This is exactly what opponents of the solid waste transfer station in College Point did on Thursday, Sept. 20, at the Flushing Branch of the Queens Library.
Assembly members Grace Meng, Michael Simanowitz and State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky hosted the meeting to discuss the North Shore Marine Transfer Station, which is currently under construction in College Point. It is also part of Mayor Bloomberg’s five-borough sanitation plan.
Several government agencies attended the meeting to discuss possible concerns with noise levels, traffic and development in the area that could arise from processing 3,500 tons of garbage per day at the transfer station.
The transfer station is also near flight paths in and out of LaGuardia Airport, and elected officials worry that when the facility opens it could attract birds.
Referencing the “Miracle on the Hudson”, Meng mentioned the captain of US Airways Flight 1549, Chesley Sullenburger, who ditched his flight in the river after it had been disabled by a flock of Canada Geese in 2009.
“This has been a Queens-wide issue, and especially in the light of the accident a few years ago, this became an even more sensitive issue,” Meng said.
More recent events include a Delta Air Lines flight to Los Angeles on April 19 that made an emergency landing at Kennedy Airport after birds were sucked into the plane’s engine. Just five days later, a JetBlue flight returned to the Westchester Airport after two geese hit the aircraft’s windshield.
Meng, who personally toured the site in College Point, said she was concerned about the possibility of potential collisions between birds and airplanes. However, she added that along with Stavisky, a bill had recently been introduced in the state legislature that could prevent future bird strikes by prohibiting the construction of hazardous facilities near airports.
Both political officials and panelists from various organizations commented on the potential impact the transfer station could carry.
“Just because some people say it’s safe doesn’t mean it’s true,” said executive vice president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce Jack Friedman. “The fact is, if you bring garbage to an area, you’re going to attract birds to the area.”
Ken Paskar, president of Friends of LaGuardia Airport, a group formed to oppose the trash station, said unless tasks at the site were performed flawlessly, the potential for problems to occur would be inevitable.
“The FAA said that if the city takes certain steps it can mitigate the dangers the facility poses,” he said. “The city has taken none of these steps.”
Currently under construction, Paskar said the design for the facility does not meet the requirements for an enclosed transfer station and is outside the boundaries of the runway protection zone.
“The way to prevent a possible bird strike is to prevent them (birds) from coming in the first place,” Paskar said.
However, Dr. James Cervino, a marine biologist from College Point, said the transfer station would not pose any threat.
“These birds feed on marine vegetation and are not known to bring planes down,” Cervino said, who added that out of one billion bird strikes, only one statistically resulted in death.
Cervino also said that the transfer station is state of the art and environmentally friendly.
“Instead of having trucks come back and forth, they’ll barge our garbage away,” he said. “It will be a closed facility and will create new jobs.”
At the end of the discussion, Claire Bazinet, a resident of Flushing, said she was wary of the site’s potentially positive impacts and concerned for the bird population.
“The smell from garbage will bring birds,” she said.
Looking at all perspectives, Bazinet said she was not upset about the construction of a transfer station, but the location that could pose dangerous threats to airplane passengers and nearby communities.