Waste transfer stations worry Queens leaders

The city unveiled its updated plans for its new waste transfer stations near LaGuardia Airport and Newtown Creek.
By Ivan Pereira

The city Sanitation Department updated Borough President Helen Marshall and community leaders Monday on its plans to build two new transfer stations in Queens, but Marshall said she is still concerned over the facilities’ im pact on the surrounding neighborhoods.

Harry Szarpanksi, a deputy commissioner for the department, showed off a presentation on its construction of the North Shore marine transfer station in College Point and a waste transfer facility in Sunnyside during the Borough Board meeting.

The facilities, which are still years from full operation, were designed to decrease costs and end the use of long-haul trucks that transport waste in the city, according to the commissioner.

“Once these facilities are up and running, there will be no truck trafficking routes out of the city,” he said.

The College Point marine transfer station will collect trash from neighborhoods east of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, load the waste into specially designed containers and ship it off to another facility via a barge, Szarpanksi said.

The facility has sparked concerns from residents and elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside), over the ecological effects it could place on the surrounding area, especially LaGuardia Airport. Critics have said the facility’s garbage could attract more birds to the area, which could pose a threat to flights coming in and out of the airport.

Szarpanksi reassured Marshall and various members of the borough’s community boards that when the facility begins operation sometime in 2013, it will be safe and not disturb the community. He showed diagrams and plans of the station, including its high-tech loading and container machinery, and said all operations would be done in an enclosed space to prevent the escape of odors.

The second waste station, located near Review Avenue in Sunnyside, will be using the rail system near Newtown Creek to get the waste out of Queens and leaders have expressed their doubts about the project.

The facility, slated to begin construction sometime in November, would manage, store and transport roughly 2,100 tons of waste a day from western Queens , according to Szarpanksi.

Lydon Sleeper, chief of staff for City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), said he was worried about the logistics of the station — especially its use of the non-public railroads in the area.

“We need to have a conversation on what it means to put it on rail and rail it through neighborhoods,” he said. “You wouldn’t want a [garbage] truck and put it next to someone’s home.”

Szarpanksi said preliminary plans include installing a treatment system to neutralize the odor in the building’s exhaust air and the use of airtight containers.

Marshall said she was frustrated by the foot-dragging in getting the facilities up and running since the idea of the transfer stations was in the planning stages when she was a councilwoman.

“What’s taking so long?” she asked.

The sanitation commissioner said several delays and long planning have contributed to the late opening of the facilities, but reassured the borough president that the agency was committed to making them a reality soon.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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