I-Team: Trash Turf War Brewing in Brooklyn Neighborhood

A turf war over a garbage transfer station is erupting in a changing Brooklyn neighborhood. The owner of Brooklyn Transfer LLC, a family-owned business, says he’s tired of opponents trashing the firm’s name and reputation in an effort to throw the plant out of East Williamsburg.

The transfer station has been located in the neighborhood for years. Anthony Tristani’s company took it over in 2010.

“There are residents that have now moved into a manufacturing building across the street, and they’re complaining about our facility. That’s like me moving next to John F. Kennedy airport and complaining about the airplanes every day,” Tristani said. “The easiest way to describe it is that we’re being harassed, we’re being bullied and defamed."

Other residents are rallying around the activist group they call “Clean up North Brooklyn,” issuing flyers claiming Brooklyn Transfer is operating an illegal, dangerous plant.

Ben Weinstein, a community activist, said he produced a documentary showing what he believes are improper work conditions and the use of toxic sprays.

"On a daily basis, they’re breaking the law, and we have lots of security cam video and our own footage,” Weinstein said.

Tristani said the activist video was fabricated and that the company's spray is fully organic, consisting of “nothing toxic."

“We’re monitored by multiple agencies that come here every day, and we run a clean operation,” he said.

Ronnie Caran, who lives right around the corner from the transfer station, said the plant should be shut down.

"I don’t think there’s any way of cleaning it up,” Caran said.

Brooklyn Transfer has received five summonses from the Department of Sanitation since 2013, including for pooling of fluids, no deodorizing material and failure to close the gate. But Tristani calls receiving violations the “cost of doing business” in New York City.

“We’ve had no major violations. All businesses in the city get violations. If you don’t get a violation in New York City, you’re not in business in New York City,” Tristani said. “This is where the city wanted us. None of the municipal waste stays in the facility. As fast as it comes in, it goes out."

The activists have received support from NYC Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, who criticized the plant at a recent community meeting.

“It is toxic. It is dangerous, and it has a very shoddy performance and work that we have seen,” Reynoso said.

A Brooklyn Transfer representative, who also attended the community meeting, said he was shouted down and then thrown out.

“There’s no open dialogue,” said the transfer station’s representative, Ara Chekmayan. “I walked into a chaotic mess of everyone just shouting things and all being on just one side.”

The I-Team found no workplace complaints about Brooklyn Transfer filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but Reynoso still believes that the city should not enter into any more contracts with Brooklyn Transfer.

Tristani said even though Brooklyn Transfer is willing to talk openly about any perceived issues or complaints, Reynoso has refused to meet with company representatives.

“Everything changes,” Tristani said. “The city’s changing, we understand that. And we’re aware of that. That doesn’t make us a bad business.”The mayor’s Office of Contracts gives Brooklyn Transfer an excellent rating."

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