The date scheduled for the closing of the huge Fresh Kills dump in Staten Island is January 1, 2002, which just happens to be the day Mayor Rudolph Giuliani leaves office. But there’s a good chance the mayor won’t meet the deadline, City Limits magazine reports in its January issue.

At the heart of the Giuliani promise is a plan to create a system to ship most of the trash far away, probably to Virginia, in big barges owned by some of the country’s largest waste management corporations. To do so, the city must also set up at least three transfer stations–enclosed garbage dumps–in the poorest and most environmentally blighted waterfront communities in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Now the neighborhoods, along with a coalition of environmental and advocacy groups, are vowing to fight the mayor’s plan. A similar coalition killed a plan to place a garbage incinerator in the Brooklyn Navy Yard five years ago.

“I’m skeptical of whether they will close Fresh Kills at all,” says Barbara Warren of the New York Toxics Project, a Staten Island resident who has battled to get the dump closed.

The first skirmish of this coming garbage war took place last week, when community residents in the South Bronx pressured Borough President Fernando Ferrer to halt a plan to locate a 5,000-ton-a-day marine transfer operation in Hunts Point.

On January 5, Ferrer staffers met with about 20 activists to discuss the terms of a possible “Community Host Agreement” between Bronx Borough Hall and American Marine Rail, the company that wants to build the facility. Instead, the activists demanded that Ferrer oppose any attempt to dump on their turf.

“It’s a dangerous,” said Paul Lipson, associate director of the Point, a Hunts Point community group. “[Ferrer] can’t be against this project and at the same time negotiate for a host agreement. It undercuts your negotiating leverage…we are only enhancing the chances that this facility will come to the Bronx.”

“We didn’t expect so many folks who had a very radical disposition,” Berndt Zimmerman, Ferrer’s director of planning, admitted. “There are the radicals….saying there should be zero tolerance. I think the jury is still out as to where the community wishes to go.” Zimmerman added that AMR has already applied for state environmental permits.