Charges of “environmental racism” filled the air as hundreds of Canarsiens turned out for a public hearing on a proposed medical waste transfer station for the community.
During the extended hearing, the standing-room-only crowd made it clear that they oppose the facility, which has been proposed by CMW Industries for 100-02 Farragut Road.
The hearing was organized by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and held at the Remsen Heights Jewish Center, 8700 Avenue K, a location that was criticized by one speaker, the Reverend Edward Kane, as being too distant from the site. “If you think this is a large gathering tonight,” he remarked, “just imagine what it would have been if it had been held closer to the area.”
As much as 15 tons of regulated medical waste could be sent to the facility each day. But, while an engineer representing CMW tried to make the case that neither the medical waste nor the traffic would pose a potential danger to nearby residents, the crowd at the hearing clearly disagreed.
Tim Wolf, an associate with the engineering firm Malcolm Pirnie, contended that waste brought to the facility would have no impact on the community, because it would be inside sealed boxes, that would be transferred from smaller vehicles to tractor-trailers within an enclosed area. There would be a maximum of 30 trucks a day going to the facility, including up to four tractor trailers, he said.
“There’s no disposal, no exposure,” Wolf told the group. “It’s basically just a transfer station.” There would be no emissions, odor or noise, Wolf contended.
His listeners disagreed, pointing out that the site is not only near homes, but also schools, houses of worship, a transportation hub and NYPD and FDNY stations.
It’s a matter of “peace of mind,” stressed former Assemblymember Frank Seddio. “My family has been in Canarsie for 90 years,” Seddio said. When they first moved in, he added, “This was a wasteland. My concern is that we not become a wasteland again. A lot of things that don’t go anyplace else end up in Canarsie. We are threatened by this.”
Assemblymember Nick Perry concurred, contending it would bring an “increased health risk to the residents of the area.” With, “no access to the site except through residential streets,” should there be an accident, “The consequences to families living in the area could be catastrophic,” he stressed.
“We have land transfer stations in the district, we have bus depots in the district,” pointed out City Councilmember Charles Barron. “They wanted to build a wood-burning incinerator in the district. This is racism in the rawest terms. They can take this somewhere else. There is someplace in the city where there are no residents, no day care centers, no schools.”
“This wouldn’t happen on Fifth Avenue,” agreed State Senator John Sampson. “It wouldn’t happen on the east side. It wouldn’t happen on the west side of Manhattan. It’s interesting that the only other facility of its kind is in the South Bronx, and we know what the health conditions there are.”
With asthma a significant concern of many who spoke, given the increase in truck traffic that the facility would bring, Mercedes Narcisse, who owns a medical supply company, told DEC that “Sales of nebulizers are booming in my company. Prevention is better than sorry,” she added.
Property values would be negatively impacted, said Democratic District Leader Melba Brown. “I was hoping my house would be something to pass on to my children and grandchildren, but it’s going to be compromised by the medical waste transfer station,” she said.
“I feel strongly that Canarsie is home,” added Steven Kaye, vice president of the South Canarsie Civic Association. “It’s not a toxic waste dump, and this does not belong here, or in any other residential neighborhood. Not here. No way. Never.”
If the proposal is approved, among the waste that could be handled at the site are formaldehyde and mercury, which could be held on site for up to 10 days. The facility would be open for operation, according to the DEC notice, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
But that is something that very few who attended the hearing would like to see. To prevent the facility from opening, Brown warned, “Our community will do whatever these circumstances compel us to do, and we make no apology.”