After decades-long fight, smelly sanitation trucks will no longer be parked on Astoria street

Photo via Google Maps

Garbage trucks parked near a garage operated by the Department of Sanitation have caused headaches for residents of the Ravenswood Houses in Astoria for years.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who said he has been pressing the city to move the site and stop the trucks from being parked in the area since his first year in office in 2010, announced that the Department of Sanitation on Monday will no longer be storing garbage trucks outside of a garage at 34-28 21st St.

“It’s a decades-long problem and the people of Ravenswood in my district have led this fight for over 20 years to remove the trucks from double parking in the streets,” he said. 

Van Bramer said he brought up the issue with Mayor Michael Bloomberg but “didn’t get traction” and had a similar experience with Mayor Bill de Blasio until a blizzard in 2016.

When the mayor came to visit Astoria to check on snow removal, the councilman, along with Ravenswood Tenants Association President Carol Wilkins made sure to walk past the garage during their tour.

“All the trucks were lined out on the street and we took that opportunity to say to him personally [that] this is an environmental justice issue, this is a Vision Zero issue because the trucks made it really dangerous to cross the street along 35th Avenue and I said to the mayor, ‘This is the biggest thing that you can do to make life better for a lot of people in Ravenswood,” Van Bramer said. “I think he took that to heart.”

During a town hall in Long Island City last April, residents again brought up the issue of the garage and the mayor announced that he had allocated $142.6 million to relocate it.

“Not only [have] a lot of the members of the community obviously raised this very powerfully, the councilman has raised this during the last snowstorm,” de Blasio said in the town hall.

Though the city promised residents that the trucks would stop idling in the area by last summer, they did not meet that deadline, according to Van Bramer. But last week, he received a letter from the Department of Sanitation saying that trucks would no longer be parked on the street.

According to Belinda Mager, a spokesperson for the Department of Sanitation, the city has operated that garage since the 1930s.

“The neighborhood has grown through the decades, and to meet the needs of the expanding neighborhood, our equipment fleet has also grown,” Mager said. “The old facility is just not adequate to contain the current neighborhood needs. We recently finalized an agreement that will help alleviate overcrowding at the garage, allowing us to move some trucks off site for parking.”

The construction of a new site will take several years but Van Bramer argues that the trucks no longer idling around 35th Avenue “makes a big difference.”

“There’s a playground right next to the depot and basketball and handball courts right adjacent to it as well,” Van Bramer said. “My first year as a council member I sponsored a basketball tournament on a hot summer day. All the kids were running around playing basketball but the smell in the court from the garbage trucks was really intense. It was a stench that no child should have to smell while they’re playing in the neighborhood playground.”

He said the community, including Wilkins, are “elated” and that a bus driver who transports senior citizens to and from the Ravenswood Senior Center stopped his bus on the street to shout out that this relocation is “a great thing.”

“He said it was always really dangerous to pick up the seniors and deliver them home in a sea of garbage trucks,” he said. 

According to the Department of Sanitation, construction on a new site will begin in 2021 and is expected to be completed in 2024.