Local elected officials are not giving up despite the city having started construction of a new waste transfer station at Gravesend Bay—a structure that they say would bring with it traffic congestion, foul odors and highly dangerous toxins.
Proposed by the Department of Sanitation (DOS) as part of the city’s Solid Waste Management Plan, the station – to be built on the site of the reviled Bensonhurst incinerator which operated without a permit from the 1950s through the 1980s – has aroused major concerns among elected officials and community members. Demolition of the structure began on December 22 at 8 a.m., according to the office of Assemblymember William Colton.
“The city, while an appeal was pending, decided to rush ahead and do demolition work right before the holiday and during the holiday,” said Colton. “The city rushed and started construction at the most poisonous, most toxic point in the site—the foundation of the old incinerator. That is absolutely irresponsible and it is reckless.”
According to Colton, who has fought the construction of the station in court, studies show that among the sediment at the bottom of Gravesend Bay, there are high levels of toxic chemicals, including Type C—the highest acute levels of toxicity—levels of mercury, Type B levels of lead, and other extremely harmful chemicals like insecticides, pesticides, and dioxins—which cause respiratory issues. These, waste transfer station opponents fear, would be stirred up by the demolition of the old incinerator as well as by the dredging that would be necessary to provide access to the waste transfer station.
“The bottom of the bay is filled with the worst contaminants. We have to be real about what we’re dealing with. Mercury is nothing to play with,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger, who has been fighting the construction of the station alongside Colton. “It’s insulting when they say they’ll put signs [that say] ‘don’t eat the fish,’ when some families don’t have a choice.”
Both Colton and Treyger requested that opponents send letters to the mayor’s office, pushing for an end to the construction, during an emergency meeting held on Monday, December 23 at the United Democratic Club in Bensonhurst with members of the Dump the Dump Coalition. The officials also said that their own offices would prepare a draft letter to circulate.
“This is going to have to be a sustained effort,” added Treyger. “It’s no coincidence that they did this during the time of year when we’re all gathering with our families and friends. They think that we’re just going to somehow go away. We’re not going anywhere. I have news for this mayor and this administration; we matter here in southern Brooklyn.”