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Residents and politicians opposed to the East 91st Street marine trash transfer station lampoon city's response to construction accident

Yorkville For people fighting against an Upper East Side trash transfer station, the city's offer to cover it with steel during construction offers little reassurance of the overall safety of the project.

The city's Dept. of Design and Construction is proposing to erect a steel "cocoon" over the construction site at Asphalt Green to address safety concerns after an accident July 9 sent a 10-pound jackhammer chisel crashing through a fourth-floor window at the athletic complex.

An employee at Asphalt Green narrowly missed being hit by the chisel and escaped with only minor injuries. Children enrolled in a summer program there were playing in a field on the other side of a fence from where the accident occurred.

The cocoon would provide a 20-foot-tall sheath-like barrier over the road that bisects Asphalt Green and leads to the marine transfer station. The city's Dept. of Sanitation plans to use the road as an access point for garbage trucks unloading at the MTS.

The city halted construction at the site pending a safety review and the contractor responsible for the accident fired several employees who were found to have violated safety procedures. In addition, the DDC assigned a safety inspector who will remain at the site full time during construction to monitor the contractor, according to a spokesperson.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said some parents have pulled their children out of summer camp at Asphalt Green citing safety concerns. She met Friday with members of Mayor Bill de Blasio's staff to discuss halting all construction work there ? which is currently suspended - until after summer camp is over.

Maloney told Our Town that the mayor's office, "said they would not re-open the site until it was absolutely safe, but quite frankly, that's what's they said before. I said then and I say now, they have to do more to address the community's concerns."

Maloney was told the mayor would be made aware of her desire to see work suspended at Asphalt Green until after summer camp is over, and that she will be checking with City Hall on the status of that request.

"This event shocked the community and renewed our fears about the MTS," Maloney said. "From the beginning we told them this would not be a safe site [for construction]. They told us it was going to be safe, and it wasn't. Their reassurances lack credibility."

Members of Pledge 2 Protect, the most prominent anti-MTS group, also met recently with city officials to discuss safety procedures in the wake of the accident, and tied the incident to their overall opposition to the project.

"A temporary cover is an insult to all of us who will have to live with this massive, loud, smelly and dangerous operation for years to come," said Regine LaCourt, a P2P member representing the nearby NYCHA housing project. "Is the city taking serious steps to protect children and others here from the thousands of garbage trucks that will pass our homes ? no, they are making a show of building a short-term cover over something that should not be here to begin with."

P2P said they were told the cocoon would take two months to build but were not told how much it would cost.

The city had proposed a second plan that would involve erecting a trellis roof top over the construction site and include other street-level modifications to the adjacent access ramp. It was also rejected by P2P because it "maintains the ramp where it is within 11 feet of a specially-designed toddler playground and the front entrance to Asphalt Green, and alongside the outdoor sports field," according to a spokesperson.

The opposition group seems, however, to be conceding the point that they're unlikely to succeed in their mission to stop the MTS outright. They said they agreed to a plan that would route garbage trucks to the MTS via East 96th Street and FDR Drive, and "another promising proposal by the city where the garbage trucks would exit at 62nd Street to the FDR Drive and use it to approach the station," said a spokesperson.

But, said P2P, the city subsequently took both those proposals off the table due to cost concerns.

"While the city spends money to create a temporary safety structure at East 91st Street, it rules out all reasonable alternatives to the ramp placement, because they claim the cost estimates might not be feasible," said P2P President Kelly Nimmo-Guenther. "But we ask Mayor de Blasio and [Dept. of Sanitation] Commissioner [Kathryn] Garcia what is the price of a child's life? How much is 'too much' to protect the more than 34,000 children who use the Asphalt Green facility? Enough is enough."

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