To streamline that process and reduce its carbon footprint, the city's principal waste services provider, Waste Management (WM), is planning to build a new transfer station in Maspeth that would haul waste out of Western Queens by rail instead of by truck. The plan would comply with the city's long-term solid waste management plan (SWMP) by significantly reducing in-city truck mileage and carbon emissions.
Nonetheless, some Maspeth residents are worried the new transfer facility would only serve to concentrate more waste traffic in the area. The plan includes what Waste Management estimates as 15 trucks per hour trucking waste along a mile and a half trek on Rust Street from Review Avenue to the Maspeth Railyard at Maspeth Avenue & Rust Street.
The issue of how to best transfer and haul waste out with a minimum impact to area residents is not new to Maspeth, and was hotly debated yet again at an information forum Wednesday, June 17th held by the Carting Company at Martin Luther High School, to explain its latest plan to the community.
"It's about doing the right thing," said WM spokesperson Rachel Amar, who presented the new plan along with other company representatives. "We're doing our best to make sure [our waste transfer services] are the least impactful to the community."
To convince skeptical residents, WM unveiled detailed plans for the new transfer station, to be built with environmentally friendly standards at the company's existing Review Avenue facility on a now-vacant lot adjacent to the current transfer station, which has a smaller operating capacity than the planned-for addition. The existing station would be tuned into a vehicle maintenance facility once the new one is built.
WM is applying for an increase of its permitted intake capacity at the site from 958 tons per day of refuse to 2,100, and was required by law to hold the public meeting as part of that application process.
The new station would handle the waste from Queens Sanitation Collection Districts #1 through #6, for an increase of two districts. 38-22 Review Avenue currently services roughly 100 incoming Department of Sanitation collection trucks and 35 outgoing WM transfer trucks each day, according to WM statistics. Under the new plan, this would increase to a combined total of roughly 180 trucks each day.
"However," said Amar, "none of the outbound trucks leaving the station would travel through Maspeth on their way to the Maspeth Railyard, where their containers of waste would be transferred to waiting railcars for transport to a Fresh Pond Depot and then shipment out of state."
"There will be no truck traffic connected to this project going through the community," she said.
Jim Van Woert, WM's senior district manager for New York City operations, said hauling the waste out of the city by train from the rail yard, instead of by tractor-trailer, would increase efficiency while drastically reducing truck miles and carbon emissions.
One train with between 15 and 17 rail cars, powered by a single diesel engine, would carry the equivalent of between 51 and 58 tractor-trailers' worth of waste, reducing WM's average diesel consumption by about 2,000 gallons per day, said Woert. The move to rail would eliminate nearly 16,000 long-haul tractor-trailer trips per year.
"Clearly the plan was to benefit Queens, but there is a more global [environmental] benefit intended," said Woert.
Additionally, said Woert, the rail-hauling initiative would go a long way towards complying with the city's waste plan, passed by the City Council in 2006, which stipulates a decrease in tractor-trailer waste hauling and includes a fair-share component requiring each borough to handle its own waste.
City sanitation spokesperson Ignazio Terranova, who attended the meeting, confirmed the city's commitment to WM's plan.
Some residents responded to the plan by raising long-held concerns that Queens, and in particular the industrial zone of Maspeth, already carries more than its fair share of city sanitation services.
Several expressed doubt that truckers would stick to prescribed routes, and stay off the main commercial corridor of Grand Avenue or smaller residential side streets.
The plan represents "a further impact in the community," said Community Board 5 member Manny Caruana. "I'm going to advocate against this even if it means one more truck."
Richard Sherman, the president of Williams E. Williams Valve Corporation, an industrial small business adjacent to the entrance to the Review Avenue Station, said existing numbers of trucks cause congestion and other traffic problems. These would only get worse with an additional 50 more DSNY and WM trucks going in and out each day.
The Review Avenue station is bounded on one side by Newtown Creek and on the other by Long Island Railroad tracks that go through the Maspeth Railyard, located 1.5 miles away.
Sherman questioned why WM is insisting on trucking waste from Review Avenue to the Maspeth Railyard, when the company could simply rail the waste the distance using the LIRR tracks. Others suggested WM barge waste out on Newtown Creek to avoid more trucks on the streets.
WM does not currently handle enough waste volume to meet barge capacity requirements, Woert said, and the rail lines that run past Review Avenue station are commuter lines that do not have the infrastructure capability to unload freight.
To investigate the accuracy of this second claim, WM granted the Queens Ledger an exclusive tour of the Review Avenue station and the Maspeth Railyard. (The distance between both, an odometer reading found, is exactly 1.5 miles. The route, mainly along Review Avenue and Rust Street, does not leave Maspeth's industrial zone).
The LIRR tracks pass within roughly 20 feet of the Review Avenue station's property line. This makes the construction of a spur to the facility for the loading of waste - as opponents of WM's plan have suggested - appear feasible, if appropriate infrastructure work was done.
Still, both WM spokesperson Amar, and Jay Kaplan, WM's New York City environmental manager, who conducted the tour, didn't elaborate further on why a rail link might not work, beyond reiterating Woert's earlier point that the current infrastructure is not currently designed for freight loading.
Kaplan said a start date, or cost for building the new facility at Review Station and enclosed loading facility at Maspeth Railyard, have not been determined.
"We're looking to [begin to] operate in February 2011," Kaplan said.