‘Borough Equity’ or the Lack Thereof

By Sophia Kelley

In his recent State of the City address, Mayor Bloomberg announced a laudable goal of doubling the amount of residential waste diverted from landfills by 2017. The plan is expected to save money and decrease greenhouse gas emissions associated with waste transport. Another important, and often under-reported, aspect of the mayor’s approach to solid waste management is the shift toward ‘borough equity,’ where each borough would directly manage its own waste. 

Since the infamous Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island was ordered closed, the city sends the majority of its waste to private transfer stations concentrated in a handful of neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. According to The New York Times, more than half of the transfer stations are in two areas – north Brooklyn (Greenpoint and Williamsburg) and the South Bronx.

BriYYZ, courtesy of Flickr/City Limits

As a resident of Greenpoint, it seems particularly unjust that my neighborhood not only has to be a transfer station for waste, but also contend with the toxic Newtown Creek, one of the nation’s largest oil spills, as well as the odors of a nearby water treatment plant. Since the constant truck traffic burdens neighborhoods with emissions and the odors sometimes associated with waste transfer are not pleasant, it’s understandable why Upper East Side residents have been opposing a new transfer station in their neighborhood. By why should Manhatttan be spared while the outer boroughs bear the brunt?

These issues of environmental justice as they relate to our specific communities aren’t easy. Fortunately, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance (NYC-EJA) and Pratt Institute’s Graduate Programs for Sustainable Planning and Development are co-hosting a public lecture series on environmental justice in New York including one event specifically dedicated to solid waste management.

The Public Lecture Series is free and open to the public, and will begin this Friday, February 3rd at Pratt Manhattan Campus, 144 West 14th Street (between 7th and 6th Avenues), Room 213 from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm. The Lecture Series will focus on some of the key policy priorities and players involved in city environmental justice issues. Space is limited – please RSVP at prattpspd@gmail.com. The lectures in February are:

Fri. Feb. 3rd: An Evening with NYC-EJA members – a panel with representatives from UPROSE, Youth Ministries for Peace & Justice, Morningside Heights-West Harlem Sanitation Coalition, The Point CDC, Nos Quedamos and El Puente.

Fri. Feb. 10th: NYC Solid Waste Management Plan – a panel with Gavin Kearney of NY Lawyers for the Public Interest, Eric Goldstein of Natural Resources Defense Council and Brian Mahanna of the Mayor’s Office. 

Fri. Feb 24th: Incineration (Thermal “Waste-to-Energy”) – a panel with Laura Haight of NYPIRG, Nicky Sheets of the NJ Environmental Justice Alliance and David Bragdon of the Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning & Sustainability. 

Get involved and spread the word!

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