There's clamor of an upcoming garbage-dump crisis rising from the city's waterfront neighborhoods, but New York's Top Trashman doesn't want to hear about it.
As the city plans to shut the Death-Star-sized Fresh Kills dump on Staten Island, officials are gearing up to begin shipping 13,000 tons of residential waste out of state each day. But a new coalition of waterfront communities says those plans will likely include a greater reliance on small privately-owned waste transfer stations located in neighborhoods that already house most of the city's small, smelly waste stations–including Greenpoint-Williamsburg, the South Bronx, southeast Queens and Red Hook.
“This was the first expression of the post-Fresh Kills garbage policy and it doesn't look too good,” said Eddie Bautista, a community organizer who helped put together the Organization of Waterfront Neighborhoods (OWN). The group is calling for a moratorium on the opening of new transfer stations. “Our neighborhoods have enough of this garbage already. We're letting the city know we don't want any more.”
Last Wednesday, representatives of OWN's 20 neighborhood-based member organizations filed into the City Council chamber, taking advantage of a hearing on the privatization of the Department of Sanitation's South Bronx marine waste facility to air their broader concerns. Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty was invited to testify, but refused to attend or send any of his aides.
His absence may not have been a bad idea. In early 1996, Doherty's deputy, Michael Carpinello, admitted at a Council hearing that the city had failed to comply with a law requiring that new transfer stations not be placed in overburdened neighborhoods. Last month, a state Supreme Court judge quoted Carpinello's words in an order forcing the Giuliani administration to obey the law.
The city is expected to appeal the ruling. Calls to the sanitation department's press office on Friday were not answered.
On Wednesday, environmentalists leveled broadsides against the absent administration. As he rose to testify, Carlos Padilla of the South Bronx Clean Air Coalition squeezed a squeak from a foot-long black rubber rat. “Look, I've brought along the commissioner of the sanitation department,” he quipped.
“Now, now, don't be picking on rats,” responded Councilmember Kathryn Freed, the Manhattan Democrat who chaired the hearing.