Bay Ridge

Legislature vote doesn’t end debate over plastic bag fee

February 8, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bob Capano, manager of a Gristedes supermarket in Manhattan, has been fighting against the plastic bag fee law for months. Photo courtesy of Capano
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The state Legislature has voted, but the debate is still raging in Brooklyn over a controversial city law that would force retail stores to charge five cents for each plastic bag a shopper uses.

The city’s law was slated to go into effect on Feb. 15, but on Tuesday, the state Assembly voted to force the de Blasio administration to delay implementation by at least a year.

The state Senate had taken a similar vote a day earlier.

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The Senate bill was sponsored by state Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Borough Park-Midwood), who has been an outspoken opponent of the bag fee. “Government’s job is to protect people, not make their lives harder,” Felder said. “Our efforts should be geared towards making it easier for New Yorkers to keep more of their hard-earned money, not nickel and diming them every time they turn around. My colleagues and I will continue to be diligent and not allow New Yorkers to be over-fined, over-ticketed and over-taxed.”

The City Council approved the five-cents-a-bag law last year as an environmental protection measure.

Plastic bags pollute the city, according to advocates for the law. Under the new law, store owners are mandated to charge five cents for each plastic bag. The merchant will keep the money generated by the bag fee.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) released a statement prior to Tuesday’s vote.

“Last year, the city of New York approved legislation that would impose a fee on carryout bags in an effort to reduce plastic waste. My state Assembly colleagues and I share in this goal to improve our environment. However, we have heard from many constituents concerned about the financial burden as well as other factors that could negatively impact our communities if this law goes into effect,” Heastie stated.

Assemblymember Pam Harris (D-Coney Island-Dyker Heights-Bay Ridge), who voted in favor of the implementation delay, said placing a fee on plastic bags would hurt financially struggling families.

“For many low-income and middle class families, paying for groceries is enough of a struggle.  I strongly support protecting the environment, but it shouldn’t be done on the backs of hardworking families. A moratorium on the bag fee allows us to properly review and analyze the impact of the fee and come up with alternative solutions to limit waste and increase recycling,” Harris said in a statement.

But the environmental issue cannot be ignored, according to Assemblymember Robert Carroll (D-Park Slope), who voted against postponing the law.

“Remove one plastic bag from a store, and you remove one plastic bag from a tree, a landfill, an ocean,” Carroll said.

He offered a solution to shoppers who don’t want to pay a fee for a plastic bag. “It’s easy to avoid paying this fee. If you don’t want to pay it, just bring a reusable bag with you,” he said. 

Republican political activists, meanwhile, are lauding the state Legislature’s action.

Bob Capano, a Bay Ridge resident who manages a Gristedes supermarket in Manhattan, said state lawmakers are doing the right thing for shoppers.

Capano has waged a public campaign against the so-called bag tax over the past several months, organizing a petition drive, appearing on radio and television news programs and meeting with shoppers to discuss the impact of the law.

“We’re happy we’ve achieved the objective of trashing the bag tax and stopping the City Council from nickel and diming consumers at registers throughout Brooklyn and our city. They want to tax everything that moves and some things that don’t. Fortunately, they will be stopped on this one!” Capano said in a statement.

Capano has political aspirations. He recently announced that he is running for the Republican nomination for Bay Ridge’s City Council seat. The field of announced candidates includes John Quaglione and Liam McCabe, who are Republicans, and Democrats Justin Brannan and Nancy Tong.


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