Residents blame the constant stream of diesel-fueled trucks transporting the garbage to transfer stations for diminishing health conditions. Last week, council members in these three districts announcec a bill to reduce waste by 18 percent, or an estimated 2,000 tons of waste per day.
“We need answers, and despite those answers, we’ve been forced to take legislative action because they could not achieve what they said they would,” Councilwoman Diana Reyna said at a rally on the steps of City Hall, just before a committee hearing on the plan last week.
Reyna, the primary sponsor of the new bill, was joined Councilman Stephen Levin, Environmental Justice director at the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) Gavin Kearny, and members of Organization United for Trash Reduction and Garbage Equity (OUTRAGE).
“We’re holding this administration accountable and the next administration just as accountable for monitoring SWMP and all of its moving pieces,” Reyna said.
David Biderman, general counsel for the National Solid Waste Management Association, testified in opposition to the proposed bill at the hearing.
According to Biderman, the bill would threaten jobs at existing transfer stations, where garbage is loaded on bigger trucks and shipped out of the city, by capping the percentage of waste handled.
“This is going to needlessly increase costs for businesses throughout the city,” Biderman explained. “It’s going to force the closure or restrictions of the use of transfer stations and it’s going to hurt the city’s ability to process waste in the wake of natural disasters like Sandy.”
The reason, Biderman said, is that the bill would not offer enough outlets for waste transfer and speculated that it could cost the business community as much as $100 million each year.
“One of the problems is that there is not adequate capacity close to the city to process huge volumes of waste like this,” he said. “This would only exacerbate the problem by requiring other places to become temporary staging areas for waste material.”
While the proposal would enforce the SWMP's plan to ship garbage via rail and barge, Kearny, noted that the communities in question are already well above the legal cap for waste management.
He explained that the new legislation is necessary to ensure SWMP is enforced and that no community sees an unfair percentage of garbage in the future.
“This is a modest, yet significant reduction that would take hundreds of trucks off the street in these overburdened communities everyday,” Kearney said. “It sets a cap across New York City. It’s about fairness for all of New York City.”
Kearny argued that the high volume of trash moving through these communities is in part to blame for some of the health issues often associated with these neighborhoods.
“These communities deal with asthma, cardiovascular disease and high rates of other illnesses that are associated with diesel emissions and pollution,” he said.
Elisha Fye, a resident of the Cooper Park Houses in Williamsburg, said he is a survivor of renal failure, which he attributes to the pollution in his neighborhood.
“I’ve been to five funerals this week of people that grew up in the Cooper Park Houses that were afflicted with cancer, asthma and other various diseases,” Fye said. “There are at least 50 children that I see their parents check to make sure that they have their asthma pumps every morning.”
Fye said he often hears stories of residents wiping “smut” off of their walls that collects every two days in the housing development.
“It’s unfair,” he said. “When is it going to stop? When is it going to end? Please, is there any help for the weary?”