Dear Congressman Ackerman:
I am writing to respond to the concerns you have raised regarding the North Shore Marine Transfer Station (MTS) that will be constructed by the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) in College Point, Queens. In your recent letter to the Acting Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), dated March 4, 2009, you suggest that the facility will attract birds and that its proximity to LaGuardia Airport increases the potential for bird strikes, posing a potential safety threat to both the community and the flying public. I assure you that that is simply not the case.
As you know, DSNY went through a project review process with both the FAA and the Port Authority to ensure that the various concerns, including birds, with respect to the facility’s proximity to LaGuardia Airport were addressed. After conducting aeronautical studies, the FAA concluded that the MTS would have no substantial adverse effect on safety and efficiency of airport operations at LaGuardia and issued a “No Hazard Determination” to DSNY. Furthermore, The FAA Advisory Circular cited in your letter states that enclosed waste-handling facilities are compatible with safe airport operations as long as they are not located on airport property or within the Runway Protection Zone (RPZ). The North Shore MTS will be fully enclosed, is not located on airport property and is not within the RPZ.
The MTS will be a three level facility explicitly designed for the indoor transfer of solid waste from collection vehicles into sealed leak-proof containers that will be transported by barge. Waste will be delivered to the MTS inside closed collection vehicles that will enter at the top level through rapid roll-up doors and tip waste onto the second level of the facility, away from the entrance door. The waste will then be pushed through openings in the floor into leak-proof containers, lids will be placed on top of the containers, and each container will be cleaned and sealed. The sealed containers will then exit through rapid roll-up doors. At no time will waste be exposed to the outdoors, which would be the main attraction to the facility for birds.
The North Shore MTS has significant differences in its design and operation versus facilities like the Waste Management Harlem River Yards Transfer Station (Harlem River). DSNY’s Staten Island Rail Transfer Station, which has a more similar design and layout to the North Shore MTS, accepts waste in fully enclosed collection vehicles, compacts it, and then places it into sealed containers, all within the fully enclosed facility. Since inception in 2006, we have not seen an attraction of birds to the facility, the containers, or the collection vehicles. I invite you to visit the facility and witness first-hand the fact that a fully enclosed waste transfer station does not attract birds.
Lastly, I would like to remind you of the importance of the North Shore MTS in the context of the broader Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP). The North Shore MTS is one of four MTSs that will allow us to fundamentally transform the way the city handles its residential waste and recyclables by replacing the largely truck-dependent network employed today with a barge- and rail-based network. The plan will eliminate nearly six million miles of truck trips per year and ensure that every borough has the capacity to handle waste and recyclables, thereby reducing truck congestion and improving air quality for all New Yorkers, goals critical to the long-term sustainability of our city. The SWMP was adopted by the City Council and approved by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in 2006, and has strong support from the local Community Board, the Queens Borough President, the City Council, and an array of civic and environmental groups.
I hope that this letter addresses your concerns. If you would like to tour the Staten Island facility, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
John J. Doherty is the Commissioner of the NYC Department of Sanitation