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SE Queens voices outrage on waste transfer stations

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Southeast Queens community members blasted state and city officials last week for allowing waste transfer stations to operate in residential neighborhoods and wreak havoc on their streets.

About 30 residents called a meeting last Thursday to question city Sanitation and the state Department of Environmental Conservation about transfer stations near their homes, which they say produce odors, streets clogged with trucks and more.

“We’ve received a number of complaints from community residents about the interaction between the waste transfer stations and residents,” said state Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans), who sponsored the meeting with other area politicians. “If you’ve gone down Liberty Avenue on a hot day you’ve been hit by the stench.”

According to city and state officials, there are four waste transfer stations in Community Board 12 and two in Board 13 in southeast Queens, where garbage is collected before being sent to landfills in Pennsylvania. Area residents, along with Scarborough, disputed this, however, citing seven stations within a 1.2-mile radius.

Among the stations discussed were Cross County Recycling Corp. on Montauk Street in St. Albans, Jamaica Recycling Corp. on 165th Street in Jamaica and Regal Recycling Co., Inc., also in Jamaica. The operators and owners of the waste transfer stations did not attend the meeting.

A main point of contention was how the transfer stations came to be in residential neighborhoods, a question that was never fully answered. City zoning laws allow for light industrial facilities where some of the stations are located, and others were granted variances, said Tom Melora, the special assistant to the chief of staff at the city’s Sanitation Department.

“They’re supposed to interact easily with residences,” he explained.

But Scarborough and community residents said the sites were incongruous with the surrounding area. .

“They should be in an industrial area,” Scarborough said. “They should not be in proximity to residences because they’re not good neighbors.”

Gertrude Gonesh, a community activist who lives near Regal Recycling, told the officials about the noise from the facility and the danger of the trucks, as well as the rodent infestation in the area and other problems.

“You’re going to have somebody die with those 18-wheelers driving down these streets,” she said.

The facilities are monitored by both the city and the state, said Tom Kunkel, of the state DEC, and summonses can be issued for all the complaints residents described. Cross County Recycling, for example, accrued 10 summonses and $160,000 worth of fines for not cleaning the facility and for a rodent problem, Melora said. Cross County will remained closed until it pays the fines and petitions the city for permission, he said.

But residents wanted to know what it would take to get a station shut down.

“After somebody ignores 10 summonses they shouldn’t be allowed to reopen,” said Crystal Erving, who lives on Liberty Avenue. “They shouldn’t be there in the first place.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

Updated 7:25 pm, October 10, 2011
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