East Side transfer station clears judicial hurdle

Sanitation proposed to reopen marine waste transfer station near Asphalt Green and Bobby Wagner Walk. After the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island closed in 2001, the Department of Sanitation contracted with privately-owned transfer stations, landfills, and waste-to-energy facilities to dispose of residential waste. Sanitation now delivers a large percentage of waste to transfer stations within the City, where tractor- trailers pick up the waste and drive it to landfills in other states.

In 2004, Mayor Bloomberg announced a new 20-year solid waste management plan. The City’s marine waste transfer stations would containerize solid waste onsite, and private companies would transport it by barge or rail, thereby reducing truck traffic and long-term costs. The marine waste transfer station at East 91st Street, bounded by the East River to the north and east, Carl Schurz Park to the south, and FDR Drive to the west, would be redeveloped to containerize waste generated in Manhattan. Sanitation trucks would access the transfer station using an elevated ramp that crossed over Asphalt Green, a sports and recreational complex located between York Avenue and FDR Drive.

Upper East Side residents sued the City, arguing that the proposed ramp construction and transfer station operation required approval from the State Legislature because the ramp and transfer station would take over parkland in Asphalt Green and in Bobby Wagner Walk for a non-park purpose. The residents further claimed that the encroachment would be substantial due to the erection of a plywood safety fence.

Justice Michael D. Stallman ruled against the residents, finding that Asphalt Green and Wagner Walk were not dedicated park areas. The Department of Parks and Recreation had assigned property for Sanitation’s transfer station, including Asphalt Green, under the condition that the property not be mapped as a public park. Also, Asphalt Green was operated by a private entity that restricted use of the area 70 percent of the time to fee-paying members. As for Wagner Walk, the court determined its primary purpose was to function as a thoroughfare, not as a recreational space. Justice Stallman concluded that even if the two areas were considered parkland, the City’s intrusion was not substantial; both areas would remain open to the public without an interruption in use.

Powell v. City of New York, Index No. 108220/06 (N.Y.Cty.Sup.Ct. Dec. 21, 2009) (Stallman, J.) (Attorneys: Howard Epstein, for Powell; Michael A. Cardozo, Susan M. Kath, Christopher King, Carrie Noteboom, Amanda Goad, for NYC).

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