Roughly 400 kids — over 200 from the nearby Stanley Isaacs Holmes Towers and hundreds from neighboring local schools  — unfurled a 1500-foot long banner to wrap the 5.5-acre Asphalt Green sports facility (playing field, playground and Acqua Center) to protest the construction of a massive garbage facility smack in the middle of their recreation area as well as one at Gravesend Bay.

Children wrap a banner around Asphalt Green to protest garbage stations

children wrap poster around asphalt green to protest city's garbage plans for marine transfer stations

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The children numbered in the hundreds but were standing up for the 34,000 children from all over New York City — many of them from low-income families — who use these sports facilities. Stretching 6 city blocks, the banner covered the entire perimeter from the north end of Dekovats playground (York and 92nd) down to 90th Street and across to East End Avenue along the entire length of the field and the basketball area. The banner was decorated with over 1,200 children’s drawings and letters to the City, expressing their health and safety fears if the garbage stations are built.

Pledge 2 Protect President Kelly Nimmo-Guenther speaks at rally

Pledge 2 Protect President Kelly Nimmo-Guenther Speaks at Rally

“As I look around and see all the precious faces of these children I am even more baffled as to how the City could put them in harm’s way,” said Pledge 2 Protect President Kelly Nimmo-Guenther. “Who would build a trash station practically on top of them?…Pledge 2 Protect is here today for the children. We are standing with them to say they are not invisible – leaders of New York City, supporters of this garbage station: See them. Hear them.”

Video: Children chant “we don’t want to get sick!” to protest the city’s garbage plans 

Pledge 2 Protect President Kelly Nimmo-Guenther greeting kids

Pledge 2 Protect President Kelly Nimmo-Guenther Greeting Kids

Look at these children eating ices in the summer heat and asking their mothers if they can have a cookie — the epitome of childhood innocence. Now picture them trying to avoid getting hit by up to 500 garbage trucks that will roll right by them 24 hours a day, 6 days a week, driving into and out of the ramp that divides the sports fields from the Aqua Center. It’s an incongruous image, right? It’s also just plain wrong.

children protest future marine transfer stations at pledge 2 protect rally in front of asphalt green

In addition to the safety concerns, there are significant health concerns. “Children are at heightened risk for adverse health effects from pollution than adults. Recent studies have shown that increases in particulate matter from garbage trucks and the garbage facility will increase chances of children having respiratory illnesses including asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and increased risk of cancer later in life,” said Dr. Hindola Konrad of Doctors Who Pledge to Protect.

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children protest city's garbage plans

So why is the city planning to construct a massive garbage facility in a residential area frequented by children, seniors, and pets?

As explained by Capital New York, “The placement of the transfer station is part of an effort started under the Bloomberg administration to build garbage sites in areas other than poor neighborhoods. But residents point to a New York City Housing Authority Development just around the corner.

‘I am a NYCHA resident,’ Regine LaCourt said at Friday afternoon’s rally. “We have a lot of low-income families that live here, too … I am appalled, I am saddened, I am hurt and I am angry.’” (read the full Capital New York article)

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Contrary to the picture that is often painted of the rich Upper East side, the East 91st Street MTS will be located within several hundred feet of NYCHA housing and 11-feet from a toddler playground and within a quarter-mile of 16 schools. It will be the only MTS located in the middle of a residential area.

Councilman Dan Garodnick

Councilman Dan Garodnick

NY State Senator Liz Krueger

NY State Senator Liz Krueger

Councilman Dan Garodnick and State Senator Liz Krueger attended the rally and stand in longtime opposition to the construction of the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station.

“If this is built, nothing is going to change for poor, overburdened communities,” Krueger said. “This was a bad idea created about eight or nine years ago. It didn’t make sense then and it doesn’t make sense now.” (source: Capital New York)

This is supposed to be a progressive, modern city, right? Well, since the original garbage plans were laid out in former Mayor Bloomberg’s Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP), a lot has changed. Not only have costs for the structure escalated into the stratosphere, the area was hit hard during Super Storm Sandy, with the back side of Asphalt Green on East End Avenue flooded under feet of water. There’s another appalling image for you. Just picture thousands of tons of waste spewing through the streets of Manhattan the next time a super storm hits. Which it will.

Super Storm Sandy Flooding by Asphalt Green (at night)

Super Storm Sandy Flooding by Asphalt Green (at night)

As Nimmo-Guenther said, “The fact remains that a garbage station in any residential neighborhood anywhere in the City is not right. The facts show a garbage station at this location is not the right decision for New Yorkers here or New Yorkers in the Bronx, Brooklyn or Queens. The facts show the Bloomberg’s garbage plan is outdated and antiquated.  Right goals, wrong execution. Building costly new transfer stations focuses on moving trash, rather than on source reduction, recycling and reuse. There are significant health, environmental and safety concerns related to building these garbage stations in residential and environmentally vulnerable areas.

So, when these children ask, ‘Why is the City Doing This to Us?’ — how will the City answer?”

We — and the 34,000 children from across New York City who call Asphalt Green their oasis and outdoor home — call on the City to push the pause button and stop these misguided plans which will put children and residents in harm’s way and not provide real relief to overburdened communities. A lot of harm will be caused with barely any gain.

It’s time to admit that circumstances have changed. We need a new solution.