With the closure of the Fresh Kills Landfill in 2001 New York City had to come to terms with what to do with the more than 25,000 tons of domestic and commercial waste produced by the city every day. The initial solution under the Giuliani administration contracted private haulers to cart the city’s waste to landfills in other states as far as South Carolina. Described as a “race to the bottom” the privatization resulted in a de facto infrastructure of privately owned Solid Waste Transfer Stations all competing unscrupulously to offer the lowest price for the booming business. This private infrastructure hinged on Solid Waste Transfer Stations located in some of the City’s most vulnerable communities, creating a disproportionate burden on those neighborhoods to process up to 75% of the city’s solid waste.
In 2006 the Bloomberg administration proposed the “Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan” which among other measures, reformed the waste infrastructure. It aimed to share the burden of transporting and processing waste equally throughout the City. Central to this plan was the proposal and eventual construction of Marine Transfer Stations throughout all five boroughs. In concert with this plan, City Councilors proposed legislation crafted with the DSNY to mandate reduced reliance on the the Solid Waste Transfer Stations. The legislation was due to go into effect as soon as the construction of the Marine Transfer Stations was completed, thereby encouraging private haulers to join DSNY in the use of the more environmentally friendly stations.
Surprisingly, despite the City’s delivery of the the new Marine Transfer Stations, the legislation which would have compelled the private haulers to reduce their dependence on the Solid Waste Transfer Stations was defeated in December 2017. What’s more, the bill was routed, after a decade of planning, by a city council member whose constituents would have directly benefited from the bill’s passing. The defeat of this reform bill at the hands of those it was meant to benefit bespeaks the considerable influence(s) preventing the reform of the waste management system in New York City. We propose mapping these influences and comparing them to the existing private Solid Waste Transfer Station infrastructure and to the infrastructure planned in the 2006 Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan (both illustrated in the attached map). We believe that this comparison will reveal the hidden interests invested in keeping the private carting system from being meaningfully reformed - whereby private interests continue to profit at the expense of the public.