REBNY, business groups call on de Blasio to ditch commercial waste zones

Garbage trucks in New York City.
Garbage trucks in New York City.
Nielskliim/Shutterstock
Three white garbage trucks parked in Greenwich Village.

REBNY, business groups call on de Blasio to ditch commercial waste zones

Coalition argues for business-friendly New York City Council bill instead.
July 8, 2018

Major business interests in New York City have written a letter urging New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Department of Sanitation to withdraw its plans for a zoned commercial waste pickup system.

For a year and a half, the Sanitation Department has been hosting regular meetings with its Commercial Waste Zones Advisory Board, developing a plan that would divide the city into zones and allow only certain commercial waste haulers to operate in each area.

Currently, companies that pick up trash from New York City businesses can operate anywhere, which businesses prefer for the ability to choose among multiple options, with the competition arguably keeping prices low. But the system results in trucks driving circuitous routes that critics and labor advocates say lead to dangerous driving and fatigued workers.

The nine business groups that signed the letter, including the Real Estate Board of New York, the New York State Restaurant Association and the National Supermarket Association, have been opposed to the zone franchise idea since the beginning. In their letter, they say the proposal is “severely flawed, inappropriate for New York, and cannot be salvaged.”

Instead, the groups are asking the de Blasio administration to let the New York City Council handle it – through Intro 996, sponsored by City Council members Robert Cornegy and Mark Gjonaj. The bill was introduced in June as business-friendly legislation that would block the city’s ability to institute zones, while addressing some worker safety and carbon emissions issues that have plagued the industry.

The Sanitation Department has said it would release a framework for a commercial waste zone program sometime this summer. Some in the industry expected to see it at the next Commercial Waste Zone Advisory Board Meeting, scheduled for Thursday, July 12.

Spokeswoman Belinda Mager told City & State that the agency hasn’t finalized the report yet, and still plans to release it this summer. But she would not get more specific about the date.

Mager defended the plan in an emailed statement, calling it “a comprehensive plan to overhaul the industry.” She also defended the process, noting that the agency has held 150 meetings with more than 100 different stakeholders, including the ones who wrote the letter. “We’ve intentionally included stakeholders with varied opinions to ensure that all voices were heard,” she said.

The debate over how to reform commercial waste pickup has fierce advocates on both sides. The lead signee on the letter, REBNY, is one of the city’s most politically influential interest groups, and the owners of a prominent commercial waste company that opposes zones have a very close relationship with Gjonaj, one of Intro 996’s sponsors.

But Sanitation Committee Chairman Antonio Reynoso isn’t on board with the legislation, calling the bill “an effort by the private carting industry to continue to menace our streets.” He intends to introduce a bill that would codify zones once the Sanitation Department releases its report.

Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia is known to view commercial waste zones as a priority, and has the backing of the Teamsters Joint Council 16, a politically potent union that represents waste workers in both the public and private sectors.

There has been a sense among the business interests that the commercial waste zone proposal, like an overloaded garbage truck, had too much momentum to stop. This letter appears to be a effort to pull the emergency brake.

Read the full letter below:

Letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio sanitation zones July 6 2018 by City & State NY on Scribd

Correction: This story originally misidentified the New York State Restaurant Association.

Jeff Coltin
is a staff reporter at City & State. He covers New York City Hall.
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