Shifting Attitudes Toward E. 91st St. MTS

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Some mayoral hopefuls change their tune on waste station proposal, appealing to Upper East Side voters

Upper East Side residents have proved that they are willing to vote single issue in the upcoming mayoral race to stop the Marine Transfer Waste Station from being built in Yorkville, amidst low-income housing and the Asphalt Green Recreation Center.

Last week, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney held a mayoral forum on the Upper East Side to discuss important issues in the upcoming race. The space was crowded with community activists who expressed an outpouring of protests and anger against building the Marine Transfer Station.

Comptroller John Liu flipped on his previous position, telling the crowd that "it doesn't make sense to proceed while turning a blind eye to simple fact." Former Comptroller Bill Thompson and Public Advocate Bill De Blasio both admitted that they were on the fence about the issue. After the forum, Mayor Bloomberg expressed surprise at their statements, since all three mayoral candidates had previously voted for the Marine Transfer Station in 2006.

But many community leaders do not believe that the candidates necessarily flip-flopped.

"Is it flip-flopping? Well, they voted on this proposal many years ago and I would think the next mayor wouldn't want to be locked into the former mayor's plan particularly since the price has gone up astronomically," said Assembly Member Michah Kellner. "Do they really want to be saddled into their big capitol project being a garbage dump?"

Besides the impact on the quality of life, said Kellner, the concern has become an economical one. The estimated price tag on the Marine Transfer Station ballooned from $45 million at the start of the proposal, to $300 million.

But despite new concerns of mayoral candidates, one candidate has not backed down. Council Speaker Christine Quinn was booed when she asserted her position that building the Marine Transfer Station at Asphalt Green would be the best solution.

"If you want an answer you have to listen," she said over the jeers of the crowd in a video of the event taken by Capital New York reporter Azi Paybarah. "You can scream and yell, but you have got to let me answer if I listen to your question with attention."

One woman in the crowd actually yelled that she would not be voting for Christine Quinn in the primary. "That's fine!" responded Quinn.

"People are saying, 'oh yeah she's such a stalwart that she didn't back down from her position," said Jed Garfield, the president of Sane Trash Solutions, an organization that has been fighting the building of the Marine Transfer Station. "But it's hardly heroic that she wants to put a dump near low-income housing."

And it looks like in the upcoming mayoral election, that this garbage dump will have a significant impact on voters, at least on the Upper East Side.

When asked if she would ever vote for a candidate like Christine Quinn, Lorraine Johnson, a resident at Stanley M. Isaacs low income housing, right next door to the possible location of the Marine Transfer Station, said she would absolutely not.

"I can't believe this is happening," she said. "I have respiratory problems, and my asthma went down and became manageable when the previous MTS was finally closed in 1999. My asthma has been stable since, but I am scared that my asthma could be much worse if the city builds the planned MTS."

Jed Garfield is not surprised that the community is willing to vote single issue to get the garbage dump out of residents' hair (and noses) once and for all.
"People always vote single issue whenever you're dealing with issues of health that affect children and seniors," he said. "Based on the meetings and people I've met, they're absolutely not going to vote for anyone who is not socially and fiscally responsible, and this is an example of that."

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