In a ruling this morning, Judge Crotty dismissed a pair of lawsuits that aimed to block the construction of a “massive, 70,000 square foot, 10-story tall” trash-transfer center at the East River on 91st Street in Manhattan. As Judge Crotty explained, the 91st location has had a long and important role in trash disposal in New York City.
Most New Yorkers are agnostic about where their garbage goes, or how it gets there, so long as it goes away. But garbage disposal is both messy and expensive. At present, New York City garbage must be collected, transported, consolidated, transshipped, and ultimately disposed of by means of landfill dumping, composting, energy conversion, or some other mechanism. For six decades beginning in the 1930s, there was a marine transfer station – a garbage shipping plant used to dispose of the City’s waste – at the intersection of 91st Street, the FDR Drive, and the East River. During that timeframe, the surrounding neighborhood became more residential and affluent. Asphalt Green was developed as a recreational facility. The East River Esplanade, a pedestrian walkway between the FDR Drive and the East River, was created and subsequently renamed the Bobby Wagner Walk. And all during this six decade period of residential and neighborhood development, garbage trucks were driving to York Avenue and 91st Street, transiting over an escalated ramp, crossing the FDR Drive, and arriving at the marine transfer station where the garbage was dumped out of the truck into barges.
The old trash transfer station was closed in 1999, but the Department of Sanitation began planning the new station five years later. The plaintiffs, including “Residents for Sane Trash Solutions” and New York State Assembly member Micah Kellner, challenged the Clean Water Act construction permit issued for the site by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, claiming that the Corps ignored the potential environmental consequences of the center and failed to consider enough alternative centers for trash disposal. Much to Upper East Side residents’ chagrin, Judge Crotty found that the Corps’ issuance of the permit was “rational and well-supported.” He held that the Corps’ analysis of the center’s effect on surrounding waters and of alternative disposal methods were adequate and dismissed the lawsuit, allowing the project to move forward.