Borough Park

Opposition to 5-cent plastic bag fee building

May 9, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Gristedes manager Bob Capano says Mayor Bill de Blasio should veto the controversial council bill. Photo courtesy of Capano
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The five-cent fee on plastic shopping bags at New York City supermarkets isn’t even in effect yet, but efforts are already under way to terminate the controversial policy.

The legislation, which would take effect on Oct. 1 if Mayor Bill de Blasio signs it, would require supermarkets and grocery stores to charge a fee for each carryout paper or plastic bag.

There is a movement in Albany to stop the council bill in its tracks.

State Sen. Simcha Felder (D- Borough Park-Midwood) and Assemblymember Michael Cusick (D-Staten Island) proposed legislation that would prevent the city from imposing the fee.

Another state lawmaker, Assemblymember Dov Hikind, is urging his constituents to support Felder and Cusick.

“I strongly urge my fellow New Yorkers to reach out to their elected officials and voice their concerns regarding the bag tax proposal,” said Hikind (D-Borough Park-Midwood).

“This notion to charge consumers a nickel for their grocery bags is an unfair tax on hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Not only will this fee further complicate our lives even more, it will also tremendously burden the store owners,” Hikind said.

The council legislation, sponsored by Brad Lander (D-Park Slope) and Margaret Chin (D-Lower Manhattan), passed by a vote of 28-20 on May 5.

The mayor has indicated that he will sign the bill.

Felder, who is a former councilmember, vowed to stop the city.

“Going back to my days on the New York City Council, I’ve been disheartened every time I’ve heard the absurd plastic bag tax legislation introduced. Nickel and diming people — asking them to pay for paper and plastic bags at retail and grocery stores — places an undue financial burden on countless New Yorkers who are already struggling,” Felder said in a statement. 

Cusick told the Staten Island Advance that he had been thinking about proposing state legislation even before the City Council vote took place. “We knew that this possibly was coming down the pike in the City Council and my belief is that we don’t need another tax, particularly on hard-working families in New York City, so I gladly said I would sponsor it in the Assembly,” the Advance quoted Cusick as saying.

The legislation’s supporters contended that the five-cent per bag fee is not a tax because the fee will not be collected by the city, but will remain with the store owner.

That’s nonsense, Hikind said. “If it looks like a tax, smells like a tax and acts as a tax, then it’s a tax,” he said.

Bob Capano, a former Bay Ridge resident who manages an Upper East Side Gristedes, called on de Blasio to veto the council bill.

“With the vast news coverage of this bill, New Yorkers are now fully informed and their opposition is building. Many of my customers have been slamming this additional tax over the past several days. Mayor de Blasio now has an opportunity to display real leadership and veto this bill that would cost shoppers more money and time at retail stores throughout our city beginning Oct. 1,” Capano told the Brooklyn Eagle in an email.

The council remained firm, however.

The bill is an environmentally-friendly piece of legislation aimed at reducing plastic bag usage, councilmembers said.

New York City pays an estimated $12.5 million a year to transport 91,000 tons of plastic bags and paper carry-out bags to landfills in other states and the city’s residents use 9.37 billion carryout bags per year, according to a press release issued by the council.

Plastic bags get stuck in storm drains, exacerbating flooding and sewage discharges into waterways, and are the fourth most commonly found type of litter on U.S. beaches, councilmembers said.

Lander pointed out that similar legislation in other cities has worked well.

“In city after city, a small fee on single-use carryout bags has been overwhelmingly successful in getting people to bring their own reusable bags when they shop — across lines of race, income and age — and generated a 60 percent to 90 percent drop in plastic bag waste,” he said in a statement.

Lander predicted that the new fee will result in residents changing their habits. “New Yorkers will start bringing reusable bags to avoid the fee, and together we will drastically cut back on the number of bags we use,” he stated.

But Felder said it’s not necessary to force the city’s residents to pay a fee for bags at the grocery store because “there are plenty of eco-friendly initiatives that can be introduced without burdening families and small businesses.” 

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