Residents of Yorkville who have been fighting against a garbage-dumping site in their backyard have been dealt a heavy blow in a form of a federal permit. A few weeks ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg revealed that the city had received the permits from the Army Corps of Engineers that it needs to move forward with constructing a new Marine Transfer Station (MTS) for trash at a now-defunct East 91st Street facility. While the city has presented this as the final hurdle for the project, hundreds of residents have vowed that they aren’t giving up the fight quite yet.
“I certainly speak for the group when I say it’s a misguided plan and we’re going to do everything we can to fight this plan,” said Jed Garfield, a local who is also the president of Residents for Sane Trash Solutions (RFSTS).
The grassroots nonprofit was formed last year in response to the city’s pressure to get the MTS up and running, as more and more residents became aware of just what that might mean for their community. Garfield said that over 7,000 people have signed on to join their cause, with hundreds of active members like him who volunteer their time to get the word out to their neighbors and advocate against the MTS.
“I have at least a dozen individuals in the group who are prepared to chain themselves to the fences if the city tries to move ahead with this thing,” Garfield said.
He and the other opponents are quick to point out that the people who will be affected by the MTS aren’t the stereotypical Upper East Side residents that many people call to mind automatically.
“Those who support it say that it’s only fair that the Upper East Side should do its share. It’s not the Upper East Side; the Upper East Side is where Mike Bloomberg lives on 79th Street and Madison Avenue,” Garfield said.
Dale Cohen, an architect who lives in the neighborhood, said she felt like outsiders don’t understand who is actually living near the proposed dump site, which is why there isn’t more outrage from the rest of the city.
“It’s not impacting the wealthy part of the Upper East Side, it’s impacting the middle class,” she said. “I was told directly by real estate agents that I work with to move, because it will completely devalue my apartment. [But] I have no interest in moving, I love Yorkville, I like being close to East End and the park; it’s a very quiet and affordable neighborhood.”
Some people in the area are seeing this latest development as a sign to cut their losses, said Garfield, but most aren’t prepared to or don’t want to leave the neighborhood they call home, even if it means it will drastically change.
“Residents are very concerned—they were very disappointed that the Army Corps granted the permit,” said David Mack, another local who founded RFSTS. “The way the city is portraying it, and I guess it’s their right to do so, is as if this is a done deal and shovels are going to get set to dig. This is definitely not the end of the fight.”
Some are banking on legal channels to work against the city. Garfield said that RFSTS has raised over $500,000—much of it from small donations—that is being focused on public relations to get the community’s message out to the whole city and on legal efforts. They are looking into filing lawsuits and are also supporting the lawsuit that Assembly Member Micah Kellner currently has before the courts, which alleges that the city has to revise its environmental impact statement for the MTS based on increased estimates of trash capacity before they can move forward.
Garfield said he’s encouraging people not to lose hope.
“You’re always losing until you win. That’s part of the battle that I deal with,” he said. “Bloomberg says it’s going to get built. Well, it’s definitely going to get built if you don’t do something about it.”
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