Opponents of a city plan to put a garbage-transfer station along Gravesend Bay have new ammunition in their fight — actual ammunition that they say is sitting underwater.
Assemblyman William Colton (D–Gravesend) has been fighting the city’s plan for a waste-transfer station for more than a year — but now he’s pulling out the biggest gun yet, claiming that unexploded ordnance just offshore could detonate if the city dredges to accommodate larger, garbage-hauling boats
He blasted as “completely insufficient” the city’s environmental assessment of the site, which would be at the Marine Basin Marina, on Shore Parkway at the foot of 26th Avenue.
Indeed, the city’s study of the area did not unearth what Colton says his staff discovered — namely, that on March 6, 1954, an ammunition barge sank in the bay, releasing its explosive contents.
By January of the next year, 400 of the estimated 14,460 unexploded anti-aircraft shells remained in Gravesend Bay, according to press accounts from the era.
Colton said one of his staffers called William Kirk, who was then a seaman on the barge — and Kirk corroborated the story of the sunken ammo.
Reached by telephone at his Pensacola, Florida home this week, the now-retired Kirk told The Brooklyn Paper that “dredging could definitely cause some live shells to explode.”
But the Department of Sanitation disagrees.
“We see no relationship between Colton’s allegations and the proposed Southwest Brooklyn Marine Transfer Station,” the agency said in a statement. “The Navy located and recovered the lost shells [in 1955]. The site where the shells were recovered is two miles away from the transfer station and does not impact this project.”
It’s certainly not the first time Colton has set his sights on the waste-transfer station. Last year, he sought to block the station by claiming that dredging the bay would release pollutants and kill fish.
Over the summer, he even led a flotilla of boats to protest the transfer station.
Nonetheless, the City Council approved the station when it passed the mayor’s solid-waste plan last year. All that’s needed now is a sign-off from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Colton’s explosive press conference on Tuesday came hours before the final state hearing on the transfer station.
And state officials heard a lot.
“We’re all working people, and this is causing so many problems,” said Vincent Praporto, a local activist and resident.
“And now with the bombshells being found in the ground, it’s a mess.”
Along with the specter of live ammunition, the problems of traffic noises and road troubles will be catastrophic, others said.
“These heavy trucks will tear up the streets,” said Michelle Weiss, who has been a Bath Avenue resident for 30 years.
“When do we sleep, now with the added trucks the noise, it is going to be so bad.”
Local elected officials agreed with the residents, stating the pollutants have been dumped at the site since its inception.
“They were simply dumping toxic ash on conveyer belts that would run outside in the open,” said Colton.