A Grace Note for a Gritty Business

Recycling in New York is a scrappy business. Billions have gone toward building water tunnels, power plants, subways and sewage treatment facilities, but little toward an infrastructure of recycling. 

In turn, New Yorkers have been slow to separate bottles and cans the way they flip a light switch or swipe a MetroCard: Recycling remains less an everyday fact of life than a do-good option, like tipping the mail carrier at the holidays.

But a Sims Municipal Recycling Facility will open shortly at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park. The city’s first big, state-of-the-art plant for processing discarded plastic, metals and glass, it promises jobs to nearby residents and, as the cost of exporting garbage out of state rises, some savings for the city.

Did I mention that it’s an architectural keeper? No, it doesn’t resemble a giant egret or stegosaurus skeleton, or sport flying titanium panels. And its designer didn’t cost some obscene premium. The facility is understated, well proportioned and well planned — elegant, actually, and not just for a garbage site. It is an ensemble of modernist boxes squeezing art, and even a little drama, from a relatively meager design budget. Sanitation projects are usually the ultimate NIMBY flash point. This one makes a good case for the social and economic benefits of design — and for old-fashioned industrial waterfront development as an abiding urban virtue.

Read full text at The New York Times