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Give or take a couple of years, New York is facing a real Y2K problem when the Fresh Kills landfill closes on December 31, 2001. At the City Council’s environmental committee hearing on Thursday, Department of Sanitation officials confirmed neighborhood fears that the city is bungling its future plans to deal with the city’s daily load of 13,000 tons of household garbage.

New contracts, under which city garbage trucks will take Manhattan and Staten Island trash to private waste transfer stations and incinerators in New Jersey, are scheduled to kick in by the end of this year. Moving garbage by truck was originally supposed to be the city’s “interim” plan for replacing the Fresh Kills dump. Then a permanent plan, in which garbage would be loaded into barges and floated out of New York, was then supposed to be phased in by the time Staten Island’s beloved dump closed for good.

But with the new trucking contracts to last well beyond Fresh Kills’ scheduled closing day, it looks like no temporary plan. That guarantees that hundreds of trucks a day will rumble over the Goethals and George Washington bridges and through the Lincoln and Holland tunnels until at least the end of 2002.

“The interim contracts look like long-term plans,” worries Peter Gillespie, legal director of the group Neighbors Against Garbage and a Williamsburg resident. Waste transfer stations in his neighborhood have been handling Brooklyn’s residential garbage since last year, turning local streets into stinking garbage truck parades. “You can’t overburden a couple of communities and call it a solid waste solution.”

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