Costs Expected to Triple, NYC Taxpayers Will Spend Billions on Trash

SWMP Fails to Redistribute Environmental Burden, Increases Harm

Recommendation: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle to Create a Sustainable Future for NYC


NEW YORK, NY (February 12, 2014)—Today, Pledge 2 Protect released a landmark report, “Talking Trash:  A Modern Approach that Protects Communities, Increases Recycling and Reduces Costs,” assessing the attainability of New York City’s Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) goals and highlighting its negative citywide environmental, health and cost effects. The groundbreaking report cites many sources and newly acquired data from a report by Gladstein, Neandross and Associates and presents the new administration with environmentally sustainable policy alternatives to the SWMP. The report shows that the current system is antiquated, relying largely on waste transport and calls for the city to refocus the SWMP on reducing, recy­cling and reusing waste; reducing tonnage will reduce the need for transfer stations.  Link to report:


“The SWMP was an admirable plan with well-intentioned goals, but new data cited in our report makes it clear that key aspects of the plan do not advance those goals and do more harm at an astronomical cost to taxpayers,” Kelly Nimmo-Guenther, President of Pledge 2 Protect said. “New Yorkers need the City to push the pause button on the outdated 2006 SWMP.  The de Blasio administration has the opportunity to create a truly sustainable waste management system to take NYC into the future.”


“It is blatantly obvious that placing a transfer station in the heart of a community that is home to thousands of low-income families and people of color outrageously contradicts the goals of the SWMP,” said Bertha Lewis, President of The Black Institute. “This is a huge injustice to a community that is at an exponentially higher risk for health-related issues from exposure to this dangerous marine transfer station (MTS) and the hundreds of trucks that will roll through and idle along the streets of East Harlem and Yorkville. This report backs up all of our fears, and I urge the Mayor to reconsider the construction of MTSs and to find a more equitable and greener way to handle the City’s waste.”


Key Findings from P2P’s Talking Trash Report:

  • The SWMP does not help the Brooklyn, Queens and Bronx communities that currently bear a significant portion of today’s waste disposal. At its maximum permitted capacity, just 1.6% of the City’s commercial garbage—and only 1.3% of the in-City truck miles—will be diverted to the proposed East 91st Street MTS in Manhattan, a key component of the SWMP. This is not enough to perceptibly relieve waste-related traffic or pollution in the communities where commercial waste private transfer stations are located.
  • The SWMP is antiquated and focuses on waste transport rather than on reducing, recy­cling and reusing waste. New York City recycles at an alarmingly low 15%—far below the SWMP’s goal of 25% by 2007 and its more recent goal of 33% by 2020. It lags significantly behind other U.S. metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles (45% recycled) and Seattle (56% recycled), as well as the national average of 35%.
  • By adding the East 91st Street MTS, the SWMP hurts a new community of low-income New Yorkers and tens of thousands of children and seniors. The new MTS will exacerbate existing air-quality issues in East Harlem and Yorkville, a community, which is one of four remaining “hot spots” of sulfur dioxide pollution in the City and one that is already fraught with childhood asthma. It would be located directly next to the not-for-profit sports and fitness facility, Asphalt Green, where tens of thou­sands of children and seniors from around the City benefit from free life-saving and other physical edu­cation programs. The MTS site neighbors three New York City Housing Authority developments that are home to 5,700 low-income residents, including approximately 1,590 children and 2,010 seniors.
  • Costs for implementation of the SWMP have ballooned far beyond the original estimates. The costs to carry out just the MTS portion of the previous administration’s SWMP have already nearly tripled to $708 million. This is a 265% increase since 2006, according to the most recent DSNY budget. The projected 20-year total cost for the East 91st Street MTS alone is over $1 billion, $600 million more than the status quo to export waste from just four of twelve Manhattan Community Districts.


Recommendations from P2P’s Talking Trash Report:

  • Create a comprehensive long-term solid waste plan that reduces the tonnage of the City’s waste.  The SWMP does not address reducing the overall tonnage of the City’s waste and increasing the amount of recycling and composting. The SWMP furthers the City’s reliance on trucking – more than 90% of solid waste-related truck miles are unaltered by this plan. NYC can manage its waste in a more efficient, cost effective and sustainable way that will reduce the impact on residential neighborhoods. A simple start is to launch an aggressive recycling and composting program for all City schools and public agencies.
  • Suspend the plan to build the East 91st Street MTS, review and evaluate the similar Southwest Brooklyn MTS. With the capital cost estimates for the four planned MTSs increasing by 265% and the detrimental impact on the health, safety and environment caused by the MTS system, the City needs to push the pause button on the SWMP.  According to the IBO, the suspension of the East 91st Street MTS would save the City $26 million in the first fiscal year alone, and more than $600 million would be saved over the next 20 years. Although the IBO has not studied cost escalations at other MTS locations, we urge the de Blasio administration to review similar MTS plans—especially the cost impacts of the Southwest Brooklyn MTS—before proceeding further.
  • Use the savings from the East 91st Street MTS and po­tentially other proposed MTS plans to provide effec­tive and timely solutions to communities in need of relief from pollution from the current waste manage­ment system. For example, by incentivizing private carters to retrofit or replace their commercial waste trucks so that they comply with new EPA standards and laws (e.g., new Local Law 145), the City could clean up our diesel burning trucks and reduce the particulate emissions from solid waste removal by 70%.


“It’s important that NYC deal with the garbage it produces in a way that protects New Yorkers and does not damage communities.  As a City, we have accomplished great things – building the aqueduct pipeline, rebuilding the World Trade Center, surely we can reduce the amount of garbage produced and catch up to the rest of the nation (if not surpass) them in recycling,”  stated former Governor Mario Cuomo.


“I opposed the SWMP as adopted by the previous administration. This new report issued by Pledge 2 Protect offers a thorough blueprint for alternative solid waste management and should be closely reviewed by the Sanitation Commissioner,” Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer said. “The City has a choice to make going forward: the expensive haul-trash-away model or an approach that emphasizes source reduction, recycling, and waste-to-energy in a way that reduces the need for haul-away infrastructure and improves health and safety over the long term. That’s the approach that Pledge 2 Protect has done so well to outline here, and they are to be congratulated for their contribution to the debate.”


About Pledge 2 Protect

Pledge 2 Protect is a growing coalition of residents, organizations, businesses, educators and parents working together to protect the health and safety of tens of thousands of New Yorkers by stopping the construction of a dangerous and ill-conceived garbage station, the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station (MTS).  Major waste facilities do not belong in ANY residential neighborhood anywhere in the city.