Concerns over LGA trash-transfer station

May 26, 2009 3:54:49 PM PDT
A bird strike caused the engines of US Airways Flight 1549 to fail, forcing the plane to land in the Hudson last January.The plane had taken off from LaGuardia Airport. Now the co-pilot of the flight is speaking out against a new trash-transfer station near LaGuardia. He says it will increase the danger of bird strikes.The first-officer in the Miracle on the Hudson is the latest in a growing list of opposition to the enclosed trash-transfer facility. He is speaking out against what he sees as a city refusing to learn from a near tragedy.

Captain Jeffrey Skiles is not one to panic or needlessly sound the alarm. After all, his nerves of steel helped him and Captain Chesley Sullenberger avert disaster in January by safely landing their plane in the Hudson after striking birds. But long before that, the city had been making plans to build a huge marine trash-transfer station at a closed-down site just 2,000 feet from LaGuardia's main runway. To move forward with the project now, Captain Skiles says, defies logic.

"I'm no expert on trash disposal," he said. "I'm an airline pilot, but it just seems a little hard to believe."

The city says the facility will be completely enclosed, nearly odor-free and will transfer 3,000 tons of trash daily from its garbage trucks to sealed containers that will then be hauled away on barges. An Eyewitness News report showed how even sealed containers attract birds.

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"Of all the shoreline places to build this, would you suspect the one place picked by the Department of Sanitation would be directly opposite one of the biggest active runways in the U.S.?" Congressman Gary Ackerman said.

The FAA sent a letter to Ackerman defending the project, saying that in 2007, it sent inspectors to the existing site and found "the facility did not appear to be a bird attractant." But that might not be that much of an inspection considering the facility had been closed down for years. Eyewitness News wanted to ask Mayor Michael Bloomberg what he thought, but didn't get an answer.

The pilot who nearly lost his life to bird strikes believes the city has to stop dodging and start re-thinking its risky plan.

"I've seen dumpsters which are closed too, and they seem to attract plenty of birds," Skiles said. "I think it's something that should not be that close to an airport."

The mayor's office says it has an enclosed station already operating on Staten Island that attracts no birds. Critics say the facility near LaGuardia will handle four to five times the amount of trash.