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Mayor avoids protesters of Upper East Side waste-transfer station

A protest by Pledge 2 Protect activists over

A protest by Pledge 2 Protect activists over the construction of a waste transfer site on the Upper East Side forced New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer to move a press conference indoors on Sunday, March 23, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

Demonstrators protesting a new waste-transfer station on the Upper East Side disrupted an unrelated news conference by Mayor Bill de Blasio Sunday, forcing his aides to change the event's location twice.

The mayor's event included an appearance by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and was to be held outside a community center on East 93rd Street. But when protesters converged, aides tried to usher reporters inside the center for de Blasio's announcement that $100 million in federal funds were secured to replace 60 boilers damaged in New York City Housing Authority buildings by superstorm Sandy.

The mayor's lectern, audio equipment and chairs were then set up in a meeting room, but the protesters walked up to the windows, waving signs, including one reading, "Don't build a dump in a flood zone."

His announcement was eventually made in a windowless hallway.

The demonstrators -- who wore blue shirts reading "Pledge 2 Protect," a coalition that opposes the transfer station on East 91st Street, and who at one point chanted, "Stop the dump" -- want de Blasio to reconsider his support for the project. They say the station, set for completion in 2016, would be a health hazard.

The waste-transfer project was proposed by ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a means of reducing the amount of garbage shipped to the outer boroughs by bringing trash to an Upper East Side facility. De Blasio said he'd work to improve the proposal but reiterated his support for making each borough responsible for its own garbage.

Stephen Gross, a protester and an Upper East Side resident, Sunday acknowledged de Blasio had "inherited" the plan, but said, "He doesn't have to go through with it. It's a bad idea."

De Blasio said he chose not to address the protesters because he wanted to keep the focus on the boiler funds.

"We believe this is a very important moment for our city . . . what it's going to mean for tens of thousands of public housing residents," he said. "I respect the folks who are protesting, and I've said that I believe in a five-borough plan in terms of marine-transfer stations."

Gross called the de Blasio team's efforts to outmaneuver the protesters "surprising."

"People were out here ready to just show their signs," he said. "I don't think they were going to attack him."

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