Sunday, June 12, 2005

Talking Trash

Talking about piling on! Now the Daily News editorial page takes its shot at Gifford Miller and the Council for its defeat of the mayor’s twenty year “master plan” for the disposal of NYC’s garbage. They call the speaker “cynical” and his alternative plan “half-baked” and “irresponsible because Miller in effect threw out a sweeping plan aimed at relieving poor communities in other boroughs of having to process Manhattan’s waste.”

That’s pretty heavy criticism but has anyone on the editorial board really analyzed the mayor’s plan? To call it sweeping would be accurate only if you meant how the plan sweeps NYC’s garbage problem under the proverbial rug.

Here is the crux of the issue: New York City cannot continue to produce tens of thousands of tons of commercial and residential waste everyday and expect other communities to gratefully accept it. The annual cost of disposal has already exceeded one billion dollars with no fiscal ceiling in sight.

And what about the commercial garbage? The study that was commissioned by the City Council but RFPed by the DSNY was really “half-baked” and “irresponsible.” Its only scope seemed to be focused on transfer station siting and its conclusion was that those communities that the Daily News feels such angst for could actually accommodate more transfer stations since the environmental impact wasn’t so bad.

What is even worse, the commercial study, despite being asked in the strongest terms, failed to include commercial waste disposers in its scope of work. Not only that, it never even bothered to address, although it was clearly part of its mandate, the issues of commercial waste at its points of generation: the 186,000 neighborhood retail stores.

Commercial Waste Study a Cruel Joke

The study and DSNY itself weren’t concerned by the fact that, because of a decision of the Business Integrity Commission (formerly Trade Waste), garbage rates could be set based on weight as well as volume and, as a result, food stores were being hit with a doubling and even a tripling of their disposal costs. So, with a “study” that was simply a joke, it is no surprise that the 20 year “master” plan has nothing to say about commercial waste. Once again the concerns of small neighborhood stores are way below this administration’s radar. This time, however, the failure to consider their plight has implications for all New Yorkers.

Better Plan is Needed

The mayor’s plan should be looked at simply as a proposal that the legislature needs to hold hearing on. The siting cart should not be put before the garbage generation and disposal horse. So, the Speaker is right to reject this rush to decide the siting formula before the other substantive disposal issues are dealt with.

On the other hand, Gifford is open to legitimate criticism for not working harder to come up with a more comprehensive critique of the Bloomberg plan. In his defense, however, is the fact that the mayor cleverly put siting on the front burner so that all concerned wouldn’t check the dreck that was simmering in the pot at the rear of the stove. The Council’s job is to expose this, come up with a more comprehensive plan to reduce waste exports and the job of the media is to avoid being suckered by the mayor’s three card monte gambit and truly evaluate the deficiencies of his proposal.

The most comical and oxymoronic comment in the News’s editorial was its depiction of the “sanitation professionals” who spent years developing a plan that runs “thousands of pages.” Forget the fact that a great deal of the plan was outsourced to some bright people (with no knowledge of waste disposal) at EDC. Since when does length equal depth? In fact, Miller’s 14 pages were more germane in focus than anything in DSNY’s War and Peace version of waste removal.