NYLPI Sanitation Executive Budget Testimony FY25

Climate and Energy Justice, Disability Justice, Environmental Justice, Health Justice, Media Coverage, News, Waste Equity

Two city workers sitting in a van are wearing fluorescent work vests and hats and look at the camera, smiling.

Comments Submitted by Justin Wood, Director of Policy of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest to the New York City Department of Sanitation  on May 20, 2023   Regarding the FY2025 Executive Budget for Sanitation 

Good afternoon, my name is Justin Wood and I am the Director of Policy at New York Lawyers  for the Public Interest (NYLPI). Thank you to Chair Abreu, Chair Brannan, Chair Krishnan, and  members of the committees for the opportunity to testify today. 

As you know, the Independent Budget Office (IBO) recently released an end of year analysis  showing that the City will end up with a budget surplus of about $1.1 billion following a year of  cuts to vital public services, understaffing of agencies that serve as our city’s social safety net  and economic engine, and severe under-invest in proven solutions to systemic inequality and  the monumental challenge of the climate crisis. 

NYLPI thanks Speaker Adams and the City Council for recognizing the immediate and long-term  harms of austerity budgets, and for proposing restorations and expansions of vital social and  economic programs and infrastructure investments that will make our communities more  equitable, sustainable, and healthy.  

Now is not the time to retreat from our city’s public health, equity, and sustainability goals.  

We are concerned that the proposed Sanitation budget will have ongoing negative impacts on  our City’s waste reduction, public safety, and climate goals, and offer these recommendations: 

  1. Community Composting and Waste Diversion 

First, the administration’s decision to close community composting programs and lay off  composting workers is unacceptable and undermines our city’s efforts to reduce waste and  climate emissions and to educate millions of New Yorkers on the importance of diverting  organic waste from landfills – both in our homes, and in our workplaces and businesses. 

These program closures come just as a new waste characterization study shows that for the  first time in recent history, recycling rates have actually declined to just 20% over the past  several years – a serious blow to the City and State’s climate and equity goals given that the  waste sector is now thought to account for as much as 12% of statewide greenhouse gas 

emissions, and that polluting solid waste transfer stations and truck infrastructure remain  concentrated in a few overburdened communities of color and low-income communities in our  City. 

Our essential green workforce including sanitation workers and community compost workers  should not have to live in constant fear of being defunded and laid off. As the City prepares to  implement Commercial Waste Zones and Curbside Composting, we must seize the opportunity  to synchronize, coordinate, and rationalize recycling practices citywide with an all-of government approach spanning the residential and commercial waste sectors. We simply  cannot reverse the trend of declining recycling rates with start-stop, underfunded, and  uncoordinated efforts. 

  1. More funding is necessary to implement the equity goals of the current Solid Waste  Management Plan. While the Executive Budget includes $16.9 million for construction and  renovation of transfer stations “in accordance with the City’s Solid Waste Management Plan,” DSNY has not announced a plan to begin accepting commercial waste at existing municipal  marine and rail transfer stations, nor to convert a Manhattan marine transfer station to a  commercial waste facility, which are among the commitments of the nearly expired 2006 SWMP.i

We urge that the FY2025 budget include funds to operate these transfer facilities during  hours when they can accept commercial waste, thereby eliminating unnecessary diesel truck  miles by private carters traveling from dense commercial districts to private transfer stations  clustered in a few communities overburdened by waste facilities and other truck-intensive  infrastructure. 

We commend the members of the Council Sanitation Committee for advancing Intro 55 of  2024 which would mandate a plan to accept commercial waste at these transfer stations by 20  and call on the Council to pass the bill as soon as possible. 

  1. Enforcement of Safety and Recycling Rules  

Finally, we are concerned about reductions in enforcement budgets in the proposed  executive budget.  

Robust enforcement of sanitation laws is critical to public health and safety and will need to be  part of an all-out comprehensive effort to turn around the troubling decline in diversion rates.  I especially want to highlight the critical importance of enforcement of safety regulations,  labor standards, and recycling rules in the private sanitation industry, where tragically, just  last week another New Yorker was killed by a private sanitation truck reported to be illegally  reversing down a one-way street.ii The highest safety and labor and environmental standards

must be a pillar of the forthcoming Commercial Waste Zones system.  

Thank you for the opportunity to testify and comment. We look forward to working closely  with the City Council, with DSNY, and with City Hall to transform our unsustainable and costly  export-to-disposal model to a system with far less waste generation, and far more sustainable  and job-generating investments in local reuse, composting, and recycling. 

Yours, 

Justin Wood, Director of Policy 

New York Lawyers for the Public Interest 

151 West 30th Street, 11th floor 

New York, NY 10001 

[email protected] 

(212) 244-4664 

About New York Lawyers for the Public Interest 

Founded more than 45 years ago by leaders of the bar, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) is a  community-driven civil rights organization that pursues justice for all New Yorkers. NYLPI works toward a New  York where all people can thrive in their communities, with quality healthcare and housing, safe jobs, good  schools, and healthy neighborhoods. In NYLPI’s vision, all New Yorkers live with dignity and independence, with  the resources they need to succeed. NYLPI’s community-driven approach powers its commitments to civil rights and to disability, health, immigrant, and environmental justice. NYLPI seeks lasting change through litigation,  community organizing, policy advocacy, pro bono service, and education

i DSNY, 2006 Solid Wate Management Plan, Chapter 4 “Commercial Waste Management.” Available at:  https://www.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/downloads/resources/reports/solid-waste-management/2006-swmp/swmp-comprehensive report-2006.pdf 

ii https://www.nydailynews.com/2024/05/16/private-garbage-truck-driver-reversing-down-greenwich-village-street-fatally-strikes man/


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