Article, photo and video by Alex Mattina
After a decade of construction, the Second Avenue Subway is finally running on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Residents of the neighborhood, however, are bracing for more change and disruption as work continues on what will be one of the city’s largest garbage collection sites, the 92nd Street Marine Transfer Station.
Adjacent to 92nd Street and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive and directly behind Asphalt Green, a soccer field and children’s park where tens of thousands of children play every year, the main structure of the Transfer Center is completed, with the interior still to be built. More than 5,280 tons of garbage and 100 garbage trucks are expected to pass through the station daily.
Unsurprisingly, many residents and officials are opposed to having the garbage transfer center in the neighborhood, citing air quality, asthma rates, the smell and the danger to children and others.
Community concern over traffic safety heightened in 2016 after a local resident , 55-year-old Jodi McGrath, was killed by a garbage truck while crossing the street. McGrath was a resident of Holmes Tower, public housing connected to the larger Stanley Isaacs public housing complex.
The city recently approved the construction of a 92nd Street ramp going through where the southbound entrance of the FDR Drive exists today. It would connect to and go straight down the block where McGrath was struck, adjacent to the Holmes Towers, the Stanley Isaacs complex and DeKovats children’s park.
“The administration’s plan to build a Marine Transfer Station — the only such facility in a residential neighborhood – will bring many more trucks through this dense area and make it all too likely for tragedy to repeat itself,” said City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the area. “Garbage trucks and residential neighborhoods don’t mix, and we must stop hundreds of trucks from driving through residential side streets that are already dangerous.”
The Department of Sanitation has a different view. “I absolutely believe that the Marine Transfer Center can function in harmony with the community, and we will continue to serve the community to the best of our ability,” said Jose Atkinson, deputy commissioner of solid waste management.
He continued, “There will be 70 trucks from all five boroughs delivering the refuse on two shifts a day six days a week. Four barges will pick up and transfer the refuse a week.”
Given the advanced state of construction and the city’s determination, there seems little likelihood that the project will be halted.
The newly approved $30 million 92nd Street, which is not scheduled to be completed until 2020, is supposed to steer the trucks away from the field and kids. Under this plan, the trucks will essentially surround the Stanley Isaacs public housing complex, turning north on to First Avenue from 92nd street.
A larger issue than the location of the Marine Transfer Center is why New York City recycles less of its garbage than many other places. A protest sign near the Marine Transfer Center reads, “Austria and Germany 60%, Los Angeles 45%, National Average 35% and New York City 15%,” referring to the amount of garbage recycled.
Kallos recently introduced a bill at the City Council that would force all restaurants to separate all garbage into recyclables and plastics, compost and paper.