Environmental Justice - At What Cost to NYC's Children?

Asphalt Green is a jewel of a park in Yorkville on the Upper East Side of Manhattan sitting across from the Stanley Isaacs Public Housing Complex where some 1,000 plus low income black and Hispanic families live.

 Asphalt Green park and the Stanley Isaacs Public Housing Complex - Yorkville neighbors

Asphalt Green park and the Stanley Isaacs Public Housing Complex - Yorkville neighbors

Today 400,000 children use the park every year. Although Asphalt Green provides many of its services for a fee, one third of its programs are free to the public. Providing school children with swimming lessons, and granting pool access for physical rehabilitation, community sports leagues, and summer camps.  

 1/3 of Asphalt Green's programs are free & 400,000 kids visit the every year.

1/3 of Asphalt Green's programs are free & 400,000 kids visit the every year.

In the early 1970s, neighborhood activists from the Stanley Isaacs Senior Center and locals George and Annette Murphy saved the site from conversion into two 45-story apartment buildings and a public school. George Murphy (1919-1987), a pathologist at Cornell University Medical College, founded Asphalt Green Incorporated to build a state of the art creative and physical health facility dedicated to providing affordable access to the community.

The Park is once again fighting for its survival as Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to turn part of it into an access ramp for a dump.a dump which will be situated right next to the park.  Mayor de Blasio calls it “Environmental Justice”.  He talks of the small marine transfer station that used to exist at the site and how the predominantly white Upper East Side and how all of Manhattan must be responsible for its own garbage.

What the Mayor doesn’t talk about is the Marine Transfer Station he is building will be as large as the Empire State Building’s footprint and ten stories tall – orders of magnitude larger than the previous Marine Transfer Station which was shut down because of among other things environmental concerns of a garbage dump in a residential neighborhood.  And that the Marine Transfer Station he is building is across the street from 1,000 low income families in public housing.

 The Marine Transfer Station will have the footprint of the Empire State Building and be 10 stories tall. 

The Marine Transfer Station will have the footprint of the Empire State Building and be 10 stories tall. 

What’s more, the Mayor doesn’t speak about the 500 trucks that every day will make their way up York Avenue traveling in some cases 80 blocks through densely populated residential areas in the opposite direction of where the garbage will ultimately end up!

Many people have trouble visualizing what 500 trucks a day would mean.  I know I did.  So over my school’s winter break I went to a landfill in Pennsylvania that receives New York City’s garbage.  My onsite video report is below.

Needless to say the constant stream of truck traffic was noisy and the smell was horrendous.  But unlike, the UES Marine Transfer Station that is being built, the Pennsylvania dump was not in a residential neighborhood.  Rather, like every other transfer station in New York City, the Pennsylvania dump was located in an industrial area.

From a health and safety perspective, you could not site the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station in a worse spot – unless perhaps it was in Central Park.  As mentioned before, 400,000 children make the trip to Asphalt Green annually. Those 400,000 kids a year come from over 100 New York City schools – may in East Harlem and the Bronx, but also Queens and Brooklyn   The  garbage site will be built right up against a public park.  Garbage will be unloaded from another public park, Carl Shurz.  The only access to the Marine Transfer Station will be a block long ramp that will literally cut Asphalt Green in half passing between Asphalt green’s soccer field and an INFANT Playground. The Marine Transfer Station will vent directly into Asphalt Green’s existing air duct. 

 100,000 Children cross the street where 500 trucks each day will turn to enter the Marine Transfer station. 

100,000 Children cross the street where 500 trucks each day will turn to enter the Marine Transfer station. 

Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of diesel emissions and can lead to serious health conditions like asthma and allergies and can worsen heart and lung disease.  500 trucks a day idling or crossing a soccer field and infant playground is a recipe for long term disaster.  Children already have a higher breathing rate than adults.  Children running around and climbing on play structures breathing rate is even more elevated.  With each breath a child takes he or she will be breathing in carcogenic substances.  Just two (2) hours of exposure can lead to genetic changes in a child

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/air-pollution-can-cause-harm-to-dna-ubc-study-finds/article22358556/

The effects of the degradation of air quality on the children that play at Asphalt Green may not be known for year.  We’re more likely to hear of the child who has been struck and killed by one of the 500 trucks turning in to enter the Marine Transfer Station facility.  Studies show that there will be 100,000 truck – child interactions will result from building this facility at the entrance of the Asphal Green.  Garbage trucks already strike down and kill more people per year in New York City than any other type of vehicle.  Having 500 trucks enter a ramp, right where 100,000 children cross a street is a recipe for disaster. 

How many children or their parents or grandparents running after them need to be hurt before the Mayor has his “Environmental Justice” ?

It is ironic that Stanley Isaacs whom the public housing buildings  across the street from the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station are named for is most famous for fighting Robert Moses in 1956  when Mr. Moses ordered bulldozers to tear up a playground in Central Park to make room for a parking lot. Mr. Isaacs suggested to a frantic neighborhood mother that she rally together with local mothers and their baby carriages and demonstrate in front of the bulldozers. Rather than battle dozens of mothers and babies, Mr. Moses had to give in. 

Perhaps the solution is to honor Mr. Isaac’s name and turn the truck ramp into a skybridge and the dump into an extension of Asphalt Green. Let's save this park and not pave over it jut like Stanley Isaacs saved Central Park.

Let's honor Stanley Isaac's memory and do something really progressive. Let’s Build a Park and put an environmental center on it where today's kids can go to learn about recycling and the East River watershed which is making a comeback. Or a basketball court that can be used year round.  Let's Build a Park, not a Dump! Now that would be Environmental Justice!

And with the money saved from building the dump let's fund the shortfall in Pre-K funding throughout the 5 boroughs. Now that would be truly Progressive!

 Let's Build a Park not a Dump!

Let's Build a Park not a Dump!