Trash Talk: Waste Glut Want Not

Intro 495 – A City Council Hearing on Spreading Around the Trash Burden More Fairly

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Groups from the South Bronx, SE Queens, and North Brooklyn rally on the steps of City Hall in favor of Intro 495

Putrescible.  Well, don’t feel bad if you don’t know what this word means because Word 2007 doesn’t recognize it either.  In point of fact there is a red squiggle underlining this word, which tells me it’s misspelled or doesn’t exist.  Oh it’s a real word alright, Google defines it as “liable to decay; subject to putrefaction” — this source also marks the word’s most recent heyday at around the 1910s.

Int 0495-2014 or more commonly called Intro 495, which is “a Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to reducing permitted capacity at putrescible and non-putrescible solid waste transfer stations in overburdened districts.” This legislation was originally introduced by Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna when she was a Council Member. Presently, Intro 495 is in the hands of Council Member Antonio Reynoso as its Chairman and also Council Member Stephen Levin in a sponsorship role.

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Council Member Antonio Reynoso and Chairman of Intro 495 opens the rally with the bill’s cosponsor Council Member Stephen Levin

Here are some numbers that inspired the creation of Int 0495-2014:

59 Community Districts in NYC’s 5 boroughs
4 of those Community Districts are overburdened:

  • Brooklyn Community District 1 (Greenpoint and Williamsburg)
  • Bronx Community District 1 (Mott Haven, Melrose and Port Morris)
  • Bronx Community District 2 (Hunts Point and Longwood)
  • Queens Community District 12 (Jamaica, Hollis, St. Albans, Springfield Gardens, Baisley Park, Rochdale Village, and South Jamaica)

26 of 38 of the City’s private transfer stations are located in these 4 districts

80% of the city’s total permitted waste capacity is allotted to these 4 districts

70% of the city’s trash is processed in these districts

34% of waste goes to North Brooklyn

Int 0495-2014 would reduce the amount of trash sent to the overburdened neighborhoods by 18%, plus it safeguards communities in the future from becoming overburdened with garbage.

On February 13, 2015 a hearing convened to examine all sides to this piece of legislation. Prior to the hearing, a rally for the proponents of the bill met outside for a press conference.  Council Member Reynoso led the rally to call attention to the fact that 4 out of 59 Community Boards in the city of New York handle 70% of the garbage.

“We’re not just shifting the burden from one community to another. We don’t want any neighborhood to become the next North Brooklyn, the next Southeast Queens, or the South Bronx. Today we are going to showcase the need for change,” stated CM Reynoso.  This issue is particularly close to his heart as he said later when he opened the hearing, “I’m from North Brooklyn. I was born and raised in Southside of Williamsburg. When I got elected this was the issue that was most near and dear to my community when it came to inequities and injustices.”

Next to speak at the rally was Council Member Stephen Levin who said, “This bill is common sense.  … Why should 4 community boards in the city of New York handle 75% of the garbage? That means 75% of the trucks, 75% of the particulate matter that comes from those trucks, that is an unacceptable reality.” CM Levin went on to mention the SWAMP Plan (the 2005 Solid Waste Management Plan), which  he said, “set out the appropriate goals but it was not implemented in its entirety and it did not go far enough. So this bill makes sure those reforms will become a reality: that we have an equitable system, that we have a rational system, that we have a system that supports good players.”

“The rally ended with a representative from OUTRAGE (Greenpoint and Williamsburg Organizations United for Trash Reduction and Garbage Equity) who stated, “North Brooklyn processes around 40% of NYC garbage. [We] support Intro 495 because not only will it relieve overburdened communities but will also prevent this from happening to low income and minority communities.”

Teamsters International Vice President- At Large, George Miranda grew up in the South Bronx and “saw the environmental injustice firsthand” spoke out next and said, “Labor is standing shoulder to shoulder with these communities.”

There is another side to the Intro 495, i.e., the side that is against it. Mike Hellstrom, business manager and secretary-treasurer of Laborers Local Union 108 for the Greater New York Metropolitan Area, and Tom Toscano, president of the New York Chapter of the National Waste & Recycling Association (NW&RA) and chief financial officer for Mr. T Carting Corp argue that “Ultimately, it would simply divert trucks that haul our garbage from one set of transfer stations to others, resulting in more miles traveled, more emissions and greater traffic on our busy city streets.” In addition they propose that, “the City Council should wait until the stations [Marine Transfer Stations] open and the effects of this redirected truck traffic can be measured.” They also claim jobs would be lost and that NYC would become more vulnerable in emergency circumstances.

The loss of jobs position was readily disputed in particular by the union reps from Local 813 and by those in favor of Intro 495 with the logic that Intro 495 wouldn’t change the amount of trash the city creates, so the amount of work would stay the same.

As to addressing the issue of increased vulnerability, the framers of the bill were eager to point out they had included a waiver policy for emergency circumstances and foreseeable irregularly heavy, trash-burdened days.

Councilman Antonio Reynoso began the hearing by, in his words, “setting the record straight with what this bill does and what this bill does not do.”  In addition to the statistics found above he cited a study conducted by OUTRAGE that found 50% of trucks on North Brooklyn Streets are waste trucks, and, on average, particle counts increased by 355% when truck traffic was present on community streets.

Council Member Stephen Levin then came up to explain that the legislation will impose 2 phases of waste reduction in the 4 overburdened areas:

Phase 1 would reduce the total permitted capacity in the overburdened districts 125% of average district wide throughput, which reduces unused capacity.  He said, “Currently the allowable capacity permitted in North Brooklyn is so high that if the permitted capacity was maximized North Brooklyn could see an added 2000 more trucks trips on our streets. This legislation would prevent this potential expansion.”

Phase 2 would reduce burden by overall permitted capacity 18% of average throughput. CM Levin made it clear that the 18% reduction would be implemented district wide – it doesn’t mean each transfer station would be reduced by 18%, and it would only go into effect when the Marine Transfer Stations were open and operating in the corresponding boroughs.  A series of factors will be considered in the reduction rate of each facility: number of violations incurred by the site; amount of traffic generated; proximity to, schools, residences, and parks; working conditions; etc.

Intro 495 also establishes a cap for all community districts of 5% total amount of city permitted capacity – or more of the total New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) capacity. In addition it allows the DSNY commissioner a temporary waiver in the event of an emergency and exemptions on certain heavy trash days, such as the day after a holiday.

According to CM Reynoso, this bill is labor friendly, in that it will not lose jobs and will provide safe, good jobs for the workers.  He hit on the topic of equipment maintenance, “Trucks on average are 13 –15 years old [that are] bumbling down these streets destroying our roads, [polluting our air], and what I hear is the industry is going to wait til the last day, December 31st, of the year that we are mandating that they upgrade their trucks to finally upgrade their trucks.”  He went on to state that for the most part the investment has been at a minimal in upgrading equipment for a city of our standards compared to other cities.

As of February 18, 2015, the number of Council Members who have signed on to Intro 495 is 25. Before bringing the bill to a vote, organizers are looking to get nine more, to reach the magic number of 34, which is veto-proof.

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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