Western Brooklyn

Local Leaders To Sanitation Department: We Don’t Trust You!

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At a rally attended by approximately 150 area residents, Assemblyman Bill Colton and heads of various local organizations blasted a Department of Sanitation plan to install a waste transfer station in Gravesend Bay, saying they don’t trust the organization and will continue their fight to halt construction.

But the Sanitation Department said it’s moving ahead with their plans, anyway.

The opponents gathered on Sunday at the Bay Parkway Promenade next to Caesar’s Bay, toting signs of opposition. Assemblyman Bill Colton spoke against the plan, as did Congressional candidate Mark Murphy, State Senate Candidate Andrew Gounardes, District Leader candidate Ari Kagan and local environmental and neighborhood activists.

At issue is the Sanitation Department’s proposal to reactivate an old Sanitation facility on Bay 41st Street off Shore Parkway, turning it into a waste transfer station where trucks will bring garbage, formally known as the Southwest Brooklyn Marine Transfer Station, load it onto a barge, and ship it out. But, according to Colton, the plan will require dredging of the waters around it, which will stir up a toxic blend of chemicals laying dormant on the bay’s floor, a mix he’s dubbed “black mayonaisse.”

“Scientists have confirmed what many in the community feared…There were unsafe levels of mercury and other harmful toxins found at the bottom of Gravesend Bay. The samples were taken by just scratching the surface rather than by digging deep below the surface where the dredging will reach. This leads others and me to wonder: What other dangers lie further below Gravesend Bay?” asked Colton. “And how will this toxic material impact the adjacent beaches of Coney Island and Manhattan Beach?”

The toxic stew formed, in part, with the help of the agency itself. The proposed site is the former location of a waste incinerator. Colton said the department has a bad track record in the neighborhood, as the previous facility operated without proper permits, and did not take precautions to contain environmental damage. Colton, who led the fight to shut down the facility in the 1990s, said toxic ash from the incinerator rained down on nearby homes, senior centers and into the water – and the ensuing years have seen increased reports of cancer and related-illnesses.

Adding an additional layer of risk to the proposal, Colton said the discovery of live munitions from a capsized WWII military barge near the Verrazano Bridge means that dredging could lead to an explosion.

Just as in his fight to shut down the incinerator, Colton has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the community to block the agency from going forward with its plans.

But that doesn’t appear to concern the Sanitation Department, which told Bensonhurst Bean that the benefit of getting trucks off the road outweigh any perceived risk of an environmental catastrophe.

“The Department of Sanitation is moving forward with plans to construct this state of the art containerized marine transfer station that will allow waste from south Brooklyn to be shipped by barge to rail centers where it will be moved to landfills out of the state,” a Sanitation spokesperson said. “In doing so, a reliable and environmentally sound system for managing the city’s waste, a fair and equitable distribution of waste management throughout the five boroughs, and a significant reduction in truck traffic through city streets are achieved. The marine transfer station is part of the Mayor’s Solid Waste Management Plan that was overwhelmingly approved by the City Council and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.”

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