All Boroughs to Share Burden of NYC Trash

Solid waste is transported outside of Newtown Creek Nature Walk in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Dealing with New York City’s 25,000 tons of trash each day is getting harder all the time.

Garbage treatment facilities exist around the city in areas that were once industrial, but are now more residential. According to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Solid Waste Management Plan, one of the city’s environmental goals is borough equity: all five have to share the burden of the city’s garbage.

And a state appeals court decision last month upheld the city’s right to build a new facility in Manhattan, against resident’s objections.No solution is popular, but New Yorkers can agree on one thing: nobody wants garbage in their backyard. Annie Russell reports.
N: It’s a sunny day in Greenpoint. A perfect day for a stroll. How about the Newtown Creek Nature Walk? The quarter-mile stretch of public space opened in 2007 and sits in the industrial area right next to the Newtown Creek Sewage Treatment Plant. The silver entrance gates sparkle in the sunlight.

SOUND: Gate slamming.

N: But the walk itself is less emerald city, more wicked witch’s castle. A concrete passageway snakes around a parking lot, an asphalt factory, and utilitarian office buildings.

The view? The New York Skyline. And a giant pile of trash.

Kyoko Masutni biked here to eat lunch overlooking the water. She won’t go closer than that.

A: MASUTNI 1: “My boyfriend tries to canoe, even though he is aware it’s polluted.”

As she eats her tofu sandwich, she’s gazing across the creek at the industrial landscape.

SOUND: Water in the creek

N: She lives around here and she knows about the neighborhood’s other environmental issues, like the underground oil spill, and radioactive waste storage facility nearby. Masutni thinks about that.

A: MASUTNI 2: “I’m probably not staying in North Brooklyn for long term.”

N: The waste treatment plant doesn’t make it any more attractive. North Brooklyn and the South Bronx are home to most of the city’s sanitation facilities. Together they handle about 30% of the city’s trash.

That inequality is why the city wants to build a Marine Transfer Station on East 91st street and the East River in Manhattan, directly through an athletic center. The idea is not popular.

A: MACK 1: “It’s a significant safety hazard, just to pedestrians, to children. The fact that the entrance ramp bisects the Asphalt Green facility is very worrisome.

N: That’s David Mack. He’s the Vice President of Residents for Sane Trash Solutions, an Upper East Side group that opposes the facility.

He says the East side station will increase garbage truck traffic and will not necessarily relieve the burden on outer boroughs, since much of Manhattan’s garbage is now transported to New Jersey. But he says a city officials have told him there’s a quid pro quo.

A: MACK 2 “This facility has to be built, because we struck a deal with these other communities that if they had a waste transfer site built, that you would have one built.”

No one from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection was available to speak on tape. But the city’s Solid Waste Management Plan cites environmental studies that say spreading these facilities around is healthier for New Yorkers.

Annie Russell, Columbia Radio News.

Bloomberg Stands by Fingerprinting Policy

Originally aired on Uptown Radio March 2, 2012

People wait in line to enter the Northern Brooklyn Food Stamp and DeKalb Job Center on Friday, Feb. 24. Photo by Mark Lennihan, AP.

HOST INTRO 1: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo vowed in his State of the State address in January to get rid of a practice he thinks is invasive and unfair.

ACT: (CUOMO 1): “I’m saying stop fingerprinting for families with children for food.”

HOST INTRO 2: New York State started doing this in 1996 to prevent fraud and clerical errors, but stopped in 2007. Only New York City requires it now, along with the state of Arizona. California and Texas recently passed laws to end the practice. New Yorkers are divided on the issue, but there’s at least one strong advocate: Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Annie Russell reports.

RUSSELL: June Scott is waiting to meet with her social worker in a sunny Hell’s Kitchen office.

She’s 38, and has a disability that allows her to collect Social Security Income.

She’s here today because she wants help finding a job. She says fingerprinting is an invasion of privacy.

ACT (SCOTT 1): If you want food, and you can’t afford to buy food, why should you be fingerprinted for that? That doesn’t make any sense to me.

RUSSELL: Scott isn’t on food stamps right now, and says she would not apply if it meant she had to be fingerprinted.

This is one of Cuomo’s big points. Just over a million New York City residents are on food stamps, but he says an additional thirty percent are eligible. He thinks fingerprinting scares them away.

June Scott’s social worker, Yan Bennis, isn’t so sure. He helps his clients apply for food stamps all the time.

ACT (BENNIS 1): I think that as long as it prevents fraud and everything else I think it’s worth it and we would wind up saving money that way.

RUSSELL: Mayor Bloomberg agrees. On his weekly show on WOR Radio last Friday, he said the policy saved the city 5 million dollars last year in overpayments.

It’s not clear whether those were fraud or errors, but he says the savings prove the policy is working.

ACT: (BLOOMBERG 1): It’s no stigma because all of our city employees do it. Most companies do it in this day and age. I don’t know who doesn’t. It’s not painful, it doesn’t take any time.

RUSSELL: City employees are fingerprinted, but that’s not the case everywhere.

A spokesperson for the company the mayor founded, Bloomberg LP, said it does not fingerprint incoming employees, but uses fingerprinting for computer access.

Social worker Yan Bennis adds that most people on food stamps are never fingerprinted.

Anyone who applied before 1996 was grandfathered in.

But if Cuomo wants to get rid of the practice, he may have more support in 2013. Everyone who’s expressed interest in running for New York City mayor next year agrees that fingerprinting should stop.

Annie Russell, Columbia Radio News.