BY DANIEL FITZSIMMONS
PUBLISHED APR 20, 2015 AT 12:42 PM (UPDATED APR 21, 2015)
After months of discussion — and what seems like a lifetime as one of the most-debated issues on the Upper East Side — a decision from city officials on whether to move the marine transfer station’s access ramp one block north has been referred to Mayor Bill de Blasio, according to sources briefed on the issue.
At a March 30 meeting, Dept. of Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia told Pledge 2 Protect, a community group advocating against the MTS on the Upper East Side, that the matter had been turned over to the mayor’s office, and that a decision should be forthcoming in the weeks following the meeting, sources said.
In a statement, Pledge 2 Protect president Kelly Nimmo-Guenther said she believes de Blasio will agree to move the ramp.
“After meeting with the commissioner, we are confident that Mayor de Blasio will agree that moving the ramp is necessary to save lives,” said Nimmo-Guenther. “However, we hope he will realize that this is not enough, and there are other important measures that we have put forward which will further protect New Yorkers.”
In a comment to Our Town, a sanitation department spokesperson said Commissioner Garcia, at a March 25 city council preliminary budget hearing, said that a decision on the ramp would be made in May.
Other sources told Our Town that at a community advisory group meeting last Friday, Tom Killeen, the deputy director for solid waste management operations for DSNY, said a decision on the ramp is about four weeks away.
If the ramp is moved from 91st Street to 92nd Street, in accordance with a proposal floated by Asphalt Green and traffic engineer Sam Schwartz, the sanitation department indicated it may keep the 91st Street ramp for emergency use. After hiring Schwartz to conduct a study on alternative sites for the ramp, Asphalt Green, whose athletic campus would be bisected by the current access ramp at 91st Street, launched an ad campaign last year to convince de Blasio to move the ramp a block north in accordance with Scwartz’s proposal.
Sources said the sanitation department has made other concessions in connection with the MTS but does not go far enough in assuaging community concerns that operating the facility at 91st Street will seriously impact the health of the people who use the center. For instance, the department has agreed to conduct occassional air pollution studies but has not committed to continually monitoring air quality around the facility.
“With continuous monitoring, it would be possible to shut down activity at the MTS if pollution exceeds safe levels, something to which the city has not agreed,” said the source.
In another example, the sanitation department has agreed to put emission-capping pollution controls on city-owned garbage trucks, but will not be requiring private operators who use the MTS to comply with emission caps until 2020.
“The community wants the city to require it now,” said the source.
And while the sanitation department has agreed to place traffic control officers at the ramp, the community is asking for trained crossing guards and NYPD traffic officers at major intersections around the facility. Specific locations for the crossing guards will be determined after a pedestrian safety and traffic study is conducted to determine the best truck routes.
Nearby NYCHA residents are also asking for plantings and/or a solid barrier to create a diesel air and noise pollution buffer zone along the future truck routes and the existing FDR Drive. Also, pollution control air filters on all air conditioning units in Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center and Eisman Day Care center have been requested.
“The commitments already obtained from the city and those being requested are so numerous and complex that continuous monitoring will be needed by the community to make sure that the city keeps its word,” said the source.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article indicated that a decision on the ramp location was “imminent.” Based on new information received after publication, it now appears as if a decision on the ramp location will be made sometime in the third or fourth week of May.