What happens to the thousands of tons of garbage produced every day by 8 million New Yorkers?
After centuries of leaving trash on the streets to rot, and then decades of dumping it out at sea, the city began building incinerators and landfills around the five boroughs in the early 20th century. The most notable of these facilities was Fresh Kills in Staten Island, the city's primary dumping ground for many years, and at one point the largest landfill in the world.
Sanitation trucks would pick up garbage from the curb and bring it to transfer stations, like the one that formerly existed here on Hamilton Avenue in Brooklyn, where it would be loaded onto scows and shipped over to Staten Island. When Fresh Kills — NYC's last operating landfill — finally closed in 2001 (although it was temporarily reopened later in the year for sorting and burying debris from the World Trade Center), the city began trucking almost all of its waste out of state.
To reduce air pollution from truck exhaust, and to allow lower-cost transport to distant landfills (it's becoming more and more difficult to find places nearby that are willing to accept all our trash — a potentially crippling problem), the city is enacting a plan to replace those trucks with boats and trains. This facility on Hamilton Avenue is being reconstructed for the transfer of garbage onto long-haul barges, which will be able to more affordably whisk away our mounds of waste to out-of-sight lands far and wide.