Industry, business groups call for end to New York City zoning plans
- A new letter from industry and business groups is calling on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia to withdraw the city's commercial waste zone proposal "immediately" and "initiate good-faith discussions to maintain and improve the city’s existing successful open-market system."
- Signatories include the National Waste & Recycling Association’s (NWRA) local chapter, New Yorkers for Responsible Waste Management, Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), Building Owners & Managers Association, National Supermarket Association, Labors Local 108 and other hospitality or business organizations.
- The letter cites initial challenges with a franchise zone system in Los Angeles and focuses on three common talking points: questions about data involved with projected reductions in vehicle miles traveled, skepticism about the logistics behind a non-exclusive system and concerns over new bureaucratic layers for customers. Instead, the groups call for a pivot to an industry-backed City Council bill (Intro. 996) that would make changes to the existing open market system.
The odds of City Hall and DSNY abandoning this zoning plan after nearly two years of support and an $8 million consulting contract are seen as slim. A similar January letter from many of these same groups that called for the city's zone advisory board meetings to become public went unheeded and DSNY remains resolute in its stance. Yet the powerful backing of REBNY, recent public position from the NWRA chapter, and counter-messaging with Intro. 996, has all helped stir up debate since then.
Local service providers have long said the cost of doing business is getting higher — as reflected by recent approval of a rate cap increase — and they can't make desired changes under a cloud of regulatory uncertainty. However, some are still updating their equipment and safety practices, and claim more would be willing to do that on an accelerated timeframe if zoning was off the table. Full details about what this would entail and how companies could be held accountable via legislation are evolving.
At the same time, industry safety and labor practices have been receiving heightened scrutiny due to a series of articles about one of the city's largest companies, Sanitation Salvage, and politicians that have been affiliated with it. To other elected officials, advocacy groups and at least one prominent local news anchor, these stories are a clear sign the industry can't be trusted to regulate itself.
All of this has made New York's commercial waste industry an increasingly visible topic of conversation. That can only be expected to ramp up in the months ahead.
Even supporters of the zone concept have had tepid reactions to the proposed non-exclusive system and are continuing to pressure the city around how it will be crafted. A June letter called on the city to ensure its zoning plans factored in better metrics, food recovery, and opportunities for "microhaulers" and MWBE businesses, among other items.
Until the de Blasio administration releases an official plan — expected by the end of this summer — all anyone can do is speculate. Once that happens, and legislation is formally introduced, then the full-scale public relations efforts and lobbying will really begin.
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