Friday, June 17, 2005

Waterfront Neighborhood’s Critique Mayor’s Commercial Waste Study

The Organization of Waterfront Neighborhoods (OWN) and the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest commissioned a report to critique the Department of Sanitation’s (DSNY) commercial waste study. The DSNY study (more of the professional expertise the mayor talks about?) was as close to an absolute joke as anything that has even come out of this agency in over 30 years.

The DSNY report, as we have observed already, never even bothers to analyze the commercial sector’s waste generation or the potential for waste reduction and recycling opportunities. It purposefully didn’t include waste disposers in its analysis even though the Department of Environmental Protection had done, with DSNY’s cooperation, a full in-depth evaluation of grinders that had clearly underscored their vast potential benefits in the residential sector.

This nonfeasance at DSNY must raise a whole host of suspicions. We could even accept the situation if the agency had included disposers in its study but, after review, they concluded that the costs outweighed the benefits. But refusing even to evaluate disposers? This in spite of the fact that a NYCHA pilot program using grinders has been an unqualified success at not only helping the housing agency affect a cleaner environment but also at reducing the number of truck pick-ups at the Baruch Houses on the Lower East Side.

OWN’s Tunnel Vision

The hilariousness of the DSNY report, however, isn’t limited to its total refusal to actually examine the full gamut of the commercial waste stream. The professionals who did the study limited themselves to the environmental impact of siting in the neighborhoods currently saturated with transfer stations. Here the OWN report rightfully mocks the DSNY conclusion that the clustering of these garbage sheds won’t, in the long term, damage the host communities.

What’s hard to understand here is, if siting has been found to be a non-issue by DSNY’s experts (in thousands of pages, of course) why is the mayor trumpeting his siting plan for its environmental benefits to the waterfront neighborhoods of Brooklyn and the Bronx?

Yet OWN’s own report also limits itself only to siting and never bothers to touch the crucial waste reduction variable. We can understand the DSNY position (read Thorsten Veblen’s discussion of “trained incapacity”) which seems to say that there is no need to examine waste reduction since the current infrastructure and host communities are generally able to continue to handle the trash volume. But OWN, with its emphasis on over-saturation, has no such excuse.

Neighborhood Stores in the Bull’s-eye

A careful reading of the SWMP, along with a little handwriting on the wall analysis, clearly points to the eventual use of the neighborhood food store as a cash cow for the city-run transfer stations. The mom-and-pop commercial waste facilities will be closed and the city will direct all private garbage to its own plants. In a move that would make even Angelo Ponte blush, this city-sponsored monopoly will use escalating tipping fees to subsidize their own operations while beating small businesses to a pulp.