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City Burns Debris From Sandy In Brooklyn, Some Residents Voice Concern

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Getting rid of the debris was a major mission a month after Superstorm Sandy, and in Brooklyn on Wednesday, some of the debris was going up in smoke.

As CBS 2's John Slattery reported, the wrath of Sandy brought down 15,000 trees in the city alone.

The trees have been chipped into 100,000 cubic yards at Floyd Bennett Field in southeast Brooklyn.

City and state environmental officials and the Army Corps of Engineers said the wood will be used for biofuel, for mulch and for landfill cover. But up to 500 cubic yards were being burned in a special incinerator.

City environmental officials said it is a clean way of burning, but CBS 2 was not allowed to look at it up close.

The contraption, the size of a shipping container, is called an Air Curtain Burner -- a ceramic-lined firebox that burns debris as a diesel-powered pump shoots air over the box, creating a trap to keep fire and smoke from getting into the open air.

"The air current really suppresses smoke and particles that come from the fire," and less particulate gets out, said city Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland.

But not all of the particulate is prevented from escaping, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was monitoring the air at eight spots around Floyd Bennett Field.

The closest residents to the field are those who live in the Rockaways, Marine Park and Mill Basin.

"I don't have any concern about it," said Marine Park resident Peter Orsi. "There's wood-burning stoves. There's buses that you see passing by giving out carbon monoxide."

But others are concerned, including New York State Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Queens.)

"The issue is they believe, and we think, and we hope, and maybe, and those are the concerns people in the community have," Goldfeder said.

Everyone agreed the debris has to go somewhere, but the question remained -- is it harmful if some of it goes into the air?

Proponents of the burning say it creates less particulate in the air than hauling the debris to landfills outside the city.

What do you think about the choice to burn debris from Sandy? Leave your comments below...

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