Law reforming NYC’s unsafe private trash industry has been ‘undermined,’ Brooklyn borough president says

Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso says the sanitation department is bungling its rollout of landmark reforms to how trash is collected from private businesses across the five boroughs.

When he was a councilmember, Reynoso authored the 2019 law mandating the changes, which require the city to establish 20 “commercial waste zones” where no more than three private trash haulers can pick up garbage from stores, restaurants and other commercial enterprises.

The law was meant to keep trash collection companies from sending crews on long routes across multiple boroughs — a practice that had led to a string of fatal crashes involving garbage trucks in the years before the law was passed.

After years of delays, the sanitation department plans to pilot the regulations in a single district in Queens this fall before it rolls out the initiative citywide.

Reynoso said the delays have made the city’s streets less safe, and he urged the sanitation department to consider expanding its pilot to an entire borough rather than just a single zone.

“The city has missed opportunities to execute on the spirit of the legislation and undermined the program’s immediate potential,” he said. “There is a reason the legislation never envisioned a pilot. The program’s transformative nature comes from its ability to overhaul commercial waste broadly and deeply once and for all.”

The city initially planned to launch the program by early 2023, but Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch said during a City Council hearing last year that timeline was “wildly unrealistic.”

Reynoso’s Legislative Director Lacey Tauber raised other concerns about the program during a public hearing on Monday, where she said the sanitation department hadn’t reached out to businesses whose trash collection will be affected by the changes.

Sanitation department spokesperson Vincent Gragnani said outreach to businesses won’t begin until 90 days before the regulations go into effect in each zone. The department issued a request for bids on a $1.5 million contract to help with the outreach one day after Tauber’s remarks.

Tauber also said it’s been more than two years since the sanitation department convened a key safety task force designed to stop dangerous practices among private trash haulers.

Gragnani responded that the safety task force meetings were paused while the sanitation department awarded companies the rights to pick up trash in each zone. He noted that sanitation officials are now working to schedule the group’s next meeting.

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