After closing Staten Island’s Fresh Kills landfill in 2001, the city exported waste by truck from privately owned transfer stations, most of which were sited in north Brooklyn, southeast Queens and the south Bronx.
For a generation, residents of these mostly low-income communities of color endured horrible smells, toxic fumes and dangerous truck traffic. Neighbors fought soaring asthma rates, traffic injuries and fatalities, and congested streets.
It was unfair for these neighborhoods to bear the burden of processing most of the city’s garbage in the first place. And it was no coincidence that the Upper East Side, Park Slope or Forest Hills did not shoulder that responsibility.
The bill, now signed into law, will reduce the amount of waste coming into north Brooklyn by 50 percent, and southeast Queens and the South Bronx by one-third. It also prohibits any more waste transfer stations from opening in these districts
It won’t immediately change the dynamics of garbage equity in the city –– the changes won’t be complete for another two years –– but at least residents know they won’t keep getting dumped on.
We credit the City Council, led by north Brooklyn’s Antonio Reynoso and Stephen Levin, as well as the mayor for listening to the advocates, working diligently on the legislation and ultimately making it a reality.
Kudos should also be given to longtime champions of reform, like Reynoso’s predecessor, Diana Reyna, the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance's Eddie Bautista and the teamsters union.
But as everyone in this fight has noted, waste equity is only the beginning. To start addressing larger systemic issues in the world of trash, the City Council is focusing next on zoned collection for commercial waste.
We wish them the best of luck as they enter what should be another hard-fought, drawn-out but important battle.