Quinn, alone, stands firm on an East Side waste station

Quinn and Maloney. (Azi Paybarah via flickr)
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Four of the five Democratic mayoral candidates said on Saturday that the marine transfer station slated to open on the Upper East Side should be reconsidered because the area was flooded during Hurricane Sandy, casting doubt on a major piece of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's citywide plan to have each borough collect and dispense its own garbage.

Speaking at a candidate forum on East 93rd Street, hosted by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, more than a hundred residents, some wearing green "Dump the Dump" t-shirts, heckled and booed the one candidate who said explicitly that the East 91st Street location for the garbage facility should not be changed: CIty Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

City Comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said they'd reconsider where to put the facility, even though they voted for the 2006 bill placing Manhattan's facility on East 91st Street.

Two others who cast doubt on the location, former comptroller Bill Thompson and former councilman Sal Albanese, were not on the Council when that body voted on the bill.

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Quinn said she had a meeting recently with Bloomberg administration officials about redesigning the facility, but not moving it. "They're not, and I'm not, changing my position on the [marine transfer station] but we are doing a review with an outside expert on what structural changes need to be made," Quinn said, before the audience starting booing. "Come on. All right. Hang on," Quinn said. "Nobody thought I was coming in here and telling you the M.T.S. was gone."

Quinn said she fought to have a recycling facility built in her West Village district "because I can't stand up in this room and say your neighborhood has to take something if mine does not take one."

Quinn said the garbage plan was designed with the goal of reducing truck traffic, and to correct the historical problem of locating these facilities in poor neighborhoods.

At one point, a man in a plaid shirt yelled out, "Don't expect us to vote for you, baby." Quinn replied, "That's fine. That's fine."

Liu acknowledged he voted for the original citywide plan as a member of the City Council but he told the crowd, "in light of Superstorm Sandy, where we have now seen changes in the flood plains, it is absolutely reasonable to take a re-look that puts the specific site and location for this M.T.S., given that, now, apparently, it is in the flood zone."

Liu said he did not know where an alternate location could be found.

Thompson said he was undecided about whether to keep the facility on East 91st Street, but said he was going to tour the site soon and then make a decision.

When an audience member pressed him for a more definitive answer, Thompson, loudly, responded, "I'll be visiting with some of your neighbors and taking a look in the near future. I haven't said I'm supporting this. I haven't said I'm opposed to it. What I've said is I'm looking at information, looking at facts," and, "I think you'd want that type of deliberative response."

De Blasio also expressed reservations about the East 91st Street location, and agreed that flooding from Hurricane Sandy was cause for re-evaluation.

"I do think the effects of Sandy are now an additional consideration that wasn't there before that needs to be looked at carefully," he said.

But de Blasio, who has made favoritism to Manhattan a battle cry of his campaign, also cautioned the audience that any alternative site would have be located in the borough.

"I think there are some real issues that have not been addressed. Obviously the safety issues," said de Blasio, after an audience member had mentioned the potential for "radioactive waste" and possible accidents at the facility.

Albanese spoke last and said simply that it was "insane," to place the garbage facility on East 91st Street.

Eddie Bautista, the executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, said Hurricane Sandy was an inadequate excuse to re-evaluate the East 91st Street location. The facilities are built stronger, and the garbage is better contained than in the past, he said.

"To me, it smacks of pandering," Batista said when told of the candidate's remarks at the forum. "Quinn is being pilloried" for being too centrist, Batista said, but "out of all of them, she takes the most progressive position, in the lions den."