By Stephen Stirling
Amid a growing parade of Queens politicians calling the safety of a planned College Point marine waste transfer station into question, city Sanitation Department Commissioner John Doherty said last week the facility will not pose any increased risk of bird strikes to aircraft leaving or arriving at LaGuardia Airport.
In the wake of American Airlines Flight 1549 crashing into the Hudson River after a bird strike in January, city, state and federal politicians have piled on the city’s plan to build a marine transfer station in College Point that would be used to transport much of northern Queens’ trash away from the city by barge.
The transfer station would be located about 2,200 feet from one of LaGuardia Airport’s main runways in the College Point Corporate Park, and borough politicians contend trash constantly arriving at the facility will attract birds that would present a direct hazard to planes using the runway.
“I assure you this is simply not the case,” Doherty wrote in a threeâˆ’page letter to members of the Queens congressional delegation last week.
During the course of the letter, Doherty said the Sanitation Department consulted extensively with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which administers the airport, and the Federal Aviation Administration, which gave the project a “no hazard determination” in September to insure the transfer station would have no adverse impact on air travel in the region.
“Once constructed, the MTS will be a threeâˆ’level, overâˆ’water facility explicitly designed for the indoor transfer of solid waste from collection vehicles into sealed leakâˆ’proof containers that will be placed on barges for transport directly to a disposal site or to an interâˆ’modal facility,” Doherty wrote.
But critics of the proposal, such as U.S. Reps. Joseph Crowley (Dâˆ’Jackson Heights) and Gary Ackerman (Dâˆ’Bayside), City Councilman Peter Vallone (Dâˆ’Astoria) and state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (Dâˆ’Astoria) are not convinced.
“We believe it’s nearly impossible to contain garbage entirely,” Crowley said at a press conference last week, noting the smell would still attract birds.
Gianaris, meanwhile, said too many lives are potentially at stake to move ahead with a plan that does not have the full support of the surrounding communities.
“In light of the close call with U.S. Airways Fight 1549, we must take every step we can to protect passengers in the air and residents on the ground,” said Gianaris. “Surely we can find a location for a garbageâˆ’handling facility that is a safe distance from one of the nation’s busiest airports.”
Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by eâˆ’mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718âˆ’229âˆ’0300, Ext. 138.