Volunteers from Organizations United for Trash Reduction and Garbage Equity (OUTRAGE) stood in front of P.S. 132 on busy Metropolitan Avenue on Thursday, November 17, to release the findings of a new study focusing on waste-related truck traffic in the area and its impact on the health of the two neighborhoods.
OUTRAGE’s 2009 Community-based Truck Study and Air Quality Report found that the number of waste-related trucks passing through the area has greatly increased since a previous 2004 study, impeding air quality and posing more health risks to residents, especially children.
“We have been dealing with this issue for well over a decade and relief for our neighborhoods is long overdue,” said Ray Kairys, chairman of OUTRAGE.
The study found that Greenpoint and Williamsburg have the largest concentration of waste transfer stations in the city. Nearly 40 percent of all solid and construction-related waste handled in New York City is handled in North Brooklyn.
The study looked at particular intersections, such as Greenpoint Avenue and McGuinness Boulevard and Grand Street and Bushwick Avenue, and found that, on average, two trucks per minute pass the intersections, a sharp increase from the group's 2004 survey.
At Greenpoint Avenue and McGuinness Boulevard, an increase of 80 trucks in one hour was recorded for the year 2009, compared to 20 trucks in one hour in 2004.
The study also found that 50 percent of the trucks passing through the area were waste trucks.
The findings are particularly disturbing to residents, since the 2006 Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) that was adopted by the city was intended to provide relief to overburdened communities like Greenpoint and Williamsburg.
“We should be the first before any other district in New York City to get the air quality monitored," said Leonides Reyes, a Williamsburg resident and OUTRAGE volunteer. "We always seem to be the last,”
OUTRAGE was joined by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYPLI), the Organization of Waterfront Neighborhoods (OWN) and Councilwoman Diana Reyna calling on the city to reduce the waste burden on the area.
They called for a full and swift implementation of the SWMP, which they said would minimize the impact of truck traffic and make way for fair distribution of waste transfer stations across the five boroughs, including the opening of a marine transfer station in Manhattan by 2013.
The neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint alone are home to 16 waste transfer stations.
“We’ve been demanding in this community clean air, environmental justice, and truck reduction since 2006," said Reyna. "There was hope that we would see all these goals achieved. This delay exacerbates a problem that we suffer day in and day out.”
Calling it “the last piece of the puzzle,” Reyna stressed that implementing SWMP would greatly reduce borough inequity and environmental injustice across the five boroughs, improving the overall quality of life. The SWMP, she said, would eliminate 6 million miles of truck traffic each year.
The study also found that as truck traffic penetrated the community during the weekdays, the small particle count in the air was significantly greater than on weekends. The small particles pose a higher risk to human health as they have a greater potential to penetrate deeper into the lungs.
“It’s disgusting that we have to go through all of this when there’s steps that the city could be taking,” said Laura Hofmann, a Greenpoint resident who suffers from asthma. “The SWMP’s been approved, it’s just a matter of implementing it and it’s about time they did it.”
Joan Levine, of Morningside Heights in Manhattan, stood in solidarity with the residents, also calling for other parts of the city to carry its fair share.
“I think it’s horrendous that we are not doing our share in Manhattan," she said. "Everybody in Manhattan is not saying, ‘not in our neighborhood. We all make garbage, we all have to take care of it.”