At a Town Hall in Council Member Reynoso’s district last week, Mayor de Blasio had a big announcement for those in attendance: his administration will support Reynoso’s bill, Intro 495-B, to cap the amount of waste that can be carted into transfer stations in overburdened communities such as north Brooklyn, southeast Queens, and the Bronx.
Mayor de Blasio announced to cheers: “This council district, everyone knows it’s an unbelievable fact how unfair the history is in terms of garbage coming into this district — it’s nearly 40 percent of all the garbage in the city comes into this one council district and that is not acceptable and that has to change.”
De Blasio’s public support for the measure marks a significant win for Reynoso as well as a diverse coalition of labor and environmental groups who have championed this bill since 2014, tirelessly deliberating with stakeholders to reach the current compromise legislation with wide support from industry, laborers, and now the City.
For decades, truck-based waste transfer stations have been clustered in a few low-income communities and communities of color, exposing New Yorkers to diesel air pollution, safety hazards, and odors. New York City’s 2006 Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) explicitly called for DSNY and the City Council to take legislative action to reduce the amount of excess capacity in four overburdened communities, but a decade later this has not been accomplished. Meanwhile, a grossly disproportionate 75% of the city’s exported waste is still trucked into just four of the city’s 59 community districts every day.
Intro 495-B will make meaningful reductions to excess waste capacity in the most overburdened communities but an overlooked part of the bill are the climate and air quality benefits it will provide. The bill would create exemptions for facilities that use environmentally preferable recycling and rail transportation practices, which would in turn reduce truck traffic and their associated pollution. In north Brooklyn alone, the administration estimates that this bill could take 100 trucks off the streets each day.
Additionally, there are incentives that could increase glass, plastic, paper and organic waste recycling rates: capacity for recycling in these categories is exempted from cuts to capacity for up to 20% of a facility’s total. Similarly, facilities will have the opportunity to apply for a 10% capacity increase to add recycling and/or organics processing capacity in the future. Advocates of the bill expect that any cuts to capacity and jobs will be offset by these increases in recycling.
This bill will likely be a topic of discussion Council Member Reynoso’s Zero Waste oversight hearing later this month. Though 495 still faces significant opposition from the private carting industry, the Mayor’s blessing could give it the momentum it needs to come to a vote. The bill currently has 19 co-sponsors, 7 votes short of a majority.