Gravesend residents got an unwanted early Christmas present Monday when the city started construction on a controversial waste transfer station.
Elected officials held an emergency meeting with residents shortly after work began on Dec.22 to denounce the city’s decision break ground on the facility during the holiday season when locals would be distracted.
“That is absolutely irresponsible and it is reckless the city has engaged in irresponsible conduct and pushing to do this quick — right in the middle of the holiday season when they think people wouldn’t be able to organize against it,” said Assemblyman William Colton (D–Bensonhurst).
He also faulted the city for beginning construction before the lawsuit, which is on appeal, settles whether the project can go ahead at all. The assemblyman sued to block the station in 2012 and lost, but he filed an appeal in November.
“Right during the appeal, which, if the appeal is won by us, means that whatever money they spent will be wasted,” Colton said.
The city insists that it’s actions are all perfectly legal.
“All permits required by law are in place. The city has never been ordered to stay construction activities, and we are confident that the city will prevail on appeal,” said Craig Chin, a spokesman for the Department of Design and Construction.
The facility now being built at 400 Bay 41st St. will collect trash from the surrounding neighborhood and then transfer it to barges to be shipped out of the city, and is required by the city’s 2006 Solid Waste Management Plan. The trash transfer station was planned under the Bloomberg administration, but Colton said it is the De Blasio administration that will reek of injustice if it is completed.
The site, which hosted a garbage incinerator from the 1950s to the 1990s, is contaminated with pesticides such as Chlordane and Mirex, and has high concentrations of lead and mercury, and Colton worries than construction could pose an local health hazard. But the assemblyman said the city is continuing construction despite the negative impacts because it says there are already many trash transfer stations in Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint handling the borough’s garbage, so Southern Brooklyn needs to host its share — but Colton blasts that logic.
“They say they want to spread out the injustice more broadly — but hey, if something is wrong, you don’t try to spread it out equitably, you try to eliminate the wrong,” said Colton. “If someone has cancer, you don’t say ‘We want the cancer to spread out more evenly.’ You cut the cancer out because otherwise, you don’t survive.”
Colton said the city should emphasize expanding the recycling program, since the city still only recycles a small percentage of its trash. One local agreed that building waste transfer facilities is an backward-looking way to handle an expanding garbage load that better recycling could reduce.
“They’re putting the health of citizens at risk for a transfer station that is going to be outdated before it is even built,” said Brian Gotlieb.