For years, without a comprehensive plan in place to handle the city's residential garbage, a stop-gap system emerged in the form of dirty and polluting waste transfer stations, where garbage trucks would dump their trash and it would be loaded on to larger trucks and shipped to landfills in other states.
These environmentally disastrous facilities popped up quickly in several neighborhoods, often low-income neighborhoods, including Jamaica and East Williamsburg. A small handful of areas became the dumping ground for the city.
To its credit, the Bloomberg Administration undertook the huge and politically fraught task of addressing this inequality, coming up with a 20-year Solid Waste Management Plan, or SWMP. Under the proposal, the city would open up new, more environmentally sound waste transfer stations all across the city.
These new waste transfer stations, some of which already existed but were closed down, would be updated, and the city would use its waterways and rail lines to ship garbage out of the city. The effect would be twofold: trash would be handled more equitably and thousands of trucks each day would be taken off city streets.
And for the most part, community boards and elected officials across the five boroughs accepted that this was a fair way to deal with handling the city's garbage.
Except for one.
Since it was announced, residents on the Upper East Side have been fighting the opening of a waste transfer station at 91st Street. According to the city, groups from the neighborhood have filed lawsuit after lawsuit opposing the facility, and have succeeded in nearly doubling the cost of the facility.
Apparently, garbage equity doesn't apply to the Upper East Side. Instead, residents there would prefer that their garbage be shipped to some outer borough, where it can be dealt with. That's not right.
It's time for the city to make a strong push to have the facility opened. It's only fair to the residents of neighborhoods like Jamaica and East Williamsburg, who have suffered the environmental consequences of becoming the city's dumping grounds and fought so successfully to bring attention to the problem and get the city to take action.
If all of that organizing and advocating turns out to be all for naught, it won't lonely be the garbage in this city that isn't dealt with equally.