This story has been updated to include three additional letters from local business groups.
- Ten business groups and one labor union sent letters to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Department of Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia last week asking for the commercial waste zone planning process to be "reconsidered and opened for public review and debate." The main joint letter, dated Jan. 18, also called for today's Commercial Waste Zones Advisory Board meeting, and all future ones, to be open to the public.
- The joint letter was signed by the Building Owners and Managers Association of New York, Bodega Association of the United States, New York State Restaurant Association, Food Industry Association of New York, New York City Hospitality Alliance, National Supermarket Association, Recycling and General Industrial Laborers Local 108, and New Yorkers for Responsible Waste Management (NYRWM). Separate letters were sent by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Queens Chamber of Commerce and Greater Jamaica Development Corporation.
- The city replied with its own letter Jan. 19, signed by Garcia and Commissioner Dan Brownell of the Business Integrity Commission, stating the process would be "subject to public hearings and public comment at several points over the next five years." The letter also stated that the project's consulting team, led by Arcadis, had met with 97 stakeholders on 86 occasions over the past six months.
To date, no official public meetings have been held on the zone proposal outside of broader legislative hearings about the industry as a whole. Today will be the advisory board's third full meeting, with 40 members representing industry, environmental groups, unions, real estate interests and elected officials, among others. As indicated by the letter, the consulting team has been conducting additional meetings with committees within this board as well as outside stakeholders. Arcadis is one of seven firms on a team that was awarded an $8 million contract last year.
The city's letter expressed a desire for the meetings to be run in a "collaborative, inclusive manner that reflects, to the extent practicable, the input of these varied stakeholders" and allow "all interested parties to share their perspectives and reflect on the perspectives of others."
Talk of counterproposals has circulated since the city announced support for zoning in Aug. 2016, but details have yet to be released. So far, much of this talk has come from NYRWM, Local 108 and various carting company owners. However, the official support of nine new building and business associations is a notable step. Local chapters of the National Waste & Recycling Association and the Solid Waste Association of North America haven't taken an official position.
As it stands, the city expects to have a more formal implementation plan ready by the end of the year, followed by an environmental impact study and then a legislative process in the New York City Council. RFPs would then be issued, following council approval with a potential roll-out still years away. The consulting contract was written with the potential to run up to 10 years.
In an interview prior to releasing the letter, Garcia told Waste Dive that non-exclusive zones were still an option and the city planned to be deliberate.
"We've always assumed that this would be something that is worth taking the time to get right, rather than trying to rush and have things fall apart," she said in an interview that also touched on Los Angeles and recycling markets.
In the meantime, the recycLA franchise system, long held up as a beacon to follow, has had serious challenges in its own rollout. Detractors cited these challenges in their letter and have said price escalation could be even worse in New York. Proponents say New York can learn from these mistakes and will be better-prepared as a result.