A law firm recently contacted our oceanography research group with a request for research on whether or not the Marine garbage Transfer Station (MTS) proposed for 91st Street in Manhattan would cause navigational problems. If we were willing to do some research into the question, they would be ready to have a “preliminary discussion about the cost and scope of our work”. So, I plotted up a map of the typical average current around Manhattan, which reaffirmed for me that the site is actually very well-chosen for its safe navigational conditions.
A little background: New York City is planning to build the MTS so that they can reduce emissions from garbage trucks and long-haul trucks, as well as to stop trucking our garbage through mid-town to neighborhoods in Newark and Jersey City. This question of navigational safety is another front being opened in the Upper East Side community efforts to stop the MTS. They have also claimed that we should stop the MTS because it will be bad for the environment, which I repudiated in a recent Op-Ed.
Representative Carolyn Maloney commented on the navigation issue in a July 2011 press release announcing that the ACE would solicit public comments on the MTS plan. She said:
“The dock that the City is proposing to construct for this ill-conceived site for a garbage transfer station would pose a threat to the delicate marine habitat of the environmentally sensitive East River ecosystem and cause potential disruptions to maritime traffic in the aptly named Hell’s Gate section of the East River, an area of that busy waterway that is notoriously difficult to navigate[.]”
In 2008 testimony to the ACE regarding the MTS, State Sen. Liz Krueger said:
“The proposed MTS site would require a larger facility than the one that previously existed. The new facility would be built out into the Hell’s Gate (sic) section of the East River. The Hell’s Gate section of the East River is already difficult for ships to navigate and an expanded MTS would at the very least make the passage even more difficult to navigate and could increase the possibility of a serious accident. For such an economically vital waterway we cannot allow this scenario to become a reality.”
This site isn’t really in what’s typically perceived by mariners to be Hell Gate (see below), so much as it is in a calm-water embayment off to the side (it should be given a name — how about “Barrio Bay”). Ship traffic mostly follows East River out to Long Island Sound, so doesn’t go behind the small island (Mill Rock) into this embayment, so there is no obvious reason why the new expanded MTS would cause navigational danger or problems of any sort. Historically, at least prior to about ~1915, there actually were many piers in Barrio Bay, and these were eventually filled in and covered by the highway (check out the “greatest grid” exhibit at the Museum of City of New York).
So, to me, this is just another one of many flailing efforts to stop the MTS with any means possible (and with high-priced law firms). Yes, one must respect the reasonable concerns of residents that the trucks could worsen safety or air quality locally in Yorkville. However, nothing presented so far has convinced me, or the City Council, or the State Department of Environmental Quality (Impact Review PDF), that these changes will be anything more than incremental — currently, a highway runs right past here, and many large trucks already speed down avenues in this area (York and First Ave). I live in the neighborhood and fully support their building the MTS.