Every two weeks the New York City Council meets for its Stated
to introduce and pass legislation. As a regular feature, Gotham
covers these meetings and posts a summary of the bills passed.
By a vote of 44 to 5, the New York City Council approved Mayor
Michael Bloomberg's plan to change the way the city handles its
garbage in its stated meeting on July 19, 2006 -- a decision council
members referred to as "historic" and "monumental." Under the plan,
city will move its trash to out-of-state landfills by barge and rail,
rather than by trucks, as it does today. The version of the plan that
the council approved was altered to lessen the environmental impact
neighborhoods that will have to play host to garbage facilities and
further encourage recycling.
The city's current system of garbage management has been criticized
mainly because of its negative environmental impact. Over the next
twenty years, the lifespan of the new plan, truck traffic is expected
to be reduced by 3 million miles.
"By removing garbage from the city through barge and rail transport
will dramatically reduce the negative effects of truck traffic on our
neighborhoods," said Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
New York City has been in a particularly difficult situation with
regards to trash since 2001, when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani closed
Staten Island's Fresh Kills landfill without a clear idea of how
the city would function without it. Since then, city trucks have
garbage at facilities located mainly in low-income neighborhoods in
Bronx and Brooklyn. There, larger trucks pick it up and haul it out
state. Residents in such areas suffer from high rates of asthma and
other health problems widely linked to the air pollution associated
with such facilities.
Environmental advocates and representatives of the low-income
neighborhoods praised the council's decision to address the current
"Today is the single most important day for solid waste issues --
including air quality, and environmental justice impacts -- in the
decade since Mayor Giuliani announced the closure of Fresh Kills
landfill," said Ramon Cruz of Environmental Defense, an advocacy
that has been involved in negotiations.
The current situation has also been derided as being financially
inefficient. The city expects the immediate financial impact of the
plan to actually raise the cost of handling garbage from about $77 a
ton to about $107, but supporters of the plan believe it will be
financially beneficial in the long term.
But garbage has always been a controversial issue in New York City,
negotiations between the council and the administration were "long
hard," according to Councilmember Michael McMahon, the chair of the
council's committee of sanitation and solid waste management. The
originally scheduled for 1:30 p.m., was delayed for five hours as
council members and representatives from the mayor's office hammered
away at the final details.
"Up until about 3 o'clock this afternoon I thought there would be no
agreement," said McMahon.
The stickiest issues all dealt with how to reduce the environmental
burden on specific neighborhoods.
For residential waste, the city is planning to open four "marine
transfer stations" where trucks will dump garbage onto barges. Two
in Brooklyn, one in Manhattan, and one in Queens. The council
strengthened language guaranteeing that these neighborhoods will see
reduction in the amount of waste handled at privately-run truck-based
garbage facilities already operating there. The South Bronx is also
guaranteed such a reduction, since it has been overburdened for
A transfer station for commercial waste is also being planned at 59th
Street and the Hudson River in Manhattan. The council added a
commitment to look for alternative sites in Manhattan as well.
Another contentious issue concerned a facility in McMahon's district
Staten Island where garbage from the four marine transfer stations
be transfered from barges into containers. At the last minute, a cap
was inserted limiting the amount of garbage that would move through
that facility and the amount of time garbage could stay there.
The proposed reopening of a marine
transfer station at East 91st Street will go forward. That site
been the focus of bitter fight last summer. Councilmember Jessica Lappin, who
represents the district, voiced her strong displeasure as she voted
against the plan.
"I find the reopening of that facility outrageous and unacceptable,"
she said, noting that it is located in a dense residential area. "I
just don't see how you mitigate the impacts on this community."
Also voting no were Councilmembers Dan Garodnick, Gale Brewer, Oliver
Koppell, and Domenic Recchia. The plan must still be approved by the
TOUGHER ON GUNS
The council also passed four bills aiming to curb gun violence. Two bills were passed unanimously. One,
Intro 362., calls for those
of criminal possession of a weapon to enter a registry, the first of
its kind in the country. The other, Intro 365, outlaws the possession of
firearms that have been painted to look like toy guns.
The other two bills were approved by votes of 47 to 2. Republicans
Dennis Gallagher and Andrew Lanza voted "no" on Intro 363, which requires gun
to physically inspect their inventory twice a year, and Intro 364, which would keep people
buying more than four handguns in a calendar year.
The Council also approved Intro 296, , which says that gas
stations must keep their prices the same for a 24-hour period before
they can change them again. The Department of Consumer Affairs that
sends investigators out to monitor prices across the city would
the regulation. The measure was approved by a 43 to 6 vote, with
Councilmembers Simcha Felder, Daniel Garodnick, Helen Sears, Dennis
Gallagher, Andrew Lanza, and James Oddo, voting no.
The next Stated Meeting is scheduled for August 16, 2006.
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