City Council members Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights), along with Council Members Mark Gjonaj (D-Bronx), and Barry Grodenchik (D-Queens) last week introduced legislation that would give the city an alternative to dividing the city into commercial waste zones.
The measure comes as a counter to a Department of Sanitation (DOS) plan that would divide areas of New York City commercial waste into zones, which would allow multiple trucks per zone to compete to pick up waste.
Currently, the DOS collects city garbage from residents and public institutions through its own trucks. Private companies are contracted to pick up garbage of commercial businesses.
Cornegy’s legislation would attempt to reform the way the waste industry operates. The plan includes ways to increase safety and reduce environmental impacts. The plan also wants to protect jobs and small businesses.
Under the proposed legislation, the Business Integrity Commission (BIC) would have the power to promote safety initiatives, which would allow them to consider safety when deciding to issue or renew licenses.
The bill would also provide protections for workers of color and formerly incarcerated workers, which would require reporting on these groups of workers to track their representation in the industry.
“Now is the time to increase safety and reduce wasteful greenhouse gas emissions in our city’s sprawling commercial waste industry,” said Cornegy. “Our legislation is designed to achieve these crucial goals quickly and effectively – and without waiting years for a zone-based plan that would lead to unintended negative consequences for workers and small businesses.”
For the environmental aspect of the bill, it adds new regulations to contracts for commercial waste services.
“This legislation is the only proposal that focuses on the issues of safety and environmental protection, while also balancing the rights of consumers and small businesses as they relate to the commercial carting industry,” said Gjonaj, Chair of the Council’s Committee on Small Business.
The legislation has the support of the NAACP, Second Chance Workers and the Small Business Advocates.
“The NAACP New York State Conference stands with Council Members Cornegy, Gjonaj, and Grodenchik in their bold effort to support commercial sanitation workers in our city,” said Hazel Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference, “This is about keeping workers safe while also protecting their jobs over the long term, especially with regard to formerly incarcerated workers of color who were given a second chance in this industry after being unfairly denied so many other employment opportunities.”
But City Council Antonio Reynoso (D-Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick), chair of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, said Cornegy’s legilsation could potentially do more harm than good.
“We can no longer allow the private waste carting industry to threaten our streets; posing dangers to the safety of pedestrians and the health of our environment, while also neglecting the safety and well-being of their own workers. The high rate of environmental related health issues in overburdened communities and the numerous vehicular fatalities at the hands of the private waste carting industry should be a sufficient call to action,” Reynoso said in an email,
“A commercial sanitation route can have up to 1,000 stops and take 16 hours to complete, leading to fatigue amongst workers who are operating heavy machinery on our streets. A comprehensive commercial waste zone system is the only way to reign in the egregious practices of this industry and the threat they pose to New Yorkers,” he added.
Reynoso also alleged private carters and others in the garbage industry backed Cornegy’s legislation.
“I will continue to fight for this through City Council legislation and will not be deterred by industry backed legislation which aims to muddy the waters. I urge my City Council colleagues to support me in the fight for commercial waste zoning and the benefits it will have for our City,” he said.