The Betts Ave Incinerator, along with the neighboring Betts Cemetery, are named after Captain Richard Betts, an English settler who in 1656 purchased and began farming 120 acres of land near today's 54th Ave and 58th St (up until the 1920's 58th St was known as Betts Ave). The Betts Ave incinerator was shut down in 1994 and converted into a Department of Sanitation Garage housing collection trucks for Queens Community Districts 2, 3, and 4.
Beginning operations in 1950, the design for the Betts Avenue Incinerator was the subject of an industrial experiment that involved shredding the entire waste stream before feeding it to the incinerators in an effort to improve combustion efficiency and deal with oversized materials. Four 30 ton per hour hammermills (sledgehammers mounted on rotating shafts) were built into the plant that could smash and rip mattresses, furniture, tree stumps and other bulky items into smaller more manageable pieces. It was also unique among the City's incinerators for being the only one that was equipped with heat recovery equipment which produced hot water used to warm surrounding buildings.
The Betts Ave plant was once part of a large network of New York City incinerators that in the 1960's included 17,000 apartment building incinerators and 22 municipally owned and operated incinerators. A 1951 City law that required all new large apartment buildings to contain on-site incinerators significantly contributed to the boom in burning. During the course of the 1970's many incinerators were shut down because they were too expensive to retrofit to increasingly strict air quality standards. The Betts Ave incinerator was not one of these plants and was fitted with electrostatic precipitators in the 1970's. But even with improved air pollution controls, public opposition to incinerators mounted throughout the 1980's and culminated in the closing of all New York City incinerators by 1994, the year Betts Ave burned its last load of waste.