De Blasio Plan to Dump Trash in Wine Country Irks Residents

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to continue dumping garbage in the scenic Finger Lakes region isn’t winning him friends in upstate wine country.

A proposed 20-year, $3.3 billion contract to send trash 300 miles from two Brooklyn sites to the bucolic town of Seneca Falls would extend the city’s use of landfills. The mayor has said he wants all trash recycled by 2030. The new plan would also increase the load the Finger Lakes dump has been accepting up to now.

“Keep your garbage to yourself,” said winemaker Will Ouweleen, whose 0h-Neh-Da vineyard has been operating since 1872 and made vintages for Pope Francis last month. At a hearing in Manhattan on Thursday, he brought a freshly made rosé labeled “No-Trash De Blasio Blush,” which he offered as a gift to the mayor.

New York already sends trash to the Seneca Meadows landfill by truck. The proposed contract would increase the tonnage by transporting garbage by rail through 2035, with two five-year options to renew, according to Vito Turso, a Sanitation Department spokesman. The city spends about $350 million a year hauling trash to landfills in states as far away as South Carolina.

“Zero waste to landfills by 2030 is an ambitious goal,” Turso said in an e-mail. “We believe it can be achieved through sound planning and citizen support and cooperation, but the city still needs to be able to plan for what we produce today and have the necessary capacity for the garbage we generate.”

For de Blasio, a self-described environmental activist, his message is at risk of being undercut by protests from Finger Lakes residents. They say he’s fouling their air and water and placing their $3 billion tourism industry at risk.

Seneca Falls is famed as the birthplace of the women’s suffrage movement, and is said to be the inspiration for Bedford Falls, the setting of the 1946 Frank Capra motion-picture classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

The region contains such Fortune 500 companies as Eastman-Kodak, Xerox Corp., Bausch & Lomb Inc. and Paychex Inc.

‘Dangerous Plan’

The dump in question is near Seneca Lake, 37 miles (60 kilometers) long and one of the deepest freshwater bodies within the U.S. It forms a watershed that nourishes some of the state’s most fertile vineyards, an area that Wine Enthusiast magazine this year described as the best wine-lover’s tourist destination in the world.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has sought to promote New York wine by reducing regulatory burdens.

To dump tons of city trash in a landfill within the confines of the town “is a dangerous plan,” said Sandra Steingraber, a biologist and distinguished scholar in residence at Ithaca College, said at the hearing.

“Landfills invariably leak,” she said. “They also make methane, which is a potent heat trapping gas. This is an area that turns water into wine, but it also serves as the drinking water source for 100,000 people.”

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