Greenpoint and Williamsburg have long been overburdened with facilities no other community wanted, resulting in a plethora of environmental ills. One of the most burdensome is the concentration of waste transfer stations that process garbage not only from our own neighborhood, but from other parts of the city. North Brooklyn currently hosts nearly one-third of all the solid waste land-based transfer stations in the city.
In 2001, the city closed the Fresh Kills landfill, located on Staten Island, which had been the primary repository for the city’s residential waste since it opened in 1947. Until the closure of Fresh Kills, garbage had been transported to the landfill primarily by barge. In preparation for the closure, the city started exporting its garbage to remote locations in Virginia and other states by truck. Before being shipped out-of-state, the garbage must be transported by collection vehicles from its location of origin to waste transfer stations, where it is consolidated before being loaded on tractor-trailer trucks for the trip out of the city.
One of the largest concentrations of waste transfer stations in the city is in North Brooklyn, where 19 cluster around the Newtown Creek, processing close to 40 percent of the city’s garbage that passes through waste transfer stations. While some use barge or rail for exporting, the vast majority of the ones in our neighborhood use tractor-trailer trucks. This means that our streets are inundated with truck traffic, much of it diesel, causing pollution, congestion, noise and other problems.
In 1999, OUTRAGE (Organizations United for Trash Reduction and Garbage Equity), a coalition of Greenpoint and Williamsburg community groups, was formed to address the proliferation of waste transfer stations. Together with OUTRAGE and other groups, GWAPP has taken advantage of opportunities to reduce the amount of solid waste that passes through North Brooklyn, especially the truck traffic that delivers it.
In 2006, the city adopted the comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP), which makes recommendations for handling municipal waste city-wide. It includes a plan to implement marine transfer stations, which transport garbage out of the city via barge instead of truck. Because a single barge can carry up to the equivalent of 28 tractor-trailer trucks, construction of marine transfer stations has the potential to greatly reduce the number of truck trips. In preparation for passage of the SWMP, GWAPP asked the city’s Department of Sanitation (DOS) to conduct studies in connection with the related environmental impact statement.
In a 2004 position paper submitted to DOS, GWAPP asked that the following be included in the draft environmental impact statement:
- A re-analysis of the impacts of commercial waste. The study conducted previously concluded there would be “no adverse impacts” on our community from truck traffic carting commercial waste to and through the neighborhood. The study was obviously flawed.
- A study of possible new on/off ramps that could be included in the Kosciuszko Bridge Replacement to greatly reduce local truck traffic leading to any new transfer station.
- An analysis of best alternatives for eliminating truck traffic in residential areas, keeping it within the boundaries of the “Significant Maritime Industrial Use Area” defined by the state Coastal Zone Management Plan.
- A study to determine borough self-sufficiency. Each borough should handle its own garbage.
- A study of 1) closing existing land-based transfer stations as new marine and rail transfer stations are opened and 2) halting all new permits for commercial solid waste stations in Community Board #1.
- An accounting in all truck traffic impact studies of increased neighborhood traffic resulting from the waterfront rezoning.
Today, GWAPP, OUTRAGE and other community groups are fighting to make sure that the marine transfer stations and other mitigations promised in the SWMP are carried out, reducing truck traffic and related problems.
- GWAPP: Comments to the Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan Scope for the Proposed Greenpoint Converted Marine Transfer Station & Brooklyn/Queens Alternatives – PDF (25KB). July 2004
- NYC DOS: Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan – Executive Summary – DRAFT – PDF (2.2MB). October 2004