A Bensonhurst lawmaker said this week that he’ll sue if the city’s proposal for a garbage facility at Shore Parkway and Bay 41st Street is approved by the state.
“This project poses a great health risk to the community,” said Assemblyman William Colton. “If it is approved, we are prepared to take the case to the State Supreme Court.”
Three years ago, the Department of Sanitation submitted plans to build the facility at the site of a former incinerator, where garbage trucks would transfer thousands of tons of trash per day to barges, which will then be shipped to dumps outside the city.
Since then, the plan has successfully navigated the city’s and state’s stringent approval process, including a 2009 ruling that dismissed public health concerns regarding the amount of pollution trucks going to and from the facility will release, as well as the dangers of toxins being released into the harbor during necessary dredging.
Presently, the plan is awaiting a ruling on Colton’s appeal of that decision. If the appeal is rejected, it’s up to the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation to make the call on whether construction can begin or not.
Barring, of course, legal action.
This isn’t the first time that Colton has tried to stop the proposed facility, which he says is too close to local schools, parks and residences.
Colton commissioned two studies by biologists that prove dredging the bay — which would be necessary in order for the controversial facility at Shore Parkway and Bay 41st Steet to be built — would release toxins that could harm marine life and be a risk to people who eat fish caught in the waters or swim in nearby beaches like Coney Island’s.
Colton hired two different biologists in 2006 and 2008 and both found that 30 years of incinerating garbage at the site had caused serious pollution to the bay. The incinerator, which was in use from 1956 until 1989, was demolished in 2005.
“The site [for the proposed facility] should be treated as a contaminated site,” said Peter DeFur in his report.
Two years ago, Colton brought out the big guns by claiming that unexploded ammunition that has been sitting underwater for more than 50 years could explode if the city dredges the bay.
“We are still concerned about that,” Colton said. However, the Department of Sanitation dismissed Colton’s claims.
The assemblyman also suggested putting the garbage site in Sunset Park, but residents of that community aren’t too jazzed about having another trash dump in their neighborhood.
Sunset Park already hosts a waste transfer facility on Hamilton Avenue and two other city sanitation facilities. “This proposal is dumping on Sunset Park, which is already overburdened,” said Community Board 7 Chairman Randy Peers.
The Department of Enviornmental Conservation will decide if the city can install the garbage facility, but it can’t deny the permit based on the findings of the scientific studies, according to a July 2009 ruling in favor of the city’s permit. Colton appealed last year’s ruling on the grounds that the Department should consider the health risks, and is waiting for the state to review his appeal.
“The July 2009 ruling contradicts the whole purpose of the Department of Enviornmental Conservation, which should be to protect the enviornment and public health,” Colton said.
But even if the state reverses the 2009 decision, allowing the DEC to consider the dredging’s potential dangers, the DEC commissioner may still approve the city garbage facility.
A spokesman for the DEC did not indicate when officials would make a decision, but said that the city’s application includes ways to make the dredging and the waste transfer operations safer. Bensonhurst residents are also eagerly awaiting the DEC decision, as most support Colton in his battle against the facility.
“It’s a battle we’ve been fighting for a long time,” said Carmine Santa Maria, president of the Bensonhurst West End Community Council. “We’re not going to give up on it because our lives are at stake.”