If I were to write that as a headline — which I just did — you’d probably think I was lying. In fact it’s the absolute truth. This is what he wants to do. This is not a local issue. It’s a test of character. To be in favor of this dump requires an indifference to poor people and children that is stunning.
Six of the nine Mayoral candidates, including Democrat Bill Thompson and Republican Joe Lhota are against the dump. Many other people running for many offices, both Democrat and Republican, are against it. Elliot Spitzer, running for City Comptroller, is against it. Jessica Lappin, running for Manhattan Borough President, has been against it for years. They are against it because it is going to cost the city an enormous amount of money and makes no environmental sense for anyone. At all.
That Bill de Blasio is for the dump is particularly odd because he’s worked so hard to distance himself from Bloomberg’s other city policies that brutally intrudes on its citizens. When it comes to this massive intrusion, however, they are as close as two bags of garbage compacted into one.
The dump is entirely a Bloomberg idea and made political sense for him. During his many years in office, he had to struggle to get the black vote. Some of New York City’s dumps, or waste transfer sites, are located near (though nowhere near as this one) to poor minority neighborhoods in the Bronx and Brooklyn. By offering to build a garbage site in the Upper East Side, he satisfied a kind of inter-borough racial bitterness based on old or faulty information and got himself a lot of minority votes that, as a rich white guy living in the Upper East Side, he wouldn’t otherwise have got. (The truth is that since this all began everything has changed and NONE of New York’s city garbage trucks take garbage to, or even through, any other borough. The problem has to do with private carters.)
Technically this new site IS located the Upper East Side, but to portray it as a dump on the rich is like saying that when it rains in Seattle you need an umbrella in New Orleans.
The dump will actually be in the furthermost north-eastern corner of Yorkville which is in the furthermost north-eastern corner of the Upper East Side. It is as far away from rich white people as you can possibly get and as close to East Harlem as is possible without having to admit that these are the people you’re actually going to hurt. Bloomberg – and this may come as a surprise to you – lives nowhere near the dump. He lives way south over by Central Park.
The dump made political sense for Bloomberg, but it makes none for de Blasio, which is why it is so odd he’s slavishly following the outgoing mayor on this. De Blasio doesn’t need any of Bloomberg’s garbage chicanery. He’s already doing well in the African-American neighborhoods, the whole “Upper East Side Dump” scam will eventually blow in several different ways – geographically, socially, environmentally and economically – and he could lose the East Side and East Harlem vote for nothing.
A few facts:
Under the Bloomberg/de Blasio plan, garbage will be picked up from as far west as 8th Avenue and as far south as 14th Street. It will then get driven all the way UP THROUGH THE CITY to 91st Street on the far east side of the island where it will get loaded onto barges and get dragged all the way BACK DOWN THE CITY along the narrow East River by tugboats that are far more toxic than the trucks.
In the summer the prevailing winds blow from the south-west, which will push much of the pollution up into East Harlem and the Bronx. In the winter they blow from the north-west, which will blow the cancerous toxicity from the tugboats into Queens and Brooklyn.
The access ramp to the dump – which will be ten stories high and cover 2 acres – will literally cut a large non-profit recreational facility used by 31,000 city kids in half. A lot of these kids come from public schools in East Harlem and the Bronx, but they also come from every other borough. Most have no other place to go.
Within the 400 foot buffer zone usually insisted on by the Department of Sanitation is a 2200 person public housing project and two public parks. Within a quarter mile, there are 6500 minority residents and over 1000 living in poverty.
No garbage site has EVER been put so close to such a densely residential area in New York City. The only reason the city can get away with this is that the area is still absurdly classified as a manufacturing zone even though there is virtually NO manufacturing here.
Bloomberg and de Blasio will build this 2 acre, ten-story high garbage processing factory in the most dangerous kind of flood zone in New York City, Flood Zone One. They are putting the whole city at risk of a catastrophic environmental disaster that could cost millions if not billions to clear up.
If the dump was flat-out illegal, which it clearly should be, one could admire a certain abominable strength of character in Bill de Blasio for sticking to his guns. But it’s not illegal, or not yet; it’s just sly, creepy, sleazy, hypocritical, racist, dishonest, and stupid.
That’s why this is not a local issue, but a test of character that all New York voters should pay attention to. Yes, because of old zoning laws, you can put a dump next to 31,000 kids and the poor, racially mixed residents of a large public housing projects. Yes, you can get away with putting a dump next to two parks and in the middle of an area filled with schools and hospitals. Yes, the Army Corps of Engineers (those flawless judges who did so well for us in New Orleans) have approved it being built in Flood Zone One.
But is it RIGHT?
Judge for yourself. Go and take a look (or study the photos on the Pledge2Protect site). To see is to be astonished. I’ve only seen garbage dumps this close to residential neighborhoods in Mumbai and Rio. Go and stand by Asphalt Green, where the playing fields are, and note how the place will be carved in two. Quinn was invited to do this, but didn’t bother to show up. Bill de Blasio went, but, though he seemed very uneasy about the whole thing, hasn’t yet changed his mind.
Luckily, Mayoral candidates Democrat Bill Thompson, the black son of a public school teacher, and Republican Joe Lohta, the white son of a cop, did come and take a look. And, though it’s not an issue that can be spun to their political advantage, they reached a simple, decent human conclusion: this is wrong.
This is why I’ll be voting for Bill Thompson for Mayor in the primaries. And if things don’t work out for him, I will – for the first time ever – vote for a Republican, Joe Lhota.
I have written two article about this, here and here, and a lot of good information can be found at http://pledge2protectnyc.org/facts-about-the-dump/. Suffice to say, that if you do any research, and it’s not hard, you’ll see the dump is going to harm everyone in every borough. It’s a scandal waiting to happen.
Perhaps the most terrifying document you can find is the city’s own engineering report. Google “Engineering Report for the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station Waste Containerization Facility”. The reports you’ll have access to (though there are some oddly missing pages) describe the millions of tons of garbage that will be processed here, how the smell of the garbage will be “deodorized” before being expelled into our air, how the garbage will be shoveled around and processed under the watchful eye of rat-catchers, and why there’ll have to be radiation detectors at the gate…