The state Department of Environmental Conservation has launched a four-week public comment period to gather input on whether a permit for the East 91st Street marine transfer station should be renewed.
The air permit in question, which effectively allows the Department of Sanitation to operate the MTS, has been up for renewal since last October. A sanitation spokesperson said it was submitted for review by the DEC. “It did not expire,” said the spokesperson of the air permit.
The process is being exploited by Pledge 2 Protect, the main group aligned against the MTS, which sent almost 16,000 letters of opposition to the DEC outlining its concerns. Thomas Mailey, a DEC spokesperson, said the letter-writing campaign had nothing to do with the agency’s decision to launch a public comment period.
“It would have happened regardless,” said Mailey.
The DEC publicly announced the comment period June 24, and said the agency would be accepting comments until July 24. The agency said the public comment period is in keeping with the federal Clean Air Act. Under DEC regulations, if there are enough new and/or changed conditions since a permit was last issued, the agency can review whether or not to renew it. The agency also said DSNY’s solid waste management and wetlands permit are also up for renewal.
Kelly Nimmo-Guenther, president of Pledge 2 Protect, said the group will take advantage of the comment period by pushing their message that “the dump,” as it’s known locally, poses serious health and safety risks.
“We definitely feel there are enough new and changed conditions since the permits were granted. So we’re looking for them to be reviewed by the DEC,” Nimmo-Guenther said. “We’re also looking for a public hearing for the facts to be discussed.”
Meanwhile, construction of the MTS continues apace. Shavone Williams, a spokesperson with the Department of Design and Construction, said marine drilling for the MTS’ pilings has been completed.
“Construction of the steel superstructure has commenced. The demolition of the existing ramp is ongoing, and the construction of the new ramp has commenced,” she said. “Installation of the precast caps and beams for the structural system is nearing completion. Construction in the areas adjacent to the Asphalt Green soccer field is being halted during summer camp hours; operations to support the marine work will be ongoing.”
Nimmo-Guenther urged those who are against the East 91st Street MTS to write the DEC about their areas of expertise.
“We’ve been communicating with all the supporters for quite some time, but we don’t want to pretend we’re the experts on everything,” she said. “What we’re urging people to do is if they understand any new or changed conditions concerning the permits, write in about what you know.”
The DEC’s Mailey said public comments are important.
“They’re reviewed by staff, and substantive comments have weight, so they’re valuable,” said Mailey. “The comments become part of all the material that’s reviewed in making the decision.”
To comment on the East 91st Street MTS’ air permit renewal, email DEP.R2@dec.ny.gov and include “Comments on proposed renewal of NYC-DOS East 91st Street MTS” in the subject line. Letters may also be sent to Iver M. Anderson, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 47-20 21st Street, Long Island City, NY 11101-5407.