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Queens Chronicle

Reyna leads on waste concerns

Councilwoman calls for waste removal in burdened communities

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Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:16 am, Thu Nov 21, 2013.

Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Brooklyn, Queens) is leading the charge to reduce waste from overburdened districts in the city.

Reyna has been a long-time advocate for the issue and believes that it is time for the city to seize the day on the issue.

“Today we have an opportunity to legislate that particular goal,” she said. “We have spent seven years with the administration in trying to achieve those goals.”

The 2006 SWMP, or the Solid Waste Management Plan, which the bill seeks to strengthen, was in part designed to change waste transfer to railroads and barges.

In addition, the bill is designed to reduce the amount of putrescible or decaying waste in overburdened district. Negotiations with local transfer stations fell through.

A meeting on the issue was held on Oct. 25, where Reyna spoke about the importance of the proposal.

“This is the first hearing in seven years regarding reductions of waste permits in these three communities that we have been able to have a dialogue that will be transparent and open,” Reyna said.

The communities are in the Southern Bronx, Northwestern Brooklyn and Southeast Queens. According to information provided in the committee report, they contain 27 of the city’s 38 private transfer stations and 80 percent of the permitted city capacity.

As she gave her opening remarks, Reyna discussed the urgent need for a decision on the matter. “Today’s action, legislatively, provides us with what would be the security of those reductions,” she said. “No longer can we wait an additional seven years for the continuation of SWMP.”

However, supporters of the bill face a major roadblock from city Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty.

Doherty believes that the reductions called for by the bill are excessive and he said the DOS has already closed waste transfer stations within the affected communities.

However, his biggest reason for opposition concerns the city’s ability to transfer waste after a major disaster. He believes the new bill will leave transfer stations ill equipped to deal with the excess of waste following such an event.

“The reduction in capacity called for by this legislation will lead to a shutdown of smaller transfer stations which would have an enormous impact on our ability to manage solid waste particularly during weather related or other emergency crises such as Superstorn Sandy,” Doherty said.

The bill has a special exemption for dealing with natural or man-made disaster situations. Reyna said the bill will allow the DOS to dump flotsam wherever they want after such a situation.

“The city of New York has the right to place what would be the collection of such garbage in a city park tomorrow, if that was the case,” she said.

Supporters of the bill say many of the trucks that carry waste release fumes in the affected communities.

During the meeting, Councilwoman Maria Del Carmen Arroyo (D-Bronx), who lives near her neighborhood’s waste transfer facilities discussed how the truck exhaust has impacted her life.

“I have to run my wipers every single morning just to get the soot off my windshield, and 90 percent of that is the trucks that are coming through that community,” she said.

The emphasis on environmental and health impact was a central focus in the hearing and some of its most passionate testimony.

The bill delves into the quality of life issues related to the waste management trucks that travel through the community and cites information from various health and environmental organizations that directly pin various ailments such as asthma to the exhaust.

Laura Hofman, a member of the group O.U.T.R.A.G.E., who lives in northwestern Brooklyn, emotionally described the illnesses her family members received from exposure to the toxins from the trucks. She believes that the impacted communities have been overburdened with dealing with the city’s waste.

“The community has been slammed,” Hofman said. “We have been slammed with environmental impact and something has to get done. I am so angry today, I hope I don’t start crying.”

Concerns about job loss related to the bill were the focus of testimony from opponents.

Sanitation worker William Mackey of High Tech Resource Recovery believes that the proposal will decimate the secure jobs that the waste transfers provide.

“If Intro 1170 passes, my employer would have to reduce its work force or worse close,” Mackey said. “We would all be hard-pressed to find employment that pays as well as what we make at Hi-Tech.”

Reyna, after the meeting addressed the concerns of job losses if the bill passes and said she was fully cognizant of the issue and is working to avoid it.

Supporters of the bill believe it will have no impact on job creation and provided supporting testimony in favor of the bill and its goals. They rallied before the meeting in front of City Hall.

Bernadette Kelly, representing a local Teamsters union branch, supports the bill and said that it would lead to a strengthened waste management plan. Kelly believes it is a job-creating plan that should be part of an effort by the city to reduce its reliance on landfills and incineration.

Reyna thinks the burdened of waste management must be shared equally. “We’re not saying we’re not responsible for our own,” she said. “We’re saying we’ve been too responsible for everyone else’s.”

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