The Smell of Bronx Compost Woes

The compost at Soundview Park
Photos © Dara Sharif, 2010
The compost at Soundview Park is currently inactive, but talk of reopening has residents fearing a return of foul odors they blamed on the site.

It has been effectively inactive for the past two years, but residents are still keeping a watchful eye on the Soundview Compost Facility located in Soundview Park near their homes in the Bronx.
The Sanitation Department’s permit for the compost expired in 2008, and it wants the state Department of Environmental Conservation to renew the permit.
But when the compost was operational, many residents complained of noxious odors that kept them from opening their windows.

The sign posted on the Soundview compost

Signage at the Soundview compost

“I can’t even describe it,” said Mary McGee, president of the Soundview Houses Tenant Association. The public housing development is home to some 3,000 people and sits near the foot of Soundview Park at Randall Avenue where the compost is located.
Some people appreciated being able to get nutrient-rich compost for their gardens, but the foul odor was sickening to many others, McGee, 43, said. Residents are concerned about the stench returning.
“If it wasn’t for the odor, the people wouldn’t complain,” McGee said.
The city touts composting as another great tool in its goals to “recycle more, waste less. Walter Nestler, a 53-year-old community activist who lives in nearby Clason Point, said he’s a fan of the environmental benefits of composting.
However, Nestler questions the wisdom of placing one in a densely populated area like Soundview (the city’s other compost is in the sparsely populated former Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island). He also said that Sanitation has failed to develop 12 new acres of parkland in Soundview Park as the original permit stipulated.
State Environmental Conservation officials agree. Officials said the permit would not be renewed until the new parkland is developed.
Soundview residents remain concerned. Can a compost operate without the noxious odor? Residents intend to remain vigilant.
What do you think? Are the environmental benefits of composting outweighed by the potential harm to residents’ quality of life?