The events of this week were significant for many reasons. The defection of Adriano Espaillat, upper Manhattan Assembly Member who decided to support Bloomberg and Doctoroff to get the Gansevoort Recycling plan underway was a negative event for many. While many of the reasons for attempting to locate a sanitation facility in the Hudson River Park are logical, although contrary to the rules of the Act and its intentions, many of them are misguided. The fact of the NIMBYism (Not In My BackYard) charges belies some other misconceptions about the attempt to locate a facility on that site. Some of them are environmental, some scientific, some racial, many political, and a few are sensible.
The most uncomfortable comments for the predominantly white, left of center, gender and orientation diversity-sensitive community in Greenwich Village (where the Gansevoort pier is located) - is that all of those strong feelings which many fought to preserve in the name of racial and gender equality - were now being challenged by a garbage dump. In the name of political expediency and Environmental Justice, Downtown was being charged with attempting to push the dump off onto poor black and Hispanic residents by avoiding having it Downtown.
With the media attention that the Bloomberg administration, the City Council, and the Assembly managed to generate, there were many aging Freedom Riders looking in the mirror and seeing perplexed faces. Liberals suffer from introspection guilt - Republicans know this, and so do political strategists. The fact that this was used by the Bloomberg administration to get the deal done was not appreciated.
In fact, the NIMBYist approach was being floated 5 or 6 years ago by some of the environmental groups. It was basically brought to the community boards using the same stock phrases - that "after all we have to start accepting our share of the garbage."
So, this was an adopted approach that has been a long time coming. Then Bloomberg bought the party line and used it to force-feed Downtown.
The problem is that all of this buries the objections of Villagers and other residents of SoHo and Hudson Square - who have felt that this Republican administration has been waging an all out assault against them. There's the Pier 40 attack by Doctoroff and Company to ram the Related proposal through when Downtown's kids need ball fields and passive space that is not turned into what Andrew Berman of GVSHP calls "Vegas on the Hudson;" there is the Trump SoHo development allowed by a passive Department of Buildings, a docile City Council, and an oblivious City Planning; and a D.S.N.Y. garage and fuel facility plan looking to place 43,000 gallons of combustible fluids near the Holland Tunnel tubes and a 15 story parking garage in the middle of a residential renaissance. It is as if His Honor and his Robert Moses wanabee sidekick Dan Doctoroff, can't give away our turf fast enough to make political points. Or, is it "if you throw enough shit at the wall some of it will stick" after the Olympics failed. Whatever the problem is, people are distinctly not amused.
The coup de grace here is the appearance that the boys incited, or at least signed on to, the NIMBYist position and then sat back to see if it would work. The EDC (Economic Development Corporation) had been pushing the Gansevoort deal for some time and the NIMBYist race card appears to have been the ticket to get Albany to accept a change in the Hudson River Park Act for the recycling plan and transfer station.
Rumors had circled to the effect that Shelly Silver would support the change in the Act and was turning a deaf ear to Deborah Glick, Dick Gottfried and Linda Rosenthal, all of whom had misgivings about the wisdom of changing the Act and locating a garbage facility in the Hudson River Park. There were suggestions that if Gansevoort did not get done Silver might have to accept the site in his territory on the East side.
Tom Duane was rumored to be trying to get the ear of Bruno in order to foil the attempt.
Ultimately, some facts escaped that make the political machinations all the more of a concern.
First of all, Downtown is not Shangri-La when it comes to breatheable air. Locating a garbage facility (yes garbage - recyclables stink too) on Gansevoort would simply add more pollution to some of the worst air in the county. It is a Black zone on environmental maps. Hudson Square residents are routinely killed or maimed by traffic rushing for the Holland Tunnel entrance and children and pregnant mothers pushing strollers are common targets. (Hey, how about some Traffic Enforcement, Mr. Bloomberg?)
Seventh Avenue, its Varick Street extension, 14th Street, Houston Street, Canal Street and all of the feeder streets to the Holland Tunnel are a nightmare of trucks, wall to wall vehicles and intense diesel-particulate-spewing pollution. To this, Gansevoort would add hundreds of daily garbage truck trips to the mix. And, folks, let's not delude ourselves into believing that low-sulphur diesel engines on the upgraded vehicles promised would change anything. As former Chair of Community Board #2's Environmental Committee, Ann Arlen observed:
"Mayor Bloomberg has tried to fool us into abrogating our responsibility to the children who use this Park with smoke-and-mirrors talk of fair share, a recycling education center, and Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel. With ULSD the proposal does not mention that the filters that are key to reducing the toxins in ULSD clog up in the start-and-stop operation of sanitation trucks so it cannot be used. (That is true also of the construction equipment on the WTC site, despite Councilmember Gerson's City Council law.) So the reduction is only that of the ULSD fuel, just 10%, leaving the worst toxins in the exhaust."
Pier 76 is a viable alternative which is north of 34th street and is located in Community Board #4 - and is a sound location for a transfer station. It is not parkland and it is not in a sensitive residential location. It should be seriously considered for this site.
But what is most important is the fact that the use of rail for transport of garbage is now recognized as the preferred and most efficient means of getting the job done.
Even Manhattan Citizen's Solid Waste Advisory Board, has backed away from its support of the Gansevoort Transfer Station to study rail shipping as a more efficient solution.
And, the latest reports indicate that the Black and Latino caucus are no longer supporting the Mayor or Assembly member Espaillat on the Gansevoort site but are taking a wait and see approach to the whole issue.
Oh, and by the way - with reference to responsibility of a fair share of garbage -- consider the fact that Downtown welcomes workers every day from all 5 boroughs as well as Long Island and New Jersey who have lunch, dinner and party in the area (in addition to the tourists and visitors) - who all leave their trash behind.
Is that our fair share of garbage?