City Council approves cap on trash processed in Brooklyn neighborhoods
North Brooklyn neighborhoods like Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Bushwick are responsible for 38 percent of New York City’s trash processing capacities, according to lawmakers, who said the Southeast Queens and the South Bronx are also forced to handle an unfair burden.
Taken together, these three areas handle 64 percent of the city’s waste.
The City Council took a major step on Wednesday toward evening the playing field when it comes to how trash is processed in New York, environmentalists said.
The Council voted to approve Intro. 157, a bill that would place a cap on the amount of waste that overburdened communities have to handle in their waste processing plants.
The three areas that the bill targets, North Brooklyn, Southeast Queens and the South Bronx, are home to 26 of the city’s 38 waste transfer stations. Not all of the facilities are owned by the city. There are also several privately owned waste processing plants.
Under the bill, the waste transfer stations currently operating in Greenpoint, Williamsburg and would have to reduce capacity by 50 percent over a period of time. Plants in the Bronx and Southeast Queens would see reductions of 33 percent.
Councilmember Antonio Reynoso (D-Bushwick-parts of Williamsburg), the sponsor of the bill, said it’s a matter of fairness.
“Currently, low-income communities of color handle a staggeringly disproportionate amount of our city’s waste,” Reynoso said in a statement. “Intro. 157 will finally deliver environmental justice to frontline communities and ensure that no other neighborhood suffers the same fate, while setting a historic precedent for the fair share distribution of burdensome and polluting facilities in the city of New York.”
Councilmember Stephen Levin (D-Greenpoint-DUMBO-Downtown Brooklyn) co-sponsored the bill.
Residents in neighborhoods with waste transfer stations live with excesstraffic from trucks hauling in garbage, elevated levels of air pollution, and higher rates of asthma rates, Reynoso said.
The bill, which has been championed by the Council’s Progressive Caucus for more than two years, had a great deal of support. Among those who voted for it were Council Members Justin Brannan (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-parts of Bensonhurst), Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend) and Carlos Menchaca (D-Sunset Park-Red Hook).
Environmental activists have been pushing for more than a decade for trash relief for overburdened neighborhoods.
“Our communities have been fighting for relief from waste facilities and trucks traffic for decades. Finally, we will see this first critical step toward waste equity, and ensure that local communities – particularly the three most impacted – finally begin to realize some semblance of fair share,” said Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance
The issue of what to do with the city’s trash is one that cuts across boroughs.
Rev. Dan Rodriguez of the group Waste Equity for Southeast Queens, spoke at a rally held outside City Hall before the vote took place.
“Intro 157 is responsible legislation and a collaborative effort – a compromising bill that does not say ‘Not in my backyard!’ but instead says ‘Not all in my backyard!’ The City Council has an opportunity today to ensure that all boroughs carry each other’s burdens so that all involved can become better citizens of the neighborhoods in which we work, live and serve.”
Andrea Scarborough, a community activist in Southeast Queens, attended the pre-vote rally. “I trust that the day is coming when there will be less garbage trucks spewing emissions on the streets of Southeast Queens. This affects the quality of life and the health of my neighbors,” she said.
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