Williamsburg

Brooklynites get a brand new bag

Actually, it was 1,000 of them.

March 5, 2020 Caroline Ourso

Members of the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and their volunteers handed out over 1,000 free, reusable tote bags to residents and passersby in Williamsburg on Sunday to ease the transition to the state-wide plastic bag ban.

Elaine Brodsky and Paul Samulski, both board members, gathered with dozens of others at the Chamber’s headquarters on the waterfront before heading out into the cold.

“Each one of these bags has about 30 more bags inside of it,” said Jessica Wertz, a local restaurateur and Chamber board member, as she handed out bundles to her volunteers.

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After snapping some photos and grabbing coffee, Wertz and her cohort hit the streets to dole out the safety-orange colored, foldable bags provided by the state.

“Free tote bags! The plastic bag ban starts today!” the volunteers called, distinguished from the masses by their white, “North Brooklyn Chamber Environmental Initiatives Committee” beanies.

Chamber volunteer Carly McHugh hands a free reusable tote to a passerby. Photo: Caroline Ourso/Brooklyn Eagle

Some Brooklynites refused the bags, citing a growing collection at home.

Jane Pool, a civically-active community member, found that relatable as she brought along extra tote bags from her own collection to hand out in case anyone really needed more.

Carly McHugh, a volunteer for the Chamber and professional salesperson, used her expertise to entice the public.


“Save a tree! Save the ocean!” she exclaimed in her leopard-print jacket and hat as people crossed the street specifically to take a bag from her. “Save five cents at the grocery store!”

The ever-avoidant New Yorker is notoriously difficult to stop in between destinations, but the majority of passersby quickly took advantage of the handouts, and in under 30 minutes, they had given away every single bag.

While mostly locals picked up the bags, some tourists from England and Ireland stopped to take advantage of the freebies as well, noting their surprise that New York was only now taking this step.

A passerby contemplates his new bag in Williamsburg on Sunday. Photo: Caroline Ourso/Brooklyn Eagle

While the “bag ban” did technically begin on March 1, it is not legally enforceable until April 1 due to a lawsuit brought by Poly-Pack, a Long Island-based plastics manufacturer, and a New York City bodega association.

The plaintiffs argue that the state’s law banning most plastic bags is “arbitrary and capricious” and that its current wording technically bans many plastic bags people bring to stores as reusable options, along with other arguments.

In the meantime, locals seem to be embracing the ban, and many of the neon orange bags were immediately tossed over the shoulders of Brooklynites on their way to the store.


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