Air quality bill passes Assembly

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Seawright legislation would compel state to monitor near waste transfer stations, including East 91st St. facility


  • Legislation recently passed by the state Assembly would call for air qualitiy testing around marine transfer stations, such as the one being built near Asphalt Green in Yorkville, where hundreds of children take part in activities both indoors and out. Photo: Christina Cardona

  • The East 91st St. Marine Transfer Station is scheduled to open next year. Legislation recently passed by the state Assembly would call for air qualitiy testing around marine transfer stations. Photo: Christina Cardona

State health authorities will be obliged to track air quality near waste transfer stations, such as the one on East 91st Street slated to open next year, according to legislation passed by the Assembly earlier this month.

Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, who sponsored the bill, said air quality in the Yorkville neighborhood will be a critical concern when the transfer station, on the East River between 91st and 92nd Streets near the Isaacs-Holmes houses and the Asphalt Green sports facility, becomes operational.

“Increased emissions through idling garbage trucks, boat discharge and the operation of a waste transfer station will negatively aggravate the already poor air quality on the Upper East Side,” Seawright said in a statement. “By requiring constant air monitoring and consultation with local elected officials and stakeholders, residents will be provided with accurate information on the occurrence of air pollution and show the success or failure of pollution-reduction efforts.”

The bill directs the state Department of Environmental Conservation to permit air monitoring equipment at an appropriate distance from permitted waste transfer stations. They are to measure data for ozone, sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and carbon dioxide.

According to the New York City Department of Health, the area surrounding the MTS has disproportionately higher rates of asthma compared to the city-wide average.

Asphalt Green is a nonprofit organization that provides sports, swim and fitness programs to children and adults in New York City. Asphalt Green is located directly adjacent to the MTS site, and they host many outdoor activities at their East 90th Street site.

“Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright has been a great friend to Asphalt Green, and we support her efforts to ensure safe air quality in our community. As a facility with a broad range of outdoor youth athletic programs, we are very attuned to air quality issues, and we look forward to seeing the results of the monitoring,” Maggy Siegel, executive director of Asphalt Green, said.

The MTS was proposed in 2004, and since then the size of the station has been reduced. In 2003, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg wanted a facility that would process all residential waste from Community Boards 5, 6, 8 and 11. And at that time, those four districts produced more than 720 tons of waste per day.

According to a letter sent in January 2018 to East Side elected officials by the New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, she said the same four districts produced less than 540 tons per day last year. She said the less trash produced, the fewer trucks that would need to travel through the surrounding area.

State authorities declined to comment on the legislation, with the Department of Health deferring to the Department of Environmental Conservation.

A DEC spokesperson did issue a statement saying that “if DEC determines air quality monitoring is necessary at a specific location, then the agency has the authority to require such monitoring to protect public health and the environment.”

The legislation will now be taken up by the state Senate’s Rules Committee, and Seawright is working for Senate passage.

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