City to build trash station near LGA

March 10, 2009 9:32:56 AM PDT
Common sense might tell you that there's no way to move 3,000 tons of garbage a day without attracting birds. The city has convinced the FAA and the Port Authority that it can, and can do it right next to LaGuardia Airport.It's been eight years since the city used a facility in Queens for trash. Now it wants to spend $125 million to double its size and re-open it as an enclosed trash transfer station. It will take in more than 3,000 tons of garbage daily, put it in sealed containers and onto barges. And it's just 2,000 feet from one of the busiest runways in the world.

"Right at the end of that runway, you couldn't have put it any closer to the airport," wildlife biologist Steven Garber said.

Garber, a former Port Authority Wildlife Management Director who is now consulting for a group opposed to the transfer station, says unless the massive facility is hermetically sealed, it will attract birds.

Garber: "More birds, more danger."
Eyewitness News Reporter Jim Hoffer: "You're convinced?"
Garber: "I'm positive, there's no two ways about it. This creates a gargantuan problem, this is a bird magnet."

Video proves it. Eyewitness News recorded hundreds of birds flying around a rail trash transfer station in the Bronx, a facility similar to the one proposed near LaGuardia. It clearly shows even when trash is put into sealed containers, it still attracts birds. Queens Congressman Gary Ackerman wonders what is the FAA thinking.

"You're going to have hundreds and hundreds of garbage trucks in the course of any given hour that are unloading 100 feet in the air, dropping trash into this compactor," Ackerman said. "And it's all indoors, but that doesn't stop birds. They know that it's there, they follow the trucks down the street."

Just eight weeks ago, Flight 1549 ditched into the Hudson River after ingesting several birds into both engines. Why, after such a close call, would the FAA and the Port Authority still endorse a huge trash facility just 2,000 feet off its main runway? The FAA's own wildlife safety advisory specifically states that an enclosed trash transfer station should be at least 10,000 feet from any runway.

The sanitation department plans detail a facility with a state-of-the-art ventilation system that will make the process practically odor-free, with rapid roll-up doors that will allow for up to 300 garbage trucks a day to dump more than 3,000 tons of garbage inside nearly undetected by humans, let alone birds.

"You mean to tell me they are going to be be able to do this without attracting birds?" Garber said. "It's a joke."

The Port Authority would not comment. The FAA says there's no safety problem since the entire process will be enclosed and covered.


WEB PRODUCED BY: Daniela Royes, Eyewitness News