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South Bronx Coalition for Clean Air v. Conroy

Citation: 29 ELR 20318
(09/09/1998)

The court dismisses environmental groups' motion to enjoin the sale of a former bus depot in the South Bronx, New York. The sale is part of a plan to develop a former rail yard adjacent to the depot. The plan provides for an intermodal freight terminal, a solid waste transfer station, a paper recycling plant, and several warehouses on the rail yard site. The former depot property would be developed into a printing plant. The groups claim that the events connected with the sale of the depot property will have deleterious environmental effects in the surrounding area. The court first dismisses the groups' National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) claim that federal defendants failed to conduct an environmental review before entering the transaction. Absent some indication that the federal government has discretion over substantial portions of the project, NEPA provides no bases for enjoining the project. Here, the Federal Transit Authority's (FTA's) role was limited to providing funds for the purchase and construction of the depot and concurring in the state transit authority's proposal to apply the proceeds of the sale to the construction of a new bus depot in a more central location. Moreover, the FTA is statutorily prohibited from regulating the operational decisions of mass transit systems. There is no allegation that the FTA or any other federal agency had any control over the major decisions at issue in this case, and the groups conceded that they are unaware of any case applying NEPA to such limited federal action.

The court next dismisses the groups' Civil Rights Act Title VI intentional discrimination claim against the state transit authority. The groups offered only general and conclusory allegations in support of their claim that the expansion of the waste transfer facility on the rail yard property in combination with the state transit authority's agreements restricting the transfer of solid waste in Long Island would create a situation in which minority residents of the Bronx will suffer the noxious effects of garbage to a greater degree than the mostly white residents of Long Island. The court further holds that the groups' allegations are insufficient to support a prima facie case of disparate impact discrimination under Title VI. Lacking from their submissions is any analytical comparison of the subject locations with respect to racial and ethnic compositions, the volume of waste transferred and generated, the costs of waste haulage, and the environmental and health effects of waste haulage. Last, the court holds that it will not exercise ancillary jurisdiction over the groups' state claim under the State Environmental Quality Review Act because the court dismissed the groups' federal law claims.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Elisa Barnes
Law Offices of Elisa Barnes
20 Exchange Pl., 50th Fl., New York NY 10005
(212) 344-4434

Counsel for Defendants
Richard G. Leland
Rosenman & Colin
575 Madison Ave., New York NY 10017
(212) 303-9000