Going Green

Sims Municipal Recycling Facility Wins Over “Times” Architecture Critic

A Sims Municipal Recycling Facility in Sunset Park is turning heads in architect and design circles, a rare occurrence for properties specializing in the unglamorous work of discarded plastic processing.

Michael Kimmelman of The New York Times threw his sought-after support behind the plant, which will soon open at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal. Calling it “an architectural keeper,” Mr. Kimmelman praised the facility as “understated, well proportioned and well planned — elegant, actually, and not just for a garbage site.”

Sims-Municipal-Recycling-Facility_Rendering,-Sims-Municipal-Recycling-FacilityA warm reception beyond the Times architecture critic would be noteworthy considering how often sanitation structures are feared as banes of a given neighborhood. Upper East Siders have been wringing their hands for several years over the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Plant. Supporters–including Bill de Blasio–say it will spread whatever unpleasantness arises from hosting such a facility from poor areas, where they are now clustered, while opponents fret about the environmental and traffic impact. 

Mr. Kimmelman  wrote that the Sunset Park facility “makes a good case for the social and economic benefits of design — and for old-fashioned industrial waterfront development as an abiding urban virtue.” Conceived a decade ago as a plant that would process up to 20,000 tons of the city’s recyclables each month, the Selldorf Architects-designed structure was built on a crumbling 11-acre pier at a cost of $110 million–$50 million of it from Sims and $60 million from New York taxpayers. Recycled plastic, metals and glass will all come to the site by barge, which Sims says will cut 250,000 miles from routes now traveled by polluting sanitation trucks. 

Fittingly given the building’s purpose, principal architect Annabelle Selldorf opted for recycled steel and a sleeker design than typically found in industrial waterfront projects. As it stands, the Sims facility is a forward-thinking addition to the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn, where a new generation of niche manufacturers hopes to revive massive complexes like Industry City and the Brooklyn Army Terminal.

The goal of the Sims facility goes beyond handling recyclables to, hopefully, urging New Yorkers to recycle more than they currently do. As Mr. Kimmelman put it, the facility “adds an improbable grace note to a gritty stretch of Brooklyn waterfront” as it seeks to “be a good citizen and neighbor” and  “At the same time…function[s] as an advertisement for itself.”

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