North Brooklyn handles almost 40 percent of the city’s trash, and a couple of City Council members think that just plain stinks. They’re introducing a bill that would dramatically curb the amount of garbage being hauled through Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick.
Stephen Levin and Antonio Reynoso touted the legislation on the steps of City Hall this morning, with supporters waving signs that read: “Our children need air, not pollution” and “Stop trucking on our streets.”
If passed, Intro. 495 would “decrease capacity for waste processing in overburdened communities” and make sure that no community take on more than 5 percent of the 35,000 tons of garbage produced by the city every day, according to Reynoso.
According to the New York Public Interest Group, Williamsburg and Greenpoint alone house 19 out of the city’s 58 trash dumps — the highest concentration in the city. That stat has won the ire of Organization United for Trash Reduction & Garbage Equity (OUTRAGE), which in April rallied to speed the construction of waste transfer stations in Manhattan. In 2009, the group found that 50 percent of trucks driving through North Brooklyn are garbage trucks.
Levin finds the facts “shocking”: “South Bronx, Southeast Queens, and North Brooklyn handle 80 percent of the city’s trash, and North Brooklyn handles the most at almost 40 percent,” he said. “That’s not fair by any measure.” In 2006, New York City passed the Solid Waste Management Plan (SWAMP), which eliminates six million truck miles per year in New York. The bill would help this plan along by requiring the handling of waste in each of these three areas to be reduced by 18 percent by January of next year.
At the rally, environmental justice advocates spoke about the impact of the amount of waste and trucks. Justin Wood, a community organizer with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) said, “Residents in these neighborhoods suffer from clearly linked health impacts including some of the highest asthma rates in the country.”
Sean Campbell, President of Teamsters Local 813, insisted sanitation workers want waste equity as well. “Many sanitation workers live in these neighborhoods and we deal with pollution every day at work,” he said.
Levin said that the De Blasio administration has been opposed to the bill in the past, but he is confident that the matter just needs more attention. There will be a hearing in the next couple of months to determine if Levin and Reynoso will move forward or drop the bill for now. Levin says, “For communities like the one I represent, there is no truth to the saying, ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.’”