The 91st Street Marine Transfer Station means more local truck traffic. It’s up to the City to ensure those trucks have greener engines and present as little a threat as possible to pedestrians and people on bikes. | Photo: Todd Maisel/NY Daily News
Despite four unsuccessful lawsuits in six years to stop the construction of the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station (MTS) in Manhattan, opponents are still making the case that it should not be built. Last month, opponents released a report, conducted by a private consulting firm, indicating that the vehemently-debated facility would not make much of a dent in reducing garbage filled trucks from some of New York City’s most overburdened communities. While the report takes a comprehensive look at the 2006 Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) and makes solid recommendations, the construction of the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station should not be the casualty of a reevaluation of solid waste management in New York City.
The 2006 SWMP was expected to reduce truck traffic through overburdened communities in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. So one of the report’s key claims, that truck traffic would not be reduced significantly in these communities, was bound to ignite the fire about the borough equity of the SWMP.
Overall, the report challenges the analyses and data underlying the 2006 plan and raises sound questions about the numbers while also addressing new issues that have come to light. Severe storms have exposed the vulnerability of the City’s waste disposal and treatment systems. Commercial trucks are still lacking greener technology. A recycling rate of 15 percent lags embarrassingly behind other progressive cities like Seattle (56 percent) and Los Angeles (45 percent). The polluting tug/barge industry is slow to implement green technologies. And the key point of the report: the 91st Street station will only divert 1.6 percent of commercial waste and 1.3 percent of the in-city truck miles associated with this waste. These points are the report’s strengths and contributions but they are not the reasons to abandon the 91st Street MTS. In fact, they are the reasons to make the MTS the premier environmental example in waste handling.
One way to do this is for the New York City Council to pass Local Law 2013/145 which would allow the City to refuse to issue a license or registration to any applicant that has failed to reduce (by 2020) “the emissions of pollutants from heavy duty trade waste hauling vehicles… with the best available retrofit technology.” This mandate will ensure that trucks entering the 91st Street MTS, which would be located in close proximity to recreational facilities like Asphalt Green, release as few pollutants as possible.
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Yesterday’s unveiling of New York City’s interagency action plan to reduce pedestrian fatalities to zero, also known as Vision Zero, was finally presented in the somber tone the issue deserves. For years, pedestrian and bicyclist safety has been mired in politics about cost, traffic congestion and revenue. It has even been linked to gentrification and elitism. And amid this discussion, the lives that have been lost have been pushed to the background while legalese and self-interest have eclipsed the sadness that lingers.
In a subdued press event, Mayor de Blasio released a Vision Zero Action Plan filled with powerful memorials and strong text about saving lives. The Vision Zero plan continues, and vastly expands, what was started during the Bloomberg administration, while bringing humanity back to public policy. Mayor de Blasio declared that “No level of fatality on City Streets is inevitable or acceptable,” and said “We won’t accept this any longer. I make that pledge as a parent, and as your mayor.”
The Vision Zero plan has been widely-covered within New York City, but because Mobilizing the Region aims to cover the entire tri-state region, we’d like to share some key messages in the plan that municipalities, law enforcement and elected officials beyond the five boroughs should consider in order to expand upon existing efforts to reduce fatalities on local, county and state roads.
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The selection of Shorris as First Deputy Mayor and Bratton as Police Commissioner could be a positive sign for pedestrian and bicyclist safety in New York City. | Photos: Kristen Meriwether/Twitter; Todd Maisel/NY Daily News
Mayor-elect de Blasio’s appointment of William J. Bratton as NYPD Commissioner and Anthony Shorris as First Deputy Mayor could be an intentional signal to livable streets advocates that pedestrian and bicyclist safety will be a priority for the administration.
The Mayor-elect has noted that “one crash is too many.” The same goes for pedestrian and cyclist fatalities — because these are preventable deaths. Nearly 2,000 pedestrians have been fatally struck by cars in NYC since 2002, along with nearly 150 cyclists. The enforcement of speeding and reckless driving falls under the purview of the NYPD, so Bratton’s appointment is key to fulfilling de Blasio’s vision to reduce fatalities and injuries to zero. However, the philosophy for how streets balance the needs of residents, workers and visitors is established in City Hall, not at “1PP.”
Although it’s still unknown who will be the City’s next transportation commissioner, de Blasio’s appointment of Anthony Shorris to First Deputy Mayor is a positive sign. Shorris brings some strong transportation credentials to City Hall: he is a former director of NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and former Executive Director of the Port Authority of NY & NJ. Shorris also provided critical pedestrian safety research that resulted in NYC DOT’s groundbreaking Pedestrian Safety Study & Action Plan.
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Westchester County Bee-Line bus
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Governor Cuomo. Photo: patja
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