After more than a year of relentless protest, Mayor Bill de Blasio has agreed to move a controversial access ramp to the East 91st Street marine garbage facility.
The original ramp, already under construction, bisects the grounds of Asphalt Green, a popular recreational facility that serves nearly 40,000 children a year. While few locals are happy about the garbage transfer station’s siting on the Upper East Side, residents took particular umbrage with the idea of hundreds of garbage trucks rattling through Asphalt Green every day, just feet away from a children’s playground.
“We were always very cognizant of the fact that we are in an area that is highly trafficked,” Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said by phone on Friday.”To the extent that we can mitigate that and stay true to the values of the the solid waste management plan, in terms of borough equity, we wanted to do that.”
In May, Garcia made a recommendation to de Blasio regarding the ramp. She would not disclose what she said, but warned the new ramp, located just a block north, would cost roughly $25 million and could tie up traffic on the F.D.R. Drive indefinitely.
Asphalt Green launched an aggressive campaign to get the ramp moved. In the past year the nonprofit has lobbied elected officials, taken out a full-page ad in The New York Times, even organized a Zumba dance/protest in front of City Hall.
Facility officials today applauded the mayor’s decision.
“Today the families of Asphalt Green can breathe a huge sigh of relief,” said Andrew Nussbaum, chairman of Asphalt Green. “On behalf of our one million annual visitors and the … children we serve in our City’s public schools, we thank Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Garcia for this important decision that will make our streets and community safer.”
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger, Comptroller Scott Stringer and a host of City Council members have urged the mayor to move the ramp.
City Hall will announce the move on Friday afternoon. The ramp switch will not delay the opening of 91st Street, city officials said, as the original ramp will be used until the new one is completed. The new ramp will be wider, allowing sanitation trucks equipped with plows to traverse back and forth.
“It will be another period of construction in that neighborhood,” Garcia said, adding the new ramp will likely be completed by 2019 or 2020.”We have to go in and we have to do some more engineering.”
The ramp decision will not be the end of protest over the 91st Street station though it takes a good deal of steam out of the opposition. The station is part of the city’s solid waste management plan, forged under the Bloomberg administration and supported by de Blasio and Garcia.
The purpose is to more equitably distribute waste throughout the city before it is shipped off to landfills and incinerators in other parts of New York and other states. Currently the bulk of trash is housed in sections of north Brooklyn, southeast Queens and the South Bronx.
Residents of the Upper East Side have fought bitterly over the construction of the transfer station though each day its ultimate completion grows more inevitable.
“I think this will make some people happy,” Garcia said. “I don’t think it will make everyone happy.”