Melissa Mark-Viverito

Waste equity bill killed amid a last-minute flurry of legislation

Photo by Jeff Coltin

The New York City Council is ending its term in a flurry of legislation, with 38 bills expected to pass in City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s final stated meeting on Tuesday. But there was one notable absence, as the council failed to strike a last-minute deal on a bill to limit the amount of waste transfer stations in certain districts.

According to advocates who supported Intro 495, known as the waste equity bill, negotiations to put the bill to a vote ended Monday afternoon when City Councilman I. Daneek Miller pulled his support of the bill.

Miller’s southeast Queens district was one of three targeted by the legislation, which would limit the number of waste transfer stations in the community districts which handle the majority of the city’s trash. City Council members Stephen Levin and Antonio Reynoso, whose North Brooklyn districts were also targeted, co-sponsored the bill. City Councilman Rafael Salamanca’s South Bronx district would have also been affected. While Salamanca did not co-sponsor the bill, he was expected to vote in favor after adjustments had been made last week.

RELATED: Consolidating waste industry is bad for workers and environment

A coalition of the bill’s supporters, including the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and the private sanitation workers union Teamsters Local 813 sent out a press release blaming Miller for withdrawing his support at the last minute. Miller responded in a press release Tuesday, saying he remains committed to passing waste equity legislation, “that is both sustainable and environmentally sensible for Southeast Queens and the City of New York.”

“I will continue to work with my colleagues, including our newly elected members, to see thoughtful and intelligent legislation come to fruition, and for anyone to suggest otherwise is disingenuous,” he said.

After this story was published, Reynoso tweeted that Miller "did not kill this bill. It is way more complicated and nuanced than that. The advocates should take a step back and note he was one of the strongest advocates for waste equity in the NYC Council over the last 4 years."

Miller could not be reached for further comment.

Such legislation would have to be reintroduced after the new City Council opens session on Jan. 3. The current waste equity bill was first introduced at the beginning of this session four years ago. Negotiations continued on and off for years, and the bill was on its fourth version.  

Supporters say the bill would address health and environmental justice issues in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Those opposing it fear job losses, or a reduction in the city’s ability to handle the tons of waste it produces every day. After initially opposing the legislation, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in August he would support an updated version of the bill.

Another bill was notably absent from the docket Tuesday: the Street Vending Modernization Act, Intro 1303. The bill would have increased the number of permits for street vendors, but it faced opposition from real estate interests and the mayor, and couldn’t get the 26 votes necessary to pass. Passing it would have been a significant political win for its sponsor, Mark-Viverito, who is being term-limited out of office. While de Blasio does not support the legislation in its current form, it’s likely to be introduced with a new sponsor next session.

But with 38 bills expected to pass, the City Council is still getting a lot done. Among those bills are the Right to Know Act, a long-delayed pair of bills that will require police officers to receive consent for certain searches and provide a business card with identifying information while interacting with civilians. The council is also expected to pass bills that would require daily reporting of a census of city homeless shelters, and require some property owners to post information about a building’s energy efficiency.

According to City Council Communications Director Robin Levine, this City Council has passed more bills than any before in history, with 714 over four years.

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