Introduction of Legislation to Ensure the Fair Distribution of Garbage Handling in New York City

Council Members, environmental justice advocates, and community-based organizations rallied for waste equity legislation in advance of its formal introduction today at the New York City Council. The legislation, sponsored by Council Members Stephen Levin and Antonio Reynoso, will more equitably distribute the responsibility of solid waste management throughout our city by 1) decreasing permitted capacity for waste processing in overburdened communities, and 2) capping permitted capacity for each community district to ensure that no other community will take on more than its fair share.

New York City creates 35,000 tons of garbage every day.  Under the current system, waste transfer stations are concentrated in just a few neighborhoods – North Brooklyn, Southeast Queens, and the South Bronx, which together process about three quarters of all of the city’s solid waste.  Garbage trucks needlessly travel thousands of miles throughout New York City polluting our air, clogging our streets, and damaging our roads, and impacts are greatest in the three communities. This system exposes these communities – predominately low-income communities of color - to significant health risks.

In 2006, New York City passed a landmark Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) that would eliminate nearly 6 million truck miles in New York City every year and distribute waste impacts fairly. The legislation would follow through on the SWMP’s commitments by reducing waste handled by 18% in each of the three overburdened communities. These 18% reductions would be timed to coincide with the operation of the City’s Marine Transfer Stations, thus minimizing impacts on truck-dependent transfer stations in other communities and supporting the SWMP’s important diesel truck reduction goals.

The bill would also require that no community district’s permitted capacity could be increased to more than 5% of the city’s total in the future. By doing so, it ensures that no community can ever become the next North Brooklyn, South Bronx, or Southeast Queens.

Council Member Stephen Levin said, “For communities like the one I represent, there is no truth to the saying, ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’. North Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and Southeast Queens have been forced to bear the burden of the majority of the city’s waste for too long and have only suffered its consequences. This bill will promote a more equitable waste system in New York City and will ensure that no community becomes the next North Brooklyn, South Bronx, or Southeast Queens. I am proud to sponsor this legislation and to fight for a more equitable New York City with my colleagues in the City Council.”

Council Member Antonio Reynoso said, “My community in North Brooklyn, and other communities of color in Southeast Queens and the South Bronx, have been suffering the effects of high concentrations of waste transfer stations for too long.  Our children have asthma and other associated health problems, and our streets are dangerous and in disrepair.  But this isn’t just about ‘not in my backyard.’  As Chair of the Council’s Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, I support this bill as a major step toward promoting the City’s Solid Waste Management Plan and as a demonstration of the City’s commitment to borough equity for processing waste.”

“Here in Southeast Queens, as in parts of North Brooklyn and the South Bronx, we have been disproportionally impacted by poor waste management policies. This legislation provides an opportunity to bring justice to this unjust situation and to clean up our communities,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller. “I look forward to working on this bill as it moves through the Council and thank Council Members Stephen Levin and Antonio Reynoso for their leadership on this important issue.”

“For too long, three New York City communities have been overburdened with the City’s waste and associated truck traffic.  Resident in these neighborhoods suffer from clearly linked health impacts including some of the highest asthma rates in the country,” said Justin Wood, community organizer at the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI). “In addition to bringing some relief to North Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and Southeast Queens, this bill protects all NYC neighborhoods from ever experiencing such a damaging concentration of waste facilities by capping how much trash can be processed in each community district.

“This legislation is about fundamental fairness for all New Yorkers.  By setting a 5% future cap on the amount of waste that can be handled in districts not already overburdened, it will help shield city residents across the whole city from being unfairly stuck with an over-concentration of waste facilities in their neighborhoods,” said Eric A. Goldstein, NYC Environment Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Sean Campbell, President, Teamsters Local 813, said, “Those of us who work in sanitation want waste equity too. Many sanitation workers live in these neighborhoods and we deal with pollution every day at work. New York can have a sustainable waste system. We are already on that path and passing this bill is the next step.”

Eddie Bautista of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance said, “For over a quarter century, North Brooklyn, the South Bronx and SE Queens have borne a staggeringly disproportionate burden of NYC’s waste handling responsibilities – along with well-documented, attendant public health impacts. Justice delayed is justice denied – today, we mark the next significant step on the road to environmental justice.”

“OUTRAGE and North Brooklyn thank the Leadership of Council Members Levin and Reynoso, for introducing this needed legislation, a cap on waste capacity will ensure that low income communities in New York City, are not forced to process large amounts of New York City waste,” said Rolando Guzman of St. Nicks Alliance.

