Bill Thompson’s declaration Thursday that he opposed plans for an upper East Side waste transfer station drew one of the sharpest attacks yet from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn – who accused him and other plant opponents of standing for higher asthma rates for kids in poor neighborhoods.
The controversial E. 91st St. trash plant is part of a solid waste plant to spread the city’s trash burden – now clustered in neighborhoods in north Brooklyn and the South Bronx – more evenly around the city, but it has raised fierce opposition from locals worried about its proximity to public housing and the recreational site Asphalt Green.
Quinn, the only mayoral candidate who has firmly supported the plant throughout the race – sometimes drawing boos from upper East Side audiences – laid into its opponents after Thompson’s speech.
“I think that the days of environmental racism have to come to an end. We have for far too long in the city of New York put all of the municipal refuse into low income neighborhoods. And what has that meant? It’s meant truck after truck after truck rolling through places like Williamsburg and the south Bronx, causing asthma rates in those communities amongst Latinos and others to skyrocket. We need to stop that. We need to recognize that every neighborhood needs to do its fair share in dealing with New York City’s garbage,” she said.
“Every borough has to do its fair share in taking care of its garbage. No community regardless of how much money that community has is going to be exempted from its municipal responsibilities,” she said. “And if that community is allowed to be left off the hook, make no mistake about it, it means more trucks in Williamsburg, more trucks in the South Bronx, and more asthma in communities which already have some of the highest asthma rates in the city if not in the country. It’s just wrong. And I don’t care how many times I get booed on the upper East Side, I’m not changing my position.”
She upped the ante further when asked about Thompson, saying opponents are standing for more asthma for poor kids. “Anybody who isn’t…supporting the 91st St. facility is standing for raising asthma rates in places like Williamsburg and the South Bronx. You can’t always have it both ways. And you can’t have it both ways in this case – you’re either for reducing asthma rates in low income communities of color by getting trucks off the road, or you’re not. It’s that simple,” she said.
Thompson, who had been on the fence on the issue, came out forcefully against it Thursday morning, our Tina Moore reports. “This is a bad site,” Thompson shouted over a bullhorn at a small protest at 91st St. and York Ave. “It’s a site that I’m standing against. It’s a site that I think is wrong.”
He said he wanted to review Mayor Bloomberg’s entire waste plan and find a way to spread trash handling responsibilities around the five boroughs that did not include the E. 91st St. site, though he did not specify an alternative location.
On Twitter, Thompson’s campaign manager hit back at Quinn after her comments. “Leave it 2 CQ 2 put politics over principle, pit boro v boro. She knows @BillThompsonNYC promised fair share 4 every boro #shame #notkidding,” he wrote.
“.@Quinn4NY accuses @BillThompsonNYC of enviro “racism” 4 fighting waste site that exposes the MOST minorities #flail,” he tweeted, along with a chart saying there were more children and minority residents living within a quarter mile of the E. 91st St. site than other marine transfer station sites.
Prince further said in a statement: “Unlike Speaker Quinn, Bill Thompson believes it’s a terrible idea to dump garbage and exhaust fumes on top of a playground. No site in the city’s proposed waste plan exposes more children or more minorities to environmental hazards than the 91st Street location. We all know the Speaker doesn’t have much patience for principle, but now we know that when she loses control she can’t be bothered with the facts either.”
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Controller John Liu both voted for the plan on the City Council, but have since questioned it at public forums. De Blasio clarified Thursday that while he wants residents concerns to be addressed, he still supports the facility.