By Dart Clark
EAST HARLEM -- Locals blasted a city proposal to relocate a crumbling sanitation garage to the heart of Harlem, saying the city is using the neighborhood as a “dumping ground” for the unpopular plan.
On Tuesday, Community Board 11 once again reviewed a proposal from the city’s Department of Sanitation to relocate the current sanitation garage at East 99th Street and First Avenue to East 127th Street and Third Avenue.
The community board was nearly unanimous in voting against the relocation plan, after previously calling it a "piece of garbage proposal."
Residents and community board members said the community would be overburdened with trash, as the proposed site sits a few blocks from another sanitation facility on 131st Street and Park Avenue that houses dump trucks from Central Harlem.
“I just feel like our community has been the dumping ground for deleterious city projects,” said resident and business owner RanDe Rogers.
For many residents at the meeting, the proposal highlighted a disparity between communities.
Locals noted the difference between the garage proposed for the neighborhood and the state-of-the-art facility built on SoHo-TriBeCa — which one resident compared to the Museum of Modern Art but another lamented that the East Harlem facility “looks like a glorified parking lot for dump trucks.”
“We get the cheapest of the cheap and the [Department of Sanitation] thinks they can just run through this community,” one person shouted out at the meeting.
“We’re not wealthy or famous like our neighbors in TriBeCa, but we deserve parity,” added resident Nicole Risafi. “We are as important as our neighbors Downtown.”
Other concerns included the garage not being enclosed, as well as its proximity to schools, a park and a nearby cancer treatment center.
Derrick Taitt, chairman of developer East Harlem Triangle, also noted that the proposed site sits near the planned African Burial Ground memorial, slated for East 126th Street and First Avenue.
“I think it’s disrespectful to have a garbage dump just about a block away from where we’re honoring our ancestors,” he said.
The proposal is currently going through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which includes reviews by the community board, borough president, City Council and ultimately the mayor.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who represents East Harlem, attended the meeting to throw her support behind a community board resolution stating their problems with the project.
“I believe that the [proposed] site is a safer corridor for that to be located in as opposed to where it is now,” she said, noting that the current East 99th Street sits near Metropolitan Hospital and a residential area.
“But, again, we are working really hard with the city to make sure that the concerns the community has expressed are being met.”
Local resident Bob McCullough strongly disagreed, saying if she votes for the plan, “she will be the one who will draw a line in the sand.” He also vowed to “march in the streets” against the project.
Alana Davis, a representative from the Department of Sanitation, pleaded with the community to “be open-minded” about the plan.
“We have people who work at the sanitation garage who work in inadequate facilities,” she said, noting that the current garage has structural defects and that the department is unsure if it would last long enough to for the agency to find funding, another lot and build and a brand-new facility.
The proposed structure includes 19,000 square feet of outdoor parking, an 8,600-square-foot building on the lot, two repair bays, and a washing and fueling station.
“It’s incredibly difficult to site a garage," Davis added. "No matter where we go we are met with incredible opposition."
She said the East 127th Street location would be a “temporary” fix, that the proposed relocation would have little effect on residents and the site is “the best alternative.”
However, locals weren't buying that the relocation would be temporary, as the department could not offer a specific timeline.
“There will be no significant impact,” Davis said, adding that the department has done traffic and environmental studies showing the garage would not burden the community, despite many in attendance disagreeing.
“They’re always saying, ‘See something, say something,'" said a member of the Harlem Neighborhood Block Association at the meeting. "We see unfair standards and we’re saying something about it."