Senate piles it on, O.K.’s Gansevoort transfer site

By Albert Amateau

The other shoe dropped last week when the state Senate voted on Aug. 8 to amend the Hudson River Park Act to allow a Department of Sanitation marine transfer station to be built on Gansevoort Peninsula.

The state Assembly had voted on June 24 in favor of the amendment to allow the transfer station to be built at the end of the 8-acre peninsula that extends into the Hudson River between Gansevoort and Little W. 12th Sts.

The proposed station would transfer recyclable paper, plastic and metal that are trucked to the peninsula, with barges carrying the material to a major recycling plant on the Sunset Park waterfront in Brooklyn.

The peninsula has been and still is the home base for Sanitation equipment, but it was designated in 1998 as part of the 5-mile-long Hudson River Park. West Side state legislators tried but failed to stop Mayor Bloomberg from brokering an agreement to allow the transfer station on a site that park advocates say would compromise a magnificent riverfront park.

But the mayor, with the support of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and assemblymembers from Northern Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn, was able to win over Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last month and the state Senate’s agreement was a foregone conclusion. The Senate vote last week was 44 in favor of the amendment to 18 against.

“Governor Paterson’s signature on the legislation passed today will mean we have cleared the final legislative hurdle to implementing the city’s historic Solid Waste Management Plan,” Bloomberg said in an Aug. 8 statement.

The S.W.M.P., a.k.a. “Swamp,” is intended to both reduce the number of Sanitation trucks that go through minority communities and make each borough handle its own trash.

Nevertheless, some legislative red tape remains that could delay the effective date of the amendment for a couple of months and there is a legal wrinkle that will prevent any work being done before the beginning of 2013.

Because the legislation originated in the Assembly, as a formality it must go back to that house. The Assembly must deliver the bill to the governor within 10 days, and Paterson has two months to sign the bill.

Although Friends of Hudson River Park, a community-based advocacy group, is urging Paterson to hold off on signing the bill, the governor gave his support to the M.T.S. in June and he is not likely to veto the legislation now.

Moreover, the legislation carries an agreement that the mayor, the governor and leaders of the Assembly and Senate must sign a memorandum of understanding, or M.O.U., about replacing — or paying money for — any land on the peninsula that the M.T.S. alienates from park use. The money would go toward the park.

The proposed transfer station, which would replace an existing but abandoned one, would take 1.36 acres from the peninsula, including a 25-foot-wide access ramp.

After the governor signs the bill, the M.O.U. will be written, with the input of Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Richard Gottfried and state Senator Tom Duane, who are staunch defenders of the park’s integrity.

Beyond that, the Friends of Hudson River Park two years ago won a court settlement that forces the Sanitation Department to get its current operations off Gansevoort Peninsula by the end of 2012. Although the agreement does not preclude a marine transfer station on the peninsula, it does prevent any work being done until the current Sanitation truck facility is off the site.

For Friends of Hudson River Park, the Gansevoort M.T.S. is a shortsighted solution. A.J. Pietreantone, executive director of the group, insists that Pier 76, the site of the city auto tow pound at 36th St. opposite the Javits Convention Center, is a viable alternative to Gansevoort that the city has ignored.

While the current S.W.M.P. calls for the Gansevoort transfer station for recyclables and another transfer station for household and restaurant garbage on Pier 99 at W. 59th St., the Friends propose putting both operations on Pier 76 without moving the tow pound.

“It would move more Sanitation trucks and twice as much waste out of other boroughs than the administration plan — and because it wouldn’t have to wait until 2013, it could begin sooner and save money,” Pietreantone said.

Friends and local legislators have said the city has dismissed the Pier 76 alternative without examining it. But because any possible work on Gansevoort is at least four years away, park advocates still hope the alternative will win out in the end.