Today’s news:

House bill could derail College Point transfer station

In a pointed effort, U.S. Reps. Gary Ackerman (D−Bayside) and Joseph Crowley (D−Jackson Heights) have passed legislation in Congress that if enacted, could block city efforts to construct a marine waste transfer station in College Point.

The issue has been a sore point for Ackerman, in particular, for more than two years. The city hopes to construct a $125 million marine transfer station that would transport 3,000 tons of garbage by barge out of the city each day.

The project would be constructed, however, just 2,000 feet across Flushing Bay from a runway at LaGuardia Airport, which Ackerman and Crowley contend could pose multiple hazards for incoming aircraft.

“This amendment is about public safety trumping garbage,” Ackerman said. “Of all of the shorelines that surround all of the boroughs, why would the [city] Sanitation Department pick the one spot for this facility that is directly opposite one of the busiest runways in the nation? It makes no sense. The smart and reasonable policies that the FAA has implemented with respect to trash stations must be applied to this facility.”

Under Ackerman and Crowley’s legislation, which passed unanimously in the U.S. House of Representatives last week, new safety guidelines would be applied to the placement of such trash facilities, a move which could potentially create problems for the city plan. The guidelines would prevent the agency from placing trash facilities near runways, protect the flying public and communities surrounding airports and preserve future runway upgrades that can expand safety areas.

The Queens congressmen say the facility would attract birds and a 100−foot smokestack that is part of the project would interfere with aircraft flight paths. In the wake of US Airways’ Flight 1549’s crash landing in the Hudson River after a bird strike in January, city, state and federal politicians have piled on the city’s plan.

The plan has been approved by both the Federal Aviation Administration and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which manages LaGuardia Airport.

“A 100−foot garbage tower at the end of a LaGuardia runway is an invitation for disaster,” Crowley said. “Increased trash around our airport means an increased bird population and that means an increased risk of another bird strike. Rep. Ackerman and I recognize what is at stake if this project moves forward and we will continue to fight for the safety of our constituents and the millions of travelers at LaGuardia Airport each year.”

Sanitation Department Commissioner John Doherty rejected the criticisms and has said a similar transfer station in Staten Island does not attract birds because all trash that enters and exits the facility is enclosed.

In a letter to Ackerman, Crowley and other Queens leaders in March, Doherty said the Sanitation Department consulted extensively with the Port Authority and the FAA, which gave the project a “no hazard determination” in September, to insure the transfer station would have no adverse impact on air travel in the region.

“Once constructed, the MTS will be a three−level, over−water facility explicitly designed for the indoor transfer of solid waste from collection vehicles into sealed, leak−proof containers that will be placed on barges for transport directly to a disposal site or to an inter−modal facility,” Doherty wrote.

Ackerman and Crowley’s legislation could come to a vote by the U.S. Senate in the near future.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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