five-mile park being built from The Battery to 59th St.

A final decision on the project could be as far as seven years in the future. The proposed Gansevoort project or an alternative somewhere else in Manhattan would be connected to the mayor’s plan to build a $45 million plant in Sunset Park Brooklyn. The city would be joined in the project by the Hugo Neu Corporation, one of the largest recycling companies in the nation, in a 20-year contract to handle all of the city’s recyclables. The plant would receive metal glass and plastic from marine transfer stations in the five boroughs and process it for ultimate sale to manufacturers.

Currently, sanitation collection trucks take recycled paper to the 59th St. Marine Transfer Station to be taken by barge to a commercial paper firm in Staten Island. Recycled metal, glass and plastic goes by truck via the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels to a Hugo Neu plant in New Jersey. All Manhattan garbage goes by truck to American Refuel, in Montvale, N.J. for incineration.


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