Railroaded Out

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More than 500 Hunts Point residents packed a school auditorium last month to loudly protest a proposed waste transfer station that would bring some 5,200 tons of garbage a day through their small South Bronx neighborhood.

Hunts Point community groups have been in nearly constant battle with state and city officials in recent years over the increased truck traffic that waste transfer sites bring to the neighborhood. But according to American Marine Rail, which is floating this most recent proposal, this new transfer station wouldn’t add more trucks. Instead, trash from all five boroughs would be brought to the site by water in sealed barges. The garbage would then be transferred to rail cars inside a specially equipped building, and shipped out by train.

But residents claim the proposal is doomed to fail. The rail system in the area is already overcrowded, they say, and cars full of rotting garbage often sit in station yards for days at a time.

At the hearing, residents demanded that environmental officials require the rail company to complete a comprehensive environmental impact statement, instead of the shorter form the company filed. Angry residents also accused public officials of allowing their neighborhood, which already has 23 transfer stations, to be flooded with more garbage and trucks.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation “has never seen a [waste transfer station] proposal in the South Bronx that it doesn’t like,” says Paul Lipson, executive director of The Point, a local community organization. “It happens again and again and again.”

American Marine Rail was given a tentative go-ahead by both the city and state environmental agencies. The ultimate decision rests with a state environmental judge, who is now considering the plan.