OP-ED: The Dirty Truth

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:11

The city's own rules should prevent the building of the trash transfer station at East 91st Street

By Suzanne Grosso

Yorkville It is offensive that politicians and special interest groups falsely denounce me as an "environmental racist" because I oppose the construction of a waste transfer station at East 91st Street in Yorkville. But it is outrageous that media outlets provide a forum for this incendiary conduct while ignoring an equitable principle already embedded in New York City's rule of law: A commercial waste transfer station does not belong literally in anyone's backyard ? regardless of ethnicity, income, or borough.

The Business Integrity Commission, formerly the Organized Crime Commission, ostensibly monitors the private waste management companies that transport all of the City's commercial trash. Private trucks use a network of outer-borough waste transfer stations that are disproportionately located in low-income communities and communities of color. After belatedly recognizing the harm these facilities inflict on adjacent residential communities, the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY) amended its siting regulations (codified in Title 16, Chapter 4, Subchapter C, Section 4-32 of the Rules of the City of New York). Private waste management companies are now prohibited from building a commercial waste transfer station ? like the proposed East 91st Street facility ? that is located less than 400 feet from the nearest residence.

The DSNY is not subject to these siting regulations, ostensibly because their trucks, which transport the five boroughs' residential trash, must comply with higher environmental standards than private trucks. Although this distinction rings hollow for me, it is wholly irrelevant with respect to the proposed East 91st Street facility. That facility will not provide any relief to overburdened communities if it is used exclusively by the DSNY, since none of Manhattan's residential trash currently passes through the outer-boroughs. t is precisely for this reason that the DSNY plans to contract with private waste management companies to transport commercial trash from the proposed East 91st Street facility. The plan reeks of disingenuousness. Simply put, it cloaks private waste management companies with impunity to endanger adjacent residential communities by engaging in the very same activity that is banned under existing regulations.

To be candid, I do not believe there is anything equitable (let alone sustainable) about (a) placing a commercial waste transfer station in one of the country's most densely populated zip codes, (b) in a borough where tons of commercial trash are generated daily by millions of commuters and visitors from outer-boroughs, (c) pursuant to a solid waste management plan that aims to dump all of the Big Apple's trash in out-of-state landfills. But even if reasonable minds could differ on these issues, there is no room to debate them without first identifying a proposed facility that satisfies DSNY siting regulations. Indeed, there is no room here.