Boro recycle plant shut amid protests

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A controversial Springfield Gardens recycling company has closed its doors while waiting for a decision on its application for a 24-hour operation, but community leaders are still demanding a public hearing on the topic.

Cross-County Recycling Inc. at 122-52 Montauk St. is awaiting a decision on a permit to change its hours from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday to 24 hours a day, but area residents want the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the city Department of Sanitation to hear their concerns, said Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans).

In late September, a DEC spokesman said the agency was conducting noise analysis tests at the facility and that a decision could be reached within a month.

Another agency spokesman reached last week echoed those comments.

“The application is still under review,” said Michael Fraser, a DEC spokesman. “We are evaluating the noise issues and taking a good look at everything.”

Fraser was unsure when a decision might be reached or what prompted the delay, he said.

The DEC has not ruled out a public hearing to discuss the application, something the community has been demanding since word of the proposal spread.

“That may be something we’d be willing to do,” Fraser said. “That’s usually not done until an application is decided, but it’s certainly something we’re willing to leave the door open on.”

The Department of Sanitation did not return calls seeking comment.

Community residents say the transfer station, which handles about 80 tons of garbage a day, has not been a good neighbor, often operating when it is supposed to be closed, allowing trucks to block access to Montauk Street and houses, and even threatening homeowners

The company has been cited a number of times for violating operating regulations, including keeping doors open while unloading trucks, not clearing the work floor by the end of the day and other problems that together have resulted in $165,000 in fines, said Gertrude Gonesh, president of the Nellis Street, Nashville Street and Montauk Street Civic Association.

The company also lost its operating permit last year but was able to reopen under further restrictions, Gonesh said, alleging the plant has not adhered to those restrictions.

“We’ve been fighting to keep them from getting their expansion,” said Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans). “They’ve had many fines and violations that they have not paid. We feel that they ought to be shut down.”

The management of Cross County Recycling could not be reached for comment and the plant has been closed since August.

The facility, which has been in the neighborhood for about 25 years, handles putrescible waste, which includes household and other solid waste.

At a June meeting on the proposed changes, home owners told stories of the 18-wheeled trucks used to transport the garbage trampling flower beds, blocking driveways, and tearing down cable wires. Others expressed concerns that the proximity to the waste transfer site is causing health problems, including asthma.

Scarborough has also asked the state attorney general to look into the company and its operation, he said.

He is working to minimize the number of facilities located in southeast Queens’ residential communities. Mixed-use zoning laws has allowed dozens of plants to operate in these areas, he said.

“The situation with Cross County is a microcosm of the problems we’ve been having with waste transfer stations in this community,” he said. “They shouldn’t be in an M-1 zone with houses. If they are put in residential communities, they could be creating a real and credible health risk. It’s shameful.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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