Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Stated Meeting: An End to E-Waste

In a rare sign of confrontation with the Bloomberg administration, the City Council at its Stated Meeting Wednesday overrode a mayoral veto prohibiting income discrimination in housing and approved electronic waste legislation the mayor is known to oppose.

It also approved a rezoning plan for nine acres on the East Side between 35th Street and 41st Street, which are owned by Con Edison and are currently largely vacant.

Section 8 Welcome

The city's landlords will no longer be able to discriminate against potential tenants based on their source of income, under new legislation approved by the City Council in February. Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the legislation earlier this month, and the council overrode the veto by a vote of 44 to 7.

The mayor opposed the legislation, arguing it threatened property owners and contradicted established case law. Council members who oppose the legislation have said the Section 8 housing voucher program is often riddled with bureaucratic red tape, making it nearly impossible for a small, independent landlord to navigate.

The legislation would apply to property owners with more than five homes and aim to secure housing for those with the federal housing vouchers. Under the bill, those who have been discriminated against could file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

The bill's main sponsor, Councilmember Bill de Blasio, said he had been shocked to find out the city's Human Rights Law did not already cover such discrimination.

"Anything that says, 'No blank allowed,' is problematic in our society," the councilmember said.

According to the council, more than 30,000 landlords rent to 85,313 households with Section 8 vouchers through the New York City Housing Authority. Even so, members argue, income discrimination persists.

E-Waste Lives Another Day

Though the debate is not likely to end here, the City Council avoided a delay in enacting what is being called one of the most stringent electronic recycling laws in the country and the first approved in a major city.(For more on e-waste, play our Garbage Game.)

Earlier this month and following opposition within the Bloomberg administration, the City Council introduced two separate pieces of e-waste legislation. One (Intro 728) bans the disposal of electronic waste at curbside and requires manufacturers to devise recycling plans, while the other (Intro 729) sets benchmarks for manufacturers to meet within the next decade. The bills had initially been combined. Following the administration's opposition, the council split the proposal into two.

The council approved both bills by a vote of 47 to 4.

Residents who put electronics by the curb would face a $100 fine by 2010, while manufacturers who fail to recycle would face a $1,000 fine. The fines are included in the bill the mayor is expected to sign.

The administration opposes the legislation setting the benchmarks, stating manufacturers should not be held accountable for a consumer's failure to recycle. Under the legislation, which the mayor intends to veto, manufacturers would have to recycle 65 percent of their goods in weight by 2018.

The City Council has enough votes to override the mayor's potential veto. While City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has declined to say the City Council would sue the administration for not enforcing the bill, environmental groups have said they would do so.

Developing Con Ed

After years of planning and debate, the City Council unanimously approved a rezoning plan for Con Edison's waterside plant in Councilmember Daniel Garodnick's district. The site will be developed by East River Realty and is slated to add 6.1 million square feet of commercial and residential space along the East River.

The plan includes seven towers and the developer has pledged to contribute $10 million for a pedestrian footbridge over the FDR Drive.

Community and local officials had raised concerns the development was out of character with the rest of the neighborhood and the proposed skyscrapers, which could be as high as 864 feet tall, would tower over the nearby United Nations Secretariat Building. Both the local community board and Manhattan Borough President recommended the plan be rejected.

The plan, which is estimated to cost $4 billion and covers the largest stretch of privately owned land in Manhattan, includes five acres of open space, which community and local officials had been pushing for for years. It also includes a new public school for approximately 600 students and sets aside 600 units for affordable housing.


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