A municipal worker clears debris at 32nd Street and 5th Avenue on Monday after garbage removal began. This is the first time New York City has shut down a waste disposal site for swine flu activity and the first closure of a borough waste transfer station since the 1980s. The slowdown and plan’s growth in recent days led to uncertainty over whether any waste would be brought into the city from out of state, which was the case in 2017. Still, there was disappointment over the rush to close the Metropolitan Transfer Station. (Manny Navarro / For New York Times)
A nimby nightmare turned into a human disaster zone. The powers-that-be in City Hall were unprepared. And people are mad.
Nationally toxic cesspools are reeking in the air and festering in the streets. We all love New York. It’s worse than ever. pic.twitter.com/KrV3R4VnjI — Eric Trump (@EricTrump) October 9, 2018
Last week, New York’s garbage management system shut down after 1,300 shipments of truckloads of trash — most of it from Upper West Side apartment buildings — failed an intensive swine flu test. The swine flu ruling — the most frequent cause of these closure tests — is unusual because garbage trucks go through one set of such tests before each collection. That came as the city was staggering through one of its worst outbreaks in more than 30 years.
What followed was a mess. Town and Village officials were alerted. Streets emptied. Mosques closed. Schools, which are staffed with high-risk employees, became a magnet for their out-of-town colleagues. At the Salvation Army in the East Village, 26 employees were told to go home because they “did not have the capacity to reach Borough of Manhattan Health + Hospitals,” a representative for the organization told the New York Times. That is the only public health provider in the borough that issues swine flu testing.
Mess was created. People were infected. Babies, innocents, were born with a life-altering case of pneumonia. One pregnant mother died.
“The current situation is a hostage crisis as we believe we are all being held to ransom by our own mayor,” Michael McCaffrey, the spokesman for Borough of Manhattan Community Board 1, told the Times. “That is the nightmare that we’re living.”
Democrats in City Hall and the mayor’s press office repeatedly referred the New York Daily News to the mayor. While Mr. de Blasio did offer the Daily News this quote, he did not mention the city’s failure to close the transfer station in response to the swine flu concerns.
“Following concerns about the possible exposure of garbage workers to sick cats and dogs at a Bronx facility, one of the places the city sends garbage to, trash transfer stations and bulk carriers were the focus of swine flu concerns after first-hand accounts of sick cats and dogs being transported to a Bronx facility,” the administration said in a statement to the Daily News. “The city has stopped all refuse pickup and has not issued any permitting for any of the transfer stations.”
On Monday, before the fact, a public advocate’s spokesman said his office still believed that all the waste should have been stored in buildings. But the Daily News reported that Ms. de Blasio had hinted to a Daily News reporter that it was unlikely it would happen.
Finally, after several days of confused and somewhat justified clamor, Ms. de Blasio agreed to allow the transfer station to reopen.
Told by Mr. de Blasio’s office about the Thursday Daily News story, the city’s health commissioner didn’t respond. A spokeswoman for Ms. de Blasio offered this: “The administration has prioritized its response to ensure there is no public health risk. Each week, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is testing 15 types of effluent to confirm that in fact, there is no health risk associated with swine flu. Yesterday’s testing was a close call, but results were negative and the transfer station will now be open for the benefit of our residents.”
She also said she spoke to a representative of the Council of Trash Garbage Transfer Station Operators, whose members include major construction and waste-hauling operations.
“We were advised that these operators are in regular contact with the city,” the spokeswoman wrote. “The following Monday afternoon the local transferring stations will all be open.”
We won’t know the answers to the tough questions until after the election.