Garbage In, Garbage Out

| 17 Feb 2015 | 12:58

Tracking the most contentious issue on the East Side

For Upper East Side residents within breathing distance of E. 91st Street, no issue will be more pressing in 2014 than the progress ? or setbacks ? of the waste transfer station slated to go up along the river. Despite avid community opposition to the plan to tear down the defunct Marine Transfer Station (MTS) at the site and construct a new one, the city has already begun the first phases, sending truckloads of debris from the demolition out daily.

Last year was the year for residents, along with sympathetic politicians and other local leaders, to mount a fierce battle against the city's plan. Lobbying groups coalesced into one mega-opponent, Pledge 2 Protect, and enlisted the help of high-powered public relations teams to blast the plan in the media and to anyone who would listen. Several different lawsuits have been winding through state courts, trying to stop the plan on technicalities, since it's been approved at every level of city government. State Assembly Member Micah Kellner still has an active suit against the city. If he were to prevail, the city council would be required to reconsider the entire Solid Waste Management Plan, of which the Transfer Station is a big part, based on what Kellner alleges are grossly incorrect estimates of the quantity of trash that the facility will process.

But regardless of what victories may still be on the horizon for those opposed to the trash station, 2014 is likely to be the year the plan pushes forward. Demolition of the old site is already well underway, and if it clears the legal hurdles, the city could start construction on the new one this year as well. Incoming Mayor Bill de Blasio has been noncommittal about the project, erring on the side of approval, citing environmental justice issues. Opponents may need to brace themselves and change course from a path of strident opposition to one of cooperative mitigation, working with the city to get some concessions where possible if a complete victory isn't.

It's a bleak possibility for those who have petitioned, rallied, passed out flyers, bugged politicians and shouted from the sidewalks for years now against this plan, but it's also a chance to coordinate their considerable energy into holding the city accountable for at least constructing the safest, most environmentally friendly waste transfer station Manhattan has ever seen.