Gotham Gazette

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New Bills: Bed Bugs to Base Jumping

What do old mattresses, BASE jumping and meat from cloned animals all have in common? Some members of the City Council want to regulate them.

In February, City Council members introduced a plethora of legislation, from banning BASE jumping to requiring labels on meat from cloned animals. Some of the bills merely make a statement, while others could eventually become law.

Here is a smattering of proposals introduced at City Hall last month.

Identifying Identical Meat

After years of study, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved consumption of meat and milk from cloned cattle, swine and goats in January, making way for genetically altered burgers and Petri-dish grow bacon in supermarkets across the nation. Though the agency said cloned meat is safe and no different from more conventional food, consumer advocates raised concerns and fears.

In response, Councilmember Gale Brewer introduced legislation (Intro 706) that requires both retailers and wholesalers to label cloned meat within the city limits. Brewer's office contends the measure strengthens consumer awareness and allows individual New Yorkers to make their own educated decision.

The councilmember told The New York Sun that some residents could have ethical concerns with consuming cloned meat and therefore have a right to know what they're eating.

"I don't have any health concerns that I'm knowledgeable about, but just like any other product that we purchase, we want to know what they are," Brewer told The Sun.

The bill, so far, has some support from the Consumers Union. According to the a national poll conducted by the group, 89 percent of consumers would support labels on cloned meat and milk and 69 percent were concerned about consuming meat or milk from cloned animals. Similar legislation has been propsoed in California, even though Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed an identical - or shall we say cloned - bill last year.

Bagging Bed Bugs

They jump from building to building and creep through the crevices of your mattress. Bed bugs are back and Councilmember Helen Sears wants to exterminate them.

Sears introduced legislation (Intro 719) last month that requires used mattresses be clearly labeled as such and put in a plastic bag when thrown out. While the Queens councilmember recognizes that the legislation will not eradicate the city's so-called epidemic, Sears said it is an attempt to control and reduce the parasitic population.

"The fact is they are harmless, but they are grotesque," said Sears. "I would think that each council member would recognize the seriousness of this issue and if we can do anything to reduce it."

According to the legislation, the prevalence of bed bugs - which initially diminished with the use of pesticides - has grown since the late 1990s. Extremely difficult to eradicate, the bugs reproduce quickly and can hide in mattress cracks for months before reemerging to feed on human blood.

Sears said by forcing retailers to provide mattress bags and mandating their use when a mattress is discarded, the bed bugs can be contained and reduced. Sears called the bill a "no-brainer" and said the next step would be a hearing.

If passed, the bill would impose a $250 fine.

Banning BASE Jumping

A state appeals court may have reinstated a reckless endangerment charge for a former television host who attempted to parachute off the Empire State Building, but Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. would like to guarantee that no one else attempts the feat.

Under legislation (Intro 721) introduced last month, anyone who jumps or climbs - or even attempts to jump or climb - from a building or bridge more than 25 feet high would get more than an adrenalin rush. They could be subject to a $1,000 fine and possibly one year in jail. The bill targets bungee jumpers, parachuters or BASE jumpers.

Vallone's office argues the thrill-seeking activity could endanger the public. The film or television industry would remain unaffected, they contend, because the bill allows for anyone to jump or climb who has permission from the property owner.

Hybrid Parking

Forget the environment or gas prices as an incentive to purchase a Toyota Prius or other hybrid car. Councilmember Hiram Monserrate hopes to give hybrid vehicle owners free parking too.

Monserrate introduced legislation last month (Intro 716) that would give hybrid owners a free parking permit for one year after buying a new vehicle. The permits would be transferable between owners, but would not be valid for vehicles more than a year old.

Reflective Vests

Legislation (Intro 709) introduced by Councilmember Bill de Blasio would require all commercial bicyclists to wear reflective vests. The bill would apply to anyone biking for deliveries for any business.

Working Conditions and City Contracts

Under legislation (Intro 710) introduced by Councilmember Daniel Garodnick, any company entering into a contract with the city for more than $100,000 would have to reveal their labor practices.

The bill applies to contracts with foreign manufacturers, such as contracts for equipment made overseas. A manufacturer, if the bill is approved, would have to disclose its wage and hour practices as well as its health and safety practices.

Transferring Trash

Councilmember Diana Reyna introduced legislation (Intro 704) that requires operators of private transfer stations - where the city's waste is collected and transferred - prevent odor and leaks from affecting the adjacent community. It also mandates that all containers be transferred from the site by barge or rail.

Reyna represents Williamsburg, which has been saddled with much of the city's waste for years. According to her office, the bill is meant to more evenly distribute the city's garbage burden - which is also a pillar of the Bloomberg administration's solid waste management plan, approved in 2006. (For more on how the city manages its garbage, play our Garbage Game here.)

The legislation also sets up community advisory boards to oversee the operation of transfer stations.  

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