Angela Tovar of Sustainable South Bronx said, “We applaud our leaders in City Council for introducing this important legislation. The South Bronx has a long history of being overburdened with unfavorable land uses that have resulted in health and quality of life issues for community residents. It’s well known that South Bronx residents suffer from overwhelmingly high rates of asthma, diabetes and obesity stemming from pollution-producing industrial facilities and most significantly, from the truck traffic passing through the local streets. The high concentration of waste transfer stations in the neighborhood contributes significantly to the challenges that residents face on the peninsula. This important legislation will not only ensure a reduction of permitted capacity of trucks that haul waste, but will also ensure that areas like Hunts Point, are protected in the future.”

Joan Levine of the Morningside Heights/West Harlem Sanitation Coalition said, “Our Manhattan non-profit has always been concerned by our Borough’s lack of participation in caring for its own garbage. Because of this much is sent to North Brooklyn or South Bronx instead.  Even though Manhattan is still off the hook, we are pleased that this Council will take the first steps in limiting the egregious amount of garbage sent to these overburdened neighborhoods.”

Kellie Terry of THE POINT CDC said, “Our community of the South Bronx and others like ours across the city have been in the shadows, dealing with the disproportionate impact of handling the majority of City’s waste for decades. Capacity reduction provides long overdue relief to the 3 communities that handled three-fourths of the City’s waste; it will take hundreds of garbage trucks off the streets in these overburdened communities. With Capacity reduction legislation, THE Bronx and communities that share our struggle, will be breathing again!” 

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Stephen Levin statement on NY Post article re: Project Reconnect

New York City Council Member Stephen Levin, Chair of the General Welfare Committee, is issuing the following statement regarding the New York Post article on Project Reconnect that appeared in Sunday’s paper:
 
“Contrary to what the New York Post would have you believe, Project Reconnect is a common-sense program that helps homeless New Yorkers reconnect with loved ones. Under Project Reconnect, not only do homeless individuals get to make the voluntary choice to move in to a more stable living situation, but it also allows taxpayer dollars to be used more efficiently. No family or individual is forced to be part of this voluntary program and it is strictly for those who choose to receive help to return to a more stable life.”

Levin and Johnson introduce bill to ban hydrofracking waste in New York City

Today, Council Members Stephen Levin and Corey Johnson are introducing legislation that would ban the discharge, disposal, sale or use of any wastewater or natural gas waste produced by hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking. The legislation, Introduction 853, will be formally introduced at today’s stated meeting of the New York City Council.

The process of hydraulic fracturing produces millions of gallons of wastewater that is often laced with toxic chemicals, including highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground. Other chemicals that include carcinogenic materials are also commonly added to wastewater during the hydrofracking process. These chemicals pose significant health and environmental risks.

The legislation would prevent hydrofracking waste from being treated at wastewater treatment plants in New York City. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection owns and operates 14 wastewater treatment plants and there are also a number of privately owned wastewater treatment plans that operate within the City of New York. These facilities release effluent back into the surface water throughout the City and it is important that it be free of the dangerous contaminants found in hydrofracking waste.  Additionally, the legislation would prevent wastewater and other waste products produced from hydrofracking from being used during deicing and snow removal.

“Hydrofracking waste is highly toxic and doesn’t belong in any of the five boroughs,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “With this legislation we can keep this toxic waste out of New York City and send a clear message that we are opposed to fracking in our state. Millions of gallons of wastewater filled with toxic chemicals are produced from fracking and my hope is that every locality throughout New York will introduce and pass similar bans. I want to thank Council Member Johnson and all of the environmental advocates who stand together in opposition to fracking waste in New York City.”

Council Member Corey Johnson said, “Extracting natural gas by fracking creates a tremendous amount of toxic waste and we must ensure its disposal or alternative use does not endanger our city” said Council Member Corey Johnson “This legislation will prevent the sale, use,  or dumping of the waste from fracking in New York City.  While hydro-fracking should be banned outright in New York State, it is important to put protections in place while the process is still in legal limbo.”   

"Toxic, radioactive waste is the dirty underbelly of the fracking process, and it certainly has no place in New York City. We need to do what our neighbors on Long Island and upstate have already done, and protect ourselves by banning fracking waste once and for all," said Alex Beauchamp, Northeast Region director at the advocacy group Food & Water Watch. “We’re working hard to get this waste ban enacted, and we’re grateful for Councilmen Levin and Johnson’s leadership on this critical issue.”

“Riverkeeper applauds the important step that New York City is taking today to protect New York City residents from the improper reuse and disposal of fracking waste, an action that more than a dozen counties across the state have also taken to safeguard the health and environment of their citizens,” said Misti Duvall, Staff Attorney at Riverkeeper.  “We urge the City Council to pass strong legislation as soon as possible.”