Major NYC compost operation, reeling from budget cuts, to be booted from Queens site

Organizers of one of the city’s largest composting sites, which is already reeling from Mayor Eric Adams’ budget cuts, said the city is kicking them out of a space beneath the Queensboro Bridge to make way for a new park.

Big Reuse’s organizers said they’ve processed millions of pounds of organic waste at the facility only blocks from the waterfront. Their lease expires in June. The parks department said it needs the space to build a new, small park dubbed the Queensbridge Baby Park.

“They’re sort of evicting us to move their equipment they have… into our space,” said Justin Green, Big Reuse’s executive director.

Big Reuse is petitioning Mayor Eric Adams and Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue to reverse the decision and allow it to continue providing drop-off compost service at the site. According to Green, Adams’ budget cuts have forced Big Reuse to lay off seven staffers after it lost all of its city funding, which was approximately $400,000. The group continues to operate with reduced staff thanks to an anonymous donor.

“Parks recognizes the importance of composting and other sustainability efforts that are facilitated by organizations in the city like Big Reuse, and we will continue to assist these efforts by providing a free space for Big Reuse to use through June,” said Kelsey Jean-Baptiste, a parks department spokesperson. “We will then begin construction on our capital project in the fall, which will revitalize the park and provide more recreational amenities, increased access to greenways, and improved public spaces.”

The new park will provide the nearby Queensbridge North Houses with additional greenspace, and is near an area that locals said is being overtaken by parked cars.

Green insisted it was possible to build the park, which he supports, without evicting the compost operation.

Adams implemented deep budget cuts to composting in the last year that disrupted the activist communities dedicated to repurposing organic waste. The city announced $3 million in cuts to the composting program in November, but then withdrew some of those cuts in January. The rollout of curbside compost pickup in Staten Island and the Bronx was also delayed.

Initially, it appeared the cuts would result in an end to compost dropoff service at greenmarkets around the city, though that service was temporarily restored thanks to an anonymous donor. It wasn’t clear if the anonymous donor who helped maintain compost dropoff service at greenmarkets also donated to Big Reuse.

The Queensboro Bridge’s large pillars shielded site operator Joshua Seow from the rain as he began composting hundreds of pounds of food scraps and waste during his regular shift at Big Reuse’s composting site on Thursday morning.

“We used to be a team of 11 and now we’re down to three. Two on site and one handling all the stuff online,” Seow said, referring to the budget cuts. “[Composting] is not done enough. It’s a very cyclical system and it’s only benefiting the earth and the city,” he added. “All of this waste is just being put to waste.”

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