2012-06-20 / Features


Flushing Bay Odors Persist Despite Transfer Station Assurances

n July 2001, then Queens Borough President Claire Shulman and then City Councilmember Helen Marshall agreed that years of federal plans for the environmental restoration of Flushing Bay had resulted only in confusion and accomplished next to nothing. Marshall, who would succeed Shulman as borough president in 2002, pointed out that a multimillion-dollar promenade along Flushing Bay was unlikely to have many users. “You won’t find too many people on it because of the odors,” she said at the time. More than 10 years later, city officials maintain that dredging only a small section of the waterway would cost almost $50 million, with no guarantee that the odors would be in any way alleviated. The project would be the first time the section of the bay that lies close to the marina and promenade was dredged since the late 1980s.

Flushing Bay is the focal point of two other sewage and garbage projects. A Flushing Creek Combined Sewer Overflow project, intended to protect the Flushing River from being swamped by sewage, was expected to be operational by the end of 2007. In 2009, elected officials expressed misgivings about a three-level Marine Transfer Station (MTS) the city Department of Sanitation proposed to build near LaGuardia Airport. Under construction as of January 2012, the facility is completely enclosed, according to Sanitation Department Commissioner John Doherty. Waste will be delivered to the MTS inside closed collection vehicles, will enter through rapid roll-up and roll-down doors and be tipped onto the second level of the facility. There the waste will be pushed through openings in the floor into leakproof containers situated on the bottom, or pier, level. Once filled, the containers will be capped, and each container will be cleaned and sealed and exit through rapid roll-up doors.

Citing the potential danger of flocks of birds causing airplane crashes, such as that of US Airways Flight 1549, which was landed safely in the Hudson River with no serious injuries or loss of life on Jan. 15, 2009 by Captain Chesley Sullenberger and his co-pilot, Jeffrey B. Skiles after collisions with Canada geese disabled both engines, then state Senator George Onorato and Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. called for the abandonment of the garbage handling facility near LaGuardia Airport. Congressmembers Joseph Crowley, Carolyn Maloney, Gary Ackerman and Anthony Weiner also raised questions about potential bird problems and the 110-foot height of the proposed sanitation transfer station. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in January 2005 had determined that the project was “presumed to be a hazard to air navigation”, but 21 months later ruled the facility was “no hazard to air navigation” and construction proceeded apace, while the odors of Flushing Bay still persist.—Linda J. Wilson

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