August 22, 2011
Department of the Army Corps of Engineers
New York District
26 Federal Plaza, Rm 1937
New York, NY 10278-0090
Re: Public Comment – Supplemental Public Notice No. NAN-2008-000927-EHA
(Re: East 91st Street MTS)
Dear Ms. Handell,
I am President of the East 93rd Street Block Association which represents many neighborhood residents in the East 90’s. We are in strong opposition to the proposed 77,000 square foot, 10-story high garbage transfer station (a marine transfer station or “MTS”) to be built by the NYC Department of Sanitation (“DOS”) on the East River estuary at 91st Street as it will not only destroy our much revitalized community but the environmental impact both on our residents and adjacent marine wildlife in the East River estuary will be devastating and “unavoidable” (p.1, East 91st Street Converted MTS Proposed Wetland Mitigation Plan. May 31st, 2011).
The proposed garbage station will be in the center of a densely populated neighborhood and the entrance ramp will bisect the children’s playing field and aquatic center of Asphalt Green, serving over 14,000 children: 10,000 who receive free services as well as 100,000 athletes and spectators annually. The pollution generated by the diesel fueled garbage trucks which will traverse our neighborhood day and night and idle on the ramp next to the open playing fields will clearly create long term health concerns for our young athletes as well as neighborhood residents. This garbage truck to barge transfer station will be constructed 280 feet from low and middle income housing and will be surrounded by a densely populated neighborhood filled with public schools, shops, apartment buildings, and 4-story walk ups – a community which is ethnically and economically diverse. The new facility will be open 24/6 to both private and city sanitation trucks hauling more than 5,000 tons of garbage a day and will be implemented under the much misused term “environmental justice“. *
For more than 40 years this site and the surrounding neighborhoods which include thousands of economically-challenged residents of New York City Housing (NYCHA) have been subjected to rats and other vermin, as well as the stench of garbage and pollution created by the previous incarnation of the garbage transfer station at this same location. Since that facility’s closing more than a decade ago in 1999, both the neighborhood and the East River estuary have experienced a renaissance or “rebirth”. With the opening of Asphalt Green – which includes one of the most important examples of post-modernist architecture by Kahn + Jacobs, as well as an athletic playing field and aqua center and the estuary of the East River with its unique combination of salt and fresh water have created an abundance of aquatic life – from striped bass to tautogs as well as crabs, eels, shrimp, flounder, perch and oysters.
This area has become a marine and wildlife nursery and the riverbed with its nooks and crannies, its piers, pilings and walls is prime territory for fish to deposit their eggs and for young fish to hatch and mature. The return of this important aquatic wildlife habitat has led to the return of various birds in the form of herons, egrets, ducks and cormorants. While the DOS was able to collect a sampling of fish eggs and larvae at the site as far back as 2003 which is more than 8 years ago it simply does not reflect the number and types of fish that are being caught today. We believe that this data is far too old to be considered. Any fisherman along Bobby Wagner Walk Way near Carl Schurz Park and adjacent to the MTS site will tell you that we have some of the best fishing : “ Upper East Side urban anglers don’t need to travel to Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx or Long Island to go fishing” (NYCfishing.com). The pier at 107th Street is another favorite for fisherman as well. The DOS sampling from 2003 does not include: small Stripers, big Blues; Fluke, Bass, Bluefish, Schoolie Bass and Striped Bass. The resurgence of Striped Bass which is protected under the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act (the “Act”) is not taken into account in the DOS studies on maritime wildlife in this area of the estuary which is actually a tidal strait which leads to the Atlantic Ocean and by inference should be protected under the Act. Given the importance of this particular fish population which is subject to tight regulation – would the Army Corp of Engineers not be concerned about the adverse effect the MTS would have on this protected species? Nor is there a sufficient impact study done by the DOS to ascertain what permanent damage to the waterways and the river beds would occur as the result of the dredging for future barge operations of the MTS.
Furthermore, the proposed MTS is not a “reconstruction” or a “conversion” of the existing MTS site as the DOS misleadingly states on page 1 of their mitigation plan (East 91st Street Converted MTS Proposed Wetland Mitigation Plan., May 31st 2011). Instead the DOS will demolish and construct a far larger structure at East 91st Street adjacent to the East River and physically change the land and water footprint forever. The mitigation plan further states that the over water footprint will be increased from 0.81 acres to 1.79 acres more than twice the size of the existing structure. In addition the new MTS would have a barge moored at the site on an ongoing basis with a footprint of 0.15 acres. Furthermore this so called “reconstruction” is to be built in a Hurricane Flood Zone A, one of Manhattan’s lowest-lying flood plains that is frequently flooded with large amounts of water from the East River during severe rainstorms. A garbage facility such as the new MTS which is to be built into the water will clearly contribute contaminants, run off water and toxins to the already fragile eco-system of this estuary. Simply stated this is a recipe for environmental disaster. The DOS further accepts and states in their mitigation plan that there will be serious and permanent damage to the “water ways” and that the proposed mitigation plan is to address “unavoidable impacts” to open waters resulting from its construction. The DOS’s mitigation plan calls for the creation of an additional open water habitat in the South Bronx and Brooklyn, far removed from the Manhattan site of the MTS. We strongly believe that the DOS should not be permitted to impact the wild life habitat at East 91st Street and the East River if it is unable to fulfill its mitigation obligation at this location. Nor should the Brooklyn location which is situated in Upper New York Bay be considered mitigation for a structure that impacts the East River estuary. The mitigation proposed is insufficient and the remedies are totally inadequate.
For all of the above reasons we strongly urge the Army Corps of Engineers to reject the DOS’s request for a permit. Clearly the construction of the new MTS is a very serious and monumental project which will create enormous environmental issues for this area which will be “unavoidable” and irreversible. We respectfully ask that the Army Corps of Engineers not rush to approve this project which will have such negative and lasting ramifications for our residents, the land, waterways, the wildlife and aquatic habitats of the East River estuary. We ask that new scientific testing and analysis be conducted by an impartial body which will be relevant to the present 2011 conditions in the East River.
Our Association, on behalf of the residents of Yorkville and East Harlem, respectfully requests that further opportunity be given to review the new data once it is collected and that further hearings on this permit be provided as defined under the EPA definition of “environmental justice”, so that our residents can have a voice and “equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.”
Very truly yours,
Tara K. Reddi
East 93rd Street Block Association
______________________________________________________________________________________ *According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. EPA has this goal for all communities and persons across this Nation. It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.”