Anti-Trash Station Democrats Rally for Lhota

Joe Lhota on the Upper East Side.

Joe Lhota on the Upper East Side.

Upper East Side residents trying to halt the city’s construction of a new waste transfer station made a last-minute push today for Republican Joe Lhota, with just days to go before voters head to the polls.

The Republican candidate kicked off a day of campaigning outside of Asphalt Green, a recreation center on East 91st Street–the site of a controversial marine waste transfer station, which his rival, Bill de Blasio, supports.

“It makes no sense!” Mr. Lhota told the small group gathered on a sidewalk, vowing to cancel the city’s contract “on day one.”

“You have a real choice this Tuesday: A choice between someone who’s gonna maintain the beauty and sanctity of this neighborhood or someone who will destroy it by putting in an environmental bomb known as the 91st Street dump here,” he said.

The anti-trash activists have been fighting the city for years, filing multiple lawsuits to halt the plans, which the city argues are meant to ensure that all neighborhoods accept their fair share of city trash. The anger helped Bill Thompson, one of Mr. de Blasio’s rivals in the Democratic primary, who opposed to the station, secure a far larger chunk of the vote than in similar neighborhoods.

The issue has also become a deciding point for a significant number of Democrats in the neighborhood, who have said they plan to cross party lines to vote for Mr. Lhota–some for the very first time.

Among them is George Morin, 77, a life-long Democrat who said he planned to cast his ballot for Mr. Lhota despite never having voted for a Republican in his life.

“He has my interest at heart,” said Mr. Morin, who has lived in the neighborhood for the past 30 years. “My interest is this neighborhood and the health of this neighborhood … I don’t wanna have it trashed up.” Asked about Mr. de Blasio, he said: “He’s a good guy, but he’s wrong on this issue. He’s just dead wrong.”

Others who see Mr. Lhota as their only hope, however, expressed frustration with his campaign, which is trailing by nearly 40 points in the polls going into Tuesday’s election.

Jennifer Ratner, 48, another self-described “Democrat for Lhota” who has been handing out leaflets in the neighborhood to help the campaign, said she’s been frustrated by what she sees as a lack of organization and outreach to other voters like her.

Last weekend out campaigning, she said, “I couldn’t even count how many people came up to me and said, ‘Is there a website for that? Is there a way to come out? Are there signs to hand out?’”

“I feel that there should have been some kind of more appeal to people who are Democrats—some kind of outreach,” she said, arguing that Mr. de Blasio had managed to paint Mr. Lhota as a typical, national Republican, even though he’s far more liberal on social issues.

“That’s what a lot of people that I’ve met have felt frustrated about with his campaign,” she said. “Most of us are so frustrated and angry at the national Republican party right now. So I think that hasn’t been said enough. He hasn’t been able to separate himself enough from the national Republican party.”