Controversial waste bill passed in New York

Controversial waste bill passed in New York

New York City Council passed a bill that aims to distribute commercial waste away from predominantly black and Hispanic communities.

July 23, 2018
Edited by Adam Redling

New York City Council passed a long-debated bill July 18 that aims to more evenly distribute commercial waste among the city’s transfer stations, Crain’s New York Business reports. The council voted 32-13 in favor of the bill, which will effectively ease the burden of transfer stations in the South Bronx, southeastern Queens and northern Brooklyn, which are currently processing outsized portions of the city’s waste.

Specifically, the bill—if passed into law—would reduce permitted capacity of transfer stations by as much as 50 percent in northern Brooklyn and 33 percent in the South Bronx and northern Queens. Proponents of the bill have pointed to the outsized processing burden in these communities, whose populations consist primarily of minorities, as a matter of racial injustice.

"The notion that black and brown people are somehow less deserving of a safe and clean environment is something that represents some of the worst tendencies in our society," Brooklyn Councilman Antonio Reynoso, who co-sponsored the bill, says.

While proponents of the bill argued that protections could have been extended to even more communities, opponents have argued that the bill will serve to hurt private carting businesses, result in lost jobs and increase collection truck traffic in other areas where logistics aren’t currently known.

"We are losing jobs," Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera says. "The carbon footprint is going to increase in other areas."

The City of New York Department of Sanitation conducted an investigation into the environmental impact of the bill, which resulted in a 144-page report that was release to council members last week right before the vote was scheduled. Opponents of the bill claim that this was a premeditated way to speed legislation through before appropriate due diligence could be taken to review its impact.

"This bill has been under negotiation for more than three years, and all along the Department of Sanitation has been promising an environmental assessment so everybody would be able to understand the impact," Kendall Christiansen, executive director of the commercial carter trade association New Yorkers for Responsible Waste Management, says. "And they didn't produce it until a minute before the committee hearing today. It's not fair to the public and not fair to the industry to have it held until the 13th hour with no ability to have a rational discussion about whether they got it right."

The Department of Sanitation responded that the environmental assessment showed that the passing of the bill into law would not have a negative impact, and that a complete environmental impact statement was not needed.

The passage of the bill into law would likely require more of New York City's waste to be shipped to transfer stations outside the city because of siting difficulties, while the waste that continued to be shipped to transfer stations within city limits would likely see a rise in cost.