A Bensonhurst lawmaker said this week he has devised an elegant solution to the neighborhood’s waste transfer facility problem: move it to Sunset Park.
“The area near First Avenue and 58th Street is in the middle of an industrial location with access to water that is deep enough to transport barges into and out of the site. That should satisfy the Department of Sanitation’s requirements to open up a waste transfer station,” argued Assemblymember William Colton.
Colton said the new site is a far better location than the city’s proposal, which envisions the construction of a solid waste management facility at Shore Parkway and Bay 41st Street, where 4,290 tons of municipal solid waste would be processed each day.The proposed 88,290 square feet facility would be built entirely over land at the location of Sanitation’s Southwest Brooklyn incinerator, which was razed in 2005.
Colton has been loudly opposed to the Bensonhurst locale, calling it wholly inadequate, because of its proximity to local schools, parks, senior housing and residential complexes. He said that unlike the city’s current plan, which is awaiting approval by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Department of Sanitation (DOS) would have to dredge the shallow waters at the foot of Gravesend Bay near Bay 41st Street in order to allow large barges adequate depth to transport waste to and from the site. “It is that same location that the city’s critics fear will unleash a toxic stew of chemicals buried deep in Gravesend Bay, which was a result of thirty years of illegal incineration,” Colton charged.
At press time, the DOS did not return a call for comment.
Charles Ragusa, who chairs a task force opposed to the waste station, cheered the alternative site, which stands near the Brooklyn Army Terminal, a stone’s throw from Lutheran Medical Center. “The city would save precious tax dollars from not having to repeatedly dredge in Gravesend Bay, they would protect the public’s health from not being exposed to toxic sludge, they would preserve precious environmental habitats near Gravesend Bay — all by agreeing to move to the alternative site,” said Ragusa, a state committeeman in Colton’s 47th Assembly District.
But Sunset Park was hardly keen on the Colton solution.
Assemblymember Felix Ortiz, who represents Sunset Park, only found out about Colton’s proposal when notified by this newspaper. “I told Mr. Colton that I was very disappointed,” Ortiz said. “He should have at least picked up the phone.”
“It’s a little disrespectful to suggest something like that without informing the member [who represents the neighborhood],” the state lawmaker added. Ortiz noted that Sunset Park has some of the highest rates of asthma in the city — making Colton’s recommendation even more galling.
Randy Peers, the chair of Community Board 7, which encompasses Sunset Park called the alternative proposal “an example of dumping on Sunset Park.”
“Tell Mr. Colton that we already have the Hamilton Avenue waste transfer station; a private waste management facility; two sanitation garages; and a private recycling facility. Mr. Colton needs to learn the definition of ‘fair share,’” said Peers.
Meanwhile, Colton has initiated a letter writing campaign urging Governor David Paterson’s intervention to urge the DEC to reject the permit entirely.He said thousands of letters have been already been dispatched, from leaders such as Brooklyn Democratic party boss Vito Lopez, and groups like the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, Natural Resources Protection Association, Urban Divers Estuary Conservancy, and the United Chinese Association of Brooklyn.
DEC spokesperson Maureen Wren said the agency has started to receive the petitions. “Currently, the hearings process is continuing, with the next step being a deadline of Sept 23 for responses to an appeal of a preliminary decision issued by an administrative law judge on July 22,” she said, referring to a determination that the DEC does not have the power to deny a solid waste permit based on issues of public health and safety. “We have to establish a principle here that DEC is responsible for protecting health, safety and the environment,” Colton said. If it doesn’t do that, it has no reason to exist.”