The Real Estate Board of New York to The New York City Council Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management on Oversight of the City’s Advancements in Residential and Commercial Solid Waste Management Systems

Download the Testimony 

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is the City’s leading real estate trade association representing commercial, residential, and institutional property owners, builders, managers, investors, brokers, salespeople, and other organizations and individuals active in New York City real estate. REBNY thanks the City Council for the opportunity to testify on the City’s advancements in residential and commercial solid waste management systems.

Between New York City’s businesses, residents, and institutions, the five boroughs produce more than 14 million tons of waste annually, which leaves the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) to face the daunting challenge of overseeing the collection and disposal of nearly 40,000 tons of trash, recycling and organic waste daily. Unfortunately, because of New York’s hyper-density and lack of alleys, the current model results in the city being continually peppered with garbage bags piled onto the sidewalks waiting for either residential curbside pickup or contracted, private carters to haul it to landfill, recycling facilities, export, or incinerators.

Over the last several years DSNY and the City Council have implemented programs in attempts to reduce the presence of semi-exposed waste in the public domain and improve the City’s waste management more broadly. The City’s recent initiatives to improve waste collection and management, include but are not limited to Local Law 152-2018 or the Waste Equity Law, the creation of Commercial Waste Zones, a pilot program for waste containerization, and residential composting. The benefits of these programs range from reduction in traffic congestion, increased worker safety, fewer trash bags on public walkways, and landfill diversion.

Improving the City’s waste management is essential to quality life and public health. REBNY supports the City’s continued commitment to bettering its services by imagining and implementing new solutions that keep our streets clean and New Yorkers safe and healthy.

Comments on the City’s recent efforts as well as recommendations for additional advances in the New York’s waste management systems are below:

Waste Equity Law

Most New Yorkers’ involvement with waste ends when the collection vehicle picks up and takes it away from their neighborhood. For some, however, waste has a much greater presence in their daily lives. Parts of the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens are home to waste transfer stations where many of the City’s sanitation vehicles drive to unload the collected waste, which is many cases is then hauled out on freight. As a result, these neighborhoods have experienced traffic congestion and negative health impacts from the related vehicular emissions.

In August 2018, the City Council passed Local Law 152, colloquially knowns as the Waste Equity Law, which requires DSNY to reduce the permitted capacity of the putrescible and non-putrescible transfer stations. At the same time, the law allowed for transfer stations to request an increase capacity to allow for processing of recyclables and organic waste.

REBNY supports the aims of Local Law 152-2018 which are congruent with our shared climate goals. Finding ways to reduce traffic congestion and the related emissions is paramount to protecting the health of New Yorkers as well as achieving the necessary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to combat the climate crisis.

Commercial Waste Zones

Complementary to the Waste Equity Law, Council passed Local Law 199 of 2019 to create Commercial Waste Zones. The program will divide the five boroughs into 20 zones for which citywide contracts will be awarded to up to 3 carting companies for the collection of waste in that zone. The City’s approach seeks to reduce the truck traffic related with commercial waste collection by 50% as well as strengthen the safety and service standards within the industry.

REBNY along with other key stakeholders worked with DSNY as well as the City Council on the development of the Commercial Waste Zones Law. We appreciate the City’s partnership and willingness to ensure that such a transformative improvement to private sanitation management is not a rupture from existing commercial operations.

REBNY thanks DSNY for its thoughtfulness about the development of the program’s framework and eventual implementation, which included delaying its rollout because of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We would encourage DSNY to continue its measured approach as it finalizes the draft rulemakings that will build out the program’s structure as well as its eventual implementation, including by instituting the commercial waste zones in phases to allow for review of the program and to address any potential challenges it may face.

Waste Containerization Pilot Program

In an effort to mitigate the presence of waste and its odors on the streets, DSNY created the Clean Curbs pilot program in 2020. The program allows for private entities, including Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), to apply for the opportunity to have sealed containers for trash and recycling on the street.

Containerizing the waste reduces the need to set out bags on the city sidewalks, keeping the walkways clear, clean, and free of rodents.

REBNY supports the aim of the pilot program and encourages DSNY and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to publicly report on the operations of the program as part of exploring the possibility of expanding its scale.

Additionally, in recent years City agencies have put forward ideas to expand the use of containerized waste systems in residential buildings. REBNY looks forward to continuing discussions with City agencies to consider how to best implement such ideas.

Future Recommendations

REBNY appreciate DSNY’s efforts to improve waste management in the city, which is a crucial element to good quality of life. We look forward to continuing our partnership with DSNY as it considers expanding existing programs or creating new regulations and initiatives, such as organics waste collection or containerization. Through our previous work with DSNY, REBNY has been able to work through improvements to regulations that better the City’s waste management services, and we hope to continue that relationship in the future.

Thank you for the consideration of these points.