Our Town New Worries About Truck Traffic by Madeleine Thompson

Our Town
Our Town
New Worries About Truck Traffic
Madeleine Thompson
03/23/2016

New Worries About Truck Traffic

Pedestrian death reinforces concerns tied to M.T.S.

  • An aerial view of the site of the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station, which is being constructed next to Asphalt Green's athletic fields.

Jodi McGrath was crossing First Avenue at E. 92nd Street when she was struck by a garbage truck taking a left turn onto the avenue, a stone’s throw from her home at the Holmes Towers.

According to a report from the office of the Deputy Commissioner for Public Information, McGrath was taken by emergency responders to New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where she died. McGrath, who was 55, was hit by an unidentified male driving a private sanitation vehicle; the driver has been issued a summons for failure to yield and, according to the DCPI, the incident is under ongoing investigation by the New York Police Department’s Collision Investigation Squad.

Her death is cause for mourning as well as a cause of concern in the community, highlighting the dangers posed by garbage trucks related to the Marine Transfer Station, now under construction on 91st Street and the East River. While residents and public officials in the neighborhood have been concerned about the concentration of garbage on the East Side related to the MTS, the bigger concern is the amount of truck traffic that will accompany the project -- a concern that McGrath’s death has reinforced.

“It’s imperative that the city re-examine what this traffic will mean,” said Maggy Siegel, executive director of Asphalt Green, the sports complex that is adjacent to the road trucks will take to the transfer station. Asphalt Green last year successfully led a fight to shift that route one block north, to 92nd Street, which will dramatically decrease the number of turns that garbage trucks will be taking to the MTS. However, there still will be a three- to four-year period that the 91st Street entrance will be in use.

Greg Morris, executive director of the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center, is particularly concerned about the fact that such tragedies may become more common in the area due to an increasing number of garbage trucks coming and going “essentially in (residents’) backyard ... I think the tragic circumstance of this woman who was killed by a garbage truck, literally within walking distance of this complex, is scary,” Morris said. “And it perhaps foretells a lot of what folks have been saying, which is, the build out of the marine transfer station is going to endanger children, families and seniors who live in this community.”

City Councilmember Ben Kallos said the death of McGrath points to the biggest danger of the trash station. “Garbage trucks are one of the most dangerous vehicles on the road,” Kallos said. “I think if the city forces a private hauler, or a garbage truck or 300 of them to drive through a residential neighborhood with hundreds of thousands of people, it’s the city that’s culpable.”

Upper East Side residents have been fighting the station since it was first slated to be reopened as part of the 2006 Solid Waste Management Plan. Pledge 2 Protect, a group that has opposed the project, co-hosted a candlelight vigil on Tuesday night at the intersection of First Avenue and E. 92nd St. to honor McGrath’s life. Milagros Velasquez, vice president of the Holmes Towers residential board, was asked to serve as spokesperson for McGrath’s family and helped plan the vigil. “Jodi was a fixture in the community,” Velasquez said. “She didn’t have much in the way of family, so everybody was kind of like her family. She was a big animal person, she loved pets.”

Velasquez has also long been involved in protesting the marine transfer station. “It was horrible the way she had to die,” she said. “It’s kind of frustrating because it’s kind of like the whole development got together and tried to fight this with, and they went ahead and did it anyway.”

Kelly Nimmo-Guenther, president of Pledge 2 Protect, said the group is continuing to fight the project. “Mayor de Blasio ... made a commitment to that community that he would do everything power to protect that community,” Nimmo-Guenther said. “We’ve always said it’s not if an accident will happen, it’s when. Unfortunately, the when is now.”