Outrage Over Plans For a Bensonhurst Marine Trash-Transfer Station

Where boats will dock for loading and unloading trash. You can see the Marine Basin Marina in the background. (Photo by Jen Fiorentino / The Brooklyn Ink)

Residents in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn are outraged by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s green light to build a marine trash-transfer station in the area, reports The Brooklyn Ink. The site, an old abandoned stench-filled building, was once home to an illegal incinerator that was shut down and demolished in 2005 after lobbying by locals.

The planned facility, off Bay Parkway near Bay 41st Street, will accept a weekly limit of 11,148 tons of municipal solid waste.

Bensonhurst residents and community leaders are outraged, pursuing petitions and even lawsuits fearing that the transfer station will be a health hazard and a nuisance. They say it will imperil a thriving community filled with schools, amusement centers, senior homes, and parks.

The city’s Sanitation Department defends the $87.7 million plan, approved by Commissioner Joseph Martens of the Department of Environmental Conservation in May.

Kathy Hawkins, director of public information for the city Sanitation Department, says with this plan “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.”

But this argument held little weight for John Anderson, 61, a boat mechanic and a lifelong resident of the neighborhood.

“We don’t want it, period,” Anderson stated. Leading the Bensonhurst community fight is Assemblyman William Colton, who filed an article 78 lawsuit in the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn ultimately trying to block construction of the transfer station; Colton is currently waiting to receive a court date.

The residents’ concerns are shared by health and environmental groups who fear dredging for the project might release pollutants settled on the sea floor, harm Sheepshead Bay’s fishing industry, and pollute the local beaches. A 2004 study described a “black mayonnaise” found in the samples from the sea floor, including unsafe levels of mercury and other harmful toxins.

View of the Verrazano Bridge from the edge of the site. (Photo by Jen Fiorentino / The Brooklyn Ink)

“They couldn’t have picked a worse site,” said Ida Sanoff, chairperson of the Natural Resources Protective Association. She said that Gravesend Bay, which borders the area, is an essential fish habitat. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Habitat Conservation, “essential fish habitats include all types of aquatic habitats—wetlands, coral reefs, sea grasses, rivers—where fish spawn, breed, feed, or grow to maturity.”

A 2004 impact study by New York City Department of Sanitation also shared these concerns.

“There’s no way we’re going to allow these contaminants to be dug up and pose another threat to the community,” Colton continued. Community action groups such as Wake up and Smell the Garbage, Natural Resources Protective Association, and the No Spray Coalition also oppose the construction of the transfer station.

The Department of Sanitation is expected to move forward with the project if Assemblyman Colton’s legal challenge fails.

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