Why the East 91st Street MTS and other MTSs are WHITE ELEPHANTS

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Mayor de Blasio’s Zero Waste Plan to reduce solid waste 90% by 2030 makes a mockery of the implementation of the Bloomberg Solid Waste Management Plan and specifically the E. 91st. Street MTS.

While the Mayor’s new plan represents one reason why MTSs are white elephants – something which provides little to no benefit and is too costly – it is not the only reason why Marine Transfer Stations are obsolete white elephants. Should the City fail to meet the Mayor’s Zero Waste goal by 2030, MTSs will remain white elephants.

As proclaimed in P2P’s undisputed Talking Trash Report issued in early 2014, there are MANY reasons why the East 91st Street MTS and other MTSs are white elephants, including:

  • The MTSs are part of an antiquated practice of waste transport and do not advance sustainable waste management

o   MTSs actually further the City’s reliance on trucking – in fact, more than 90% of the City’s solid waste-related truck miles are unaltered by the current SWMP.

o   The City is spending billions on MTSs when it could instead be allocating much needed funding to sustainable solid waste programs that aim to reduce waste, such as recycling, composting, reducing and reusing.

o   The Mayor’s new Zero Waste goal, which aims to reduce solid waste 90% by 2030 makes a mockery of building and operating several of the MTSs.

 

  • The cost to build and operate the MTSs are astronomical – far outweighing their value

o   Costs have ballooned far beyond anticipated levels. As of May 2012, costs for overall SWMP infrastructure were already 78% – or $426 million – over budget.

o   The 20-year projected cost of building and operating the East 91st Street MTS has increased to $633 million as opposed to the projected costs of maintaining the interim export plan at $253 million.

 

  • The MTSs pose serious health risks to New Yorkers, especially children

o   The East 91st Street and Southwest Brooklyn Marine Transfer Stations put vulnerable populations including children, seniors and low-income families of color at increased health and safety risk due to increased truck traffic and increased pollution

o   Toxic diesel fueled garbage trucks and tug boats that enter and exit MTSs emit toxic air pollutants that are 2.5 microns in diameter. Exposure to these tiny particles is linked to asthma, COPD, bronchitis and cancer, placing hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers at risk of disease.

  • Air pollution at E. 91st St. MTS will increase by 16%
  • 18% of East Harlem’s school-age children already suffer from asthma – among the highest in the City
  • Child hospitalization rates are expected to increase by 8%

o   Necessary dredging at the SW Brooklyn site will expose nearby residents to highly-concentrated amounts of extremely toxic chemicals such as mercury, lead, and arsenic, as well as now-outlawed insecticides and pesticides such as Mirex at the bottom of Gravesend Bay. Additionally, dredging may potentially ignite any of the 1,500 live bombs designed to explode on contact that have been buried at the bottom of the Bay since 1954.

 

  • The MTSs pose serious safety risks to New Yorkers

o   The ramp of the East 91st Street MTS is located at an intersection that sees over 400,000 children and pedestrian crossings each year. It is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ an accident will happen – possibly fatal.

o   Both the East 91st Street and Southwest Brooklyn MTSs are located in proven high-risk, flood-prone areas, both of which were severely flooded during Superstorm Sandy. In fact, if built prior to Sandy, the E. 91st St. MTS would have been inundated by floodwater, destroying critical electrical components costing $25 million and taking six months to return to service.

 

  • The MTSs do not advance environmental justice

o   Rather than solve years of environmental damage, these two projects create new dangers for additional communities. Under the guise of borough equity, the SWMP pits one neighborhood against another.

o   Neither the E. 91st St. MTS nor the SW Brooklyn MTS will improve air quality in overburdened communities nor alleviate truck traffic in Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx, but they will do harm in new neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn. In fact, both East 91st St. and SW Brooklyn, Gravesend Bay site are no stranger to the burden of solid waste management. East 91st St was operational for over 50 years and Gravesend Bay illegally operated an incinerator resulting in increased cases of cancer, asthma and other serious chronic ailments throughout the diverse Yorkville/East Harlem and Brooklyn communities.

 

  • The MTSs do not provide relief for overburdened communities

o   Despite the symbolic placement of an MTS at East 91st Street in Manhattan to address “fair share” and “borough equity”, wasting millions on the political East 91st Street MTS does not address either. Manhattan already handles 100% of it’s own residential waste without relying on any other borough and it will not significantly shift the commercial waste transport from the status quo.

  • The East 91st Street MTS will dispose 4 of 12 Manhattan districts residential garbage shifting it from trucks to dirty tugboat-driven barges traveling along the East River to Staten Island. Manhattan’s eight other districts will continue with the current truck-based system that is in place today.
  • The permitted capacity of the East 91st Street MTS will only enable the diversion of 1.3% of the truck miles associated with commercial waste—not enough to alter truck traffic or pollution in the neighborhoods overburdened with commercial waste.

 

  • The siting of the East 91st Street MTS ignores the spirit of the City’s own zoning rules designed to protect children

o   City regulations would actually forbid a facility like the East 91st Street MTS from being built so close to parks, playgrounds, public housing and schools, if it were privately owned and operated.

o   Title 16 of the Rules of the City of New York states that “any new transfer station shall be at least 400 feet from a residential district, hospital, public park or school.”

o   While the regulation does not cover a City-owned facility (or a grandfathered nonconforming use, as is the case with the East 91st Street MTS), the City is ignoring the spirit of the zoning rule, which is designed to protect children.