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Tall fences may make good neighbors, but not even the highest fence will console Williamsburg residents if the local USA Waste recycling plant succeeds in becoming a 5,000-ton-a-day municipal solid waste transfer station. Now that the state agency that originally okayed the transition is retreating, residents can breathe a temporary sigh of relief.

Earlier this year when USA Waste applied for a permit to become a waste transfer station, the state Department of Environmental Conservation ruled that the plan wouldn't hurt the community, which is already home to 23 such garbage stations. But last week DEC ordered the company to pay for an independent Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which will take several months to complete and could provide the basis for halting the project for good.

“Obviously we don't want the permit issued,” said Cathleen Breen of Neighbors Against Garbage. “But we feel that if the EIS is done, it will show the [waste transfer station's] effect on the community.”

USA Waste abuts the land where the state hoped to buy space for a waterfront park. Two weeks ago, the owner of both sites sold the trash giant the parcel it had been leasing–but also set aside the potential park land so the state could buy it.

Park proponent Samara Swanston, executive director of the Williamsburg/Greenpoint Watchperson Project, said USA Waste shouldn't get too comfortable because the community is ready to fight: “Just because they bought the property doesn't means they won.”