Garbage is an irrefutable fact of life in New York City. It’s the first thing newcomers notice and the last thing they see when they leave the city: trash is seemingly everywhere but perhaps more concentrated in just a few areas.
Bushwick residents who live around a busy waste transfer station on Thames St. owned and operated by 5-Star Carting are on a mission to get the facility shut down — claiming safety issues, compliancy issues and health risks. Residents complain that not only are the noxious odors and fumes enough to make people sick the chemical spray 5-Star has started pumping out to mask the odors carry additional health warnings.
A study released this year by the Transform Don’t Trash coalition– which brings together the NYC-EJA, ALIGN (a workers advocacy organization), New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, and the New York City Teamsters labor council– found that this “clustering” of waste transfer facilities results in a system in which “regardless of where waste is generated in the city it is trucked to [these facilities that are] primarily concentrated in three overburdened communities.” This not only increases the inefficiency of the system as a whole, but also puts nearby residents’ safety and health at risk from heavy truck traffic and poor air quality.
Bushwick is one of these overburdened communities. Before being transported to incinerators, 40 percent of the city’s trash ends up at transfer stations in North Brooklyn.
While the problem of trash distribution has been developing over the last 30 years, the chaotic, truck-intensive commercial waste system is not just problematic from a climate perspective – it also harms New Yorkers on a day-to-day basis and squanders important economic development opportunities.
Many Bushwick residents believe that if the transfer stations was moved for just one week and placed next to the Armory in Manhattan, a million people would protest and that dump would likely be closed in a day.
In addition to the noticeable aroma there are also many health concerns as the fumes from the high number of trucks and pollution from chemicals used at the facility waft in the air. Diesel fumes are known to exacerbate asthma symptoms and studies show that Bushwick has one of the highest asthma rates in the city.
Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who is also Chair of the City Council’s Sanitation Committee continues to put pressure on the de Blasio administration to consider redistributing these waste transfer facilities but notes that getting other neighborhoods to take on a greater share of the city’s waste is not easy to do in the city of New York for a very simple reason– nobody wants trash in their neighborhood.
The Bushwick residents are hoping the city will refuse to do business with 5-Star Carting if its not following city laws about protecting the community. The Mayor has pledged to make trash collection and recycling in the city more efficient and more sustainable, we will see if this applies to the residents in Bushwick.
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