Council Member Ben Kallos Demands Independent Review of Marine Transfer Station costs

New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos


Council Member Ben Kallos Demands Independent Review of Marine Transfer Station Costs 
New York, New York -- Council Member Ben Kallos is demanding an independent review of the skyrocketing costs to build and operate new Marine Transfer Station costs in the 2006 Solid Waste Management Plan. In a letter to the Independent Budgeting Office, Kallos calls for an updated investigation into the Upper Manhattan Marine Transfer Station costs due to dramatic changes since the IBO’s last review in 2012. Estimated capital costs have gone from $43.9 million in 2002-2005 to $121.8 million in 2008-2009 to $181.6 million in 2013-2014 while it has been estimated that the barged trash will cost New Yorkers a billion dollars over 20 years; $600 million more than the current system. 

“The City of New York doesn’t have to waste money as it disposes of waste,” said Kallos. ”I expect that the new report will show that the project is an expensive boondoggle from the last administration, one that the de Blasio administration should abandon. We need a 21st Century trash plan with a greater emphasis on reducing, reusing and recycling, not on the outmoded and harmful methods of marine stations.” 

The last IBO report, provided to Council Member Jessica Lappin, found that the cost of disposing of trash would increase from $90/ton to $238/ton at the East 91st Street  Marine Transfer Station. This is only one station.  The City needs to audit the financial strains to taxpayers for the other Marine Transfer Stations.  Money should be spent to get New York City’s recycling rate to increase from its current rate of 15% to match that of Los Angeles.  That would save up to $90 million each year.  

Kallos’ request follows the admission of outgoing Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty, at a DSNY budget and oversight hearing last month, that the Marine Transfer Station system will be significantly more expensive than planned or anticipated.”  

“We support Ben Kallos’ request to the IBO and are confident it will support what our recently released Talking Trash report revealed ( the unfortunate facts are that the 2006 SWMP needlessly spends billions of dollars and does not provide relief to any overburdened communities; creates new harms to additional communities with vulnerable populations and fails to meet recycling goals and reduce waste tonnage,” stated Kelly Nimmo-Guenther, president of Pledge 2 Protect NYC.  Pledge 2 Protect is a not-for-profit coalition of New Yorkers asking the City to “push the pause button” on the 2006 Solid Waste Management Plan and ensure its safety, fairness and fiscal appropriateness.  

“At Asphalt Green, an athletic facility serving many middle and low income New Yorkers from all the boroughs, we know that instead of spending City money on an antiquated garbage system, that money could be used to fund programs for those in need and help clean up areas in the City that have been negatively impacted for decades by the present waste management system. We are fortunate that Council Member Kallos is committed to assuring taxpayer dollars are spent wisely for all New Yorkers,” said Carol Tweedy, executive director of Asphalt Green. 

“Not only does the cost of building massive garbage stations not make sense, but placing one directly next to NYCHA housing – like the Upper Manhattan station - flies in the face of the Bloomberg administration’s claim that the plan will bring fairness to low-income communities historically overburdened by these types of facilities given the dangerous traffic and increased health risks. Especially considering there are 62% more minority residents living near this proposed site compared to any other planned MTS,” said Bertha Lewis, president of The Black Institute. 

 “We have shared community concerns and opposition with the administration, but despite the new information, they have failed to hit the pause button on this misguided project. There is still time for them to stop a  plan that will cost New Yorkers millions unnecessarily, harm our City and region’s environment and increase significantly the health risks to the 2,300 public housing residents who live next door to it,” said Kallos. 

Since the last IBO review, potentially cost-affecting factors that have changed include: 
•    The siting of the East 91st Street MTS in an area designed by FEMA as the highest risk flood zone possible; 
•    The project has undergone significant design motivations and delays; and  
•    Costs of City contracts and a planned incentive for private commercial carters to use the site have sent costs potentially skyrocketing. 
   ###The letter reads as follows:

April 8, 2014

Ronnie Lowenstein, Director
New York City Independent Budget Office
110 William Street, 14th Floor
New York, NY 10038

Dear Director Lowenstein,

The independent Budget Office, at the request of my predecessor Council Member Jessica Lappin, completed a comprehensive review of the costs related the construction and operation of the Marine Transfer Station (MTS) at East 91st Street.  This report was issued on May 22, 2012.  I now request an update of the report and a review of the operation and construction issues for the Marine Transfer Stations at both 91st Street and in Southwest Brooklyn.  Many factors have changed and new information has emerged since your last report that justifies a new broader review. 

The following items relating to the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station need to be investigated:
•    Designation as a Category AE Flood Zone by the Federal Emergency Management Agency;
•    Additional costs related to mitigating of storm surges in light of Superstorm Sandy;
•    Projected reduction of costs if the city reduces, reuses and recycles up to 50% more waste as an alternative to the current and planned method of waste to marine transfer station to landfill; 
•    Failure to meet City recycling goals delineated in the Solid Waste Management Plan;
•    Failure or delays in construction of Marine Transfer Stations at West 59th Street and Gansevoort;
•    Impact on Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island from barging on East River;
•    Impact of waste from East 91st Street and Southwest Brooklyn on Staten Island Transfer Station;
•    Incorrect assumptions regarding availability of landfills in the New York City metropolitan area;
•    Overestimation of waste generated in Manhattan Community Districts 5, 6, 8 and 11;
•    Ongoing design modifications and construction delays;
•    Increased financing costs for waste disposal contracts including transport and tipping costs; and
•    Costs from financial incentives for commercial carters to use this site.

While the above is a detailed list, it is not exhaustive, and I also request that the Independent Budget Office identify and investigate such other costs and budget implications as may be reasonably related. While the 2012 report focused on East 91st Street, many of these changes also affect the cost of the Southwest Brooklyn site as well as the city as a whole, and therefore we recommend the inclusion of that site and the city as part of a broader new study.


Benjamin Kallos
New York City Council Member, District Five

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