Magic Words: Why didn’t I think of that — or, how to fix New York

Here’s the answer to New York state’s fiscal problems and local truck traffic issues all wrapped up in one simple “Why didn’t I think of that?” solution. Well, maybe “simple” is an understatement. But listen up. This may be the one that puts a monument in the park for yours truly.
As with so many strokes of genius, this one seems a little crazy until you wrap your mind around it. But they laughed at DeWitt Clinton, too, and look where he is today. (Actually, Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.)

Let’s agree as a starting point that New York has money problems. Let’s further agree that we have a few garbage issues, as well. If we didn’t, you wouldn’t be seeing so many trucks hauling somebody else’s refuse to the various man-made mountain ranges that have grown up over recent years on the formerly flat landscape. When I was a kid I learned about the drumlins as being unique to our area. Now it looks like they’re catching on everywhere. If things continue the way they’re going, it’s only a matter of time before we see windmills standing atop these mountains — strictly for the good of the people, of course — and to replace the energy we wasted in the construction of these rubbish ranges in the first place. But that’s a gripe for another day.

The point is, with a little imagination, these two problem-issues, money and garbage, could be turned into New York’s finest hour — if we can somehow keep it out of the hands of the politicians. I’ll leave that dilemma for others to ponder.

How, you say?

Simple. We dig a long, shallow trench that runs the full length of the state, pile the garbage in it, cover it up, beautify it with a little landscaping, and tap it for its methane production capabilities, and voila! We have our low-profile solution!

That sounds unfeasible, you say. How would the state acquire enough land to do it? Ah, that’s the beauty of my plan. We (the state — or you and I, as you may recall) already own the land. It’s called the New York State Thruway. More specifically, it’s the land between the two roadways — the “median”. It’s already there — 496 miles of it, according to some sources, and 641 miles according to the state Thruway Authority. That’s the operating length. Obviously, some of that stretch would be unsuitable for the purpose, but, hey, it’s still a lot of miles of territory, and we already own it. There’s a huge savings right there.

But wait, there’s more. The project would also:

•Create an immeasurable number of jobs over a wide area of the state.

•Reduce noise pollution along the highway.

•Eliminate the need for more mountain ranges elsewhere on the horizon.

•Produce methane, a valuable natural gas, which, in turn, might someday be tapped as a fuel-source along the very highway that generates it.

And the list of benefits could go on indefinitely, given some time in the hands of a skilled senator. (We can discuss oxymorons another time.)

Suffice it to say it could bail our state out of debt and bring home a lot of the friends you’ve been missing who left because of high taxes, etc. Instead of a seemingly endless flushing of resources (money and people) we’d be enjoying a long-term source of income for, let’s face it, one of the most beautiful states in the nation.

Oh, I can hear somebody saying, “Hey! That would be unfair competition against giants like Waste Management”, and so on. Not really. Remember, this is the state we’re dealing with. It knows little or nothing about how to run a business, and I guess there’s enough evidence of that without my citing examples. Indeed, we could use the professionals in a contracting arrangement, and they could provide their already-established expertise to lead the way. They’re always looking for more land anyways.

But how would you get the garbage into the median, you ask? Well, I’m not an engineer, but how hard is it to see this as a make-work project that produces a new bridge every 30 miles, say, or a tunnel, to get the trucks in and out of the access points? Or, who knows, maybe some brilliant engineer can come up with a 641-mile conveyor-system, or a speed-train that operates within the corridor of the pit itself. It would certainly bring an entirely different meaning to the phrase, “New York is in the pits”.

You get the idea. If you need an alternative plan to make this one sound plausible, we could always consider a gradual draining of the Erie Canal (owned by the thruway system already!) and filling it in a section at a time with refuse. Hey, the hole is already there. It’s just a matter of replacing water with waste.

All I ask is that you remember where you heard the idea, as I may need witnesses later on when somebody else claims it as theirs. Probably a member of the Lions Club. I’ve already confided the plot to one of them. At any rate, when the idea goes national, you’ll hear several claims of fatherhood, but you’re reading the true source right now.

I must admit I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t think of it sooner, but at least now it’s public. Just the same, it’ll probably be hard to stay humble much longer.

—Jim Bush grew up in Newark and now lives in Macedon.