Bodegas Rally For More Time Against the Plastic Bag Laws

New Yorkers are going to have to start getting used to keeping recyclable bags nearby when they go grocery shopping whether they know it or not. 

And it is this lack of information that was the concern of about 20 bodega owners, lawmakers and activists, who staged a protest yesterday on the steps of city hall about the ban which goes into effect March 1.

The legislation that prohibits retailers from handing out single-use plastic bags has been boiling on the stove since 2008 when former Mayor Mike Bloomberg tried to impose a 10 cents plastic bag tax but had it shot down by the City Council. 

But City Councilmember Brad Lander (D-Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, Gowanus) championed and introduced laws on plastic bag fees throughout the years.

Then the ice broke when the ban was included in and passed as part of last year’s state budget. This was much to the dismay of many bodega owners, supermarket workers, and clergy members, who felt that there wasn’t enough time to prepare for this transition.

“We do not oppose the ban but are just asking for more time,” said City Council Member Mark Gjonaj (D-Bronx).

Eric Goldstein was the one person at the rally pushing for the ban to go into effect sooner rather than later. Photo by Chaya Gurkov.

Nicholas D’Agostino lll, whose family owns and runs the D’Agostino supermarket chain, couldn’t help but point out the economic impact it would have on businesses. 

“People will realize they forgot their bags, then go home and once they get warm and comfy they are going to order it online. At some level I don’t know if it’s just another way to give Amazon more business,” said D’Agostino. 

The bag ban is geared towards reducing the 23 billion plastic bags that are in circulation by New Yorkers, who claim that they harm the environment and wildlife. The burden falls on store owners that collect state taxes to stop using plastic bag use and who will receive a $250 fine after an initial warning starting next month.

Frank Garcia, Chairman of the Latino State Chambers, pointed this out specifically within the Latin community, saying bodega owners are unprepared for the chaos that the ban will bring once implemented with little state outreach to the roughly 13,000 bodegas on how the program will function.

“Ignorance is not an excuse, but within our community language is, and not going into the Spanish media means that there’s a whole bunch of bodega owners that just don’t know about this and aren’t prepared,” said Garcia.

But Eric Goldstein, the soul protestor against the “Plan the ban” rally yesterday, and who wore a sign reading, ‘WE’RE DROWNING IN PLASTIC BAGS!’ noted that after an adjustment period folks will get used to the new regime. Also, the Department of Environmental Conservation doesn’t begin enforcement for a few more months, once the law is in effect, Goldstein said.

Standing next to Goldstein, Garcia became visibly frustrated at his comments.

“That’s not what they’re telling us. We want communication from the advocates to come together and work up a plan instead of making our members go crazy and leave their bodegas to come here when this is not the time for it,” said Garcia.

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