Controversial Gravesend waste transfer station will be good for the environment, city says

Waste not: The city’s controversial and years-in-the-making Southwest Brooklyn Marine Transfer Station in Gravesend, at Shore Parkway and Bay 41st Street, finally opened on Oct. 1.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

The city wants locals to stop taking trash about its newest waste transfer station in Gravesend.

The newly opened facility will process between 700 and 900 tons of garbage hauled in trucks to the site everyday — but that will ultimately improve traffic conditions and air quality, according to the Department of Sanitation — at least when considering the borough as a whole. All that garbage that used to be trucked across town on the roads will now be collected at the waterfront site and transferred onto barges, to be carried over water to rail facilities elsewhere, according to a spokeswoman from the agency.

“The Southwest Brooklyn Marine Transfer Station will export waste by barge-to-rail, which will reduce traffic and lessen pollution and environmental impact on communities along major truck routes,” said Dina Montes.

The controversial waste transfer station at Shore Parkway and Bay 41st Street opened on Oct. 1, and will accept waste from the communities that make up local community boards 11, 12, 13, and 15 — which include Bath Beach, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Mapleton, Borough Park, Kensington, Midwood, Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Sea Gate, Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, and Gerritsen Beach — according to Montes, who said garbage from those neighborhoods were previously sent to transfer stations in Red Hook.

The waste will then be sent via barge and rail to landfills upstate or in Virginia, she said.

Local activists and pols protested the station even before the $152 million construction project began in 2014, arguing that it would lead to increased truck traffic and air pollution and unearth toxic chemicals from the site’s history as a city garbage incinerator that operated without a permit for 40 years.

But Montes said soil sampling revealed that the area only contained “slightly elevated levels of lead — a not uncommon condition on an industrial site in New York City,” adding that the agency excavated and removed the contaminated soil from the site in December 2015. The spokeswoman insisted that the pesticides Chlordane and Mirex were not formerly used at the site, but that sediment samples found that the pesticides were present in “near non-detect levels” due to their wide use throughout the borough over the past several decades before they were banned by the Environmental Protection Agency.

And though some locals said unexploded munitions scattered across the bottom of Gravesend Bay proved that the site wasn’t fit for the waste transfer station, the Sanitation spokeswoman said the city never found the bombs on the sea floor during past dredging.

“No munitions were found during the dredging that was previously done when the former [Department of Sanitation] facilities operated at this site for four decades, nor were any found during the dredging that was done in 2015,” Montes said.

Construction on the station was briefly halted last year when workers found asbestos — a notorious carcinogen — on the site. Montes said the asbestos was removed in April 2017, just one month after it was found.

But longtime opponent of the facility Assemblyman Bill Colton (D–Gravesend) — who launched a lawsuit against the station in 2012 — said he was not convinced that the site had a clean bill of health, and that he blames the mayor for finally building the station that had been in the works since it was announced in 2005.

“I think it’s a very big disappointment and that it’s going to be a very serious problem for the neighborhood,” Colton said. “This is Mayor DeBlasio’s garbage station and therefore he will be responsible for all the negative consequences that will follow from it.”

The local pol added that he wanted his constituents to keep an eye on operations at the site and report any problems — such as odors, noise, and traffic congestion — to the city, adding that he hopes to convince the newt mayor to shut down the station once Hizzoner departs Gracie Mansion for his native Park Slope.

“We are going to be calling upon the people in the community to be very vigilant and to report any problems, any incidents that occur,” Colton said. “It is my hope when we get the next administration that we can get them to close this site so it does not do any damage.”

The district manager of the local Community Board 11 declined to comment, and Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island) — who repeatedly protested against the site in the past — did not respond to multiple inquiries.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.

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