At their second annual meeting on Wednesday, advocates said those actions, such as idling and leaving the station’s doors open, spew noxious odors into the community. Residents of the East Williamsburg neighborhood also attested to the negative impact it has had on their health.
“They believe all of the laws put in place to protect the health of our community and the quality of our air don’t apply to them,” said Jessica Quiason, a researcher with the Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN) and Bushwick resident. “They think keeping their doors open and making a profit is more important than keeping our community safe.”
The report collected video surveillance of the transfer station from surrounding businesses. Within a six-day period in May, activists said they observed 1,262 violations, including 63 for idling, 267 for opening their doors and 118 sidewalk violations.
Advocates also said the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) issued zero violations against Brooklyn Transfer during that week.
DSNY spokeswoman Belinda Mager said this year the agency has already conducted 60 full inspections and nearly 70 “drive-by” inspections of the facility. They also investigated complaints from 311.
“This report raises important community concerns about the operation of this facility, and we are carefully reviewing the report to determine what, if any, action is necessary at this time,” Mager said. “We encourage members of the community to report violations as they occur so inspectors can respond and take appropriate action.”
Quiason said more than 200 trucks run through the neighborhood per hour, 30 percent of which are garbage trucks. She said pollutants are then released at a rate fives times higher than the city average.
“This is dirty air we’re breathing in that has negative effects on our health,” she said.
Ben Weinstein, an organizer with Cleanup North Brooklyn, said in addition to the health concerns, the trucks present a safety issue. The report includes violations from blocking sidewalks and even driving the wrong way on a one-way street.
In one video shown at the meeting, the company’s workers appear to remove a street parking sign because a car had legally parked near the station, slowing down their activity.
Weinstein also claimed that the facility is not properly cleaned and that the company uses a chemical fragrance to try to cover up the foul smells.
Residents also chimed in about their personal experiences living close to a waste transfer station. Magda Escobar, a family nurse practitioner, has lived in East Williamsburg for the last 11 years and is the mother of three young children. She said the diesel trucks emit diesel exhaust particles that cause inflammation in lungs.
“This is why there is a prevalence of asthma in this community,” Escobar said.
She added the particles can also affect lung development and restrict lung capacity.
Escobar said trucks often line up on her block when it they have a large collection, such as after a snowstorm.
“What happens is that they block the traffic completely,” she said. “God forbid there’s a heart attack or a stroke or a really bad asthma attack, emergency services can’t get through.”
Sanders Mendez, who has lived in the community since 1983, said the trucks have affected his family for years.
“We hate the smell and the stench, we don’t want it,” Mendez said. “We can’t live like that.”
He also said the noise from the garbage trucks, particularly at night, disturb his family.
“We don’t sleep well,” he said. “On behalf of my family and the community, please leave.”
Environmental advocates noted that waste transfer stations are predominantly located in low-income communities of color, such as north Brooklyn, south Bronx and southeast Queens.
Despite having ample time to “clean up their act,” organizers said, Brooklyn Transfer and their sister company Five Star Carting haven’t made any changes. In the report, Cleanup North Brooklyn demanded the company close down the station immediately.
Councilman Antonio Reynoso, chair of the City Council’s Committee on Sanitation, said he’s been fighting Five Star for “quite some time.” He said the community claimed a victory when one of their contracts with the city was cut in half.
“It’s unfortunate we have to stand vigilant for six days nonstop to be able to prove the horrors on this block,” Reynoso said, noting that there is more work to be done.
“When you’re a neighbor, you should be a good one,” he added. “They have an inability to be an 'A' player. That means they, as our neighbor, need to go.”
After the meeting, with the rain pouring down, dozens of advocates marched up to Brooklyn Transfer, which had its doors open and a truck in sight. The activists chanted while holding up a long sign that said “Toxic and Dangerous.”
In a statement, Ray Shain from Brooklyn Transfer said the station is run according to the industry’s best practices and has an “immaculate record” for 2016. He added that it is properly licensed and has had all of the necessary permits for more than 40 years.
“These complaints are factually inaccurate,” Shain said. “The report was created by people with an agenda who are neither experts in the industry nor in industrial safety procedures.”
Shain said Brooklyn Transfer earned an “excellent” rating from regulators and its permit was reviewed and renewed for a five-year term.
“While we can’t help that others choose to attack us to further their own goals,” he said, “we look forward to working with the community, Councilman Reynoso and the other interested parties to make Brooklyn Transfer the best neighbor it can be, and our neighborhoods better places to work and live.”