The mayor must not cut the City's sanitation budget while our streets are getting more dirty and more rat-infested, Brooklyn politicians say.
On Thursday, dozens of advocates and politicians rallied at Brooklyn Borough Hall to call for the restoration and expansion of the City’s Sanitation budget for the 2023 fiscal year.
"Our City is facing a sanitation crisis," Councilmember and Sanitation Committee Chair Sandy Nurse said.
"Increasingly dirty streets and an exploding rat population have led to lower quality of life for residents across all neighborhoods."
Pols fight for composting
Nurse, the founder of BK Rot, represents District 37 which includes much of Bushwick and Cypress Hills. She said the Mayor’s proposal to cut organic waste collection was especially concerning.
Organic waste makes up one-third of New York City's waste stream and contributes to the millions of dollars DSNY spends annually on waste export costs, as well as contributing to climate change when burned.
New York City Comptroller Brad Lander said the city spends more than $100 million per year sending organic waste to landfills unnecessarily.
Plus, when organic waste is put in trash bags, it attracts rat. This is contributing to New York City's rat problem, which has only exploded during the pandemic causing an outcry in neighborhoods across the city, the leaders said.
In 2021, the city’s 311 line received more than 21,000 calls about rat sightings, compared with 15,000 in the same period in 2019.
“There isn’t an issue that unites New Yorkers more than trash," Lander said at the rally Thursday.
Affecting quality of life
The way that waste is collected and disposed of in New York City was not just a sanitation issue, but also an environmental justice issue, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso said.
He said, instead of cutting the budget, the City should be engineering innovative ways to handle waste, suggesting a citywide mandatory residential compost program.
Councilmember Alexa Avilés, whose district includes Red Hook and Sunset Park, said the sanitation crisis was most evident in the City's public housing developments.
"From rodent infestations, to garbage fires, any public housing resident will tell you that cutting the sanitation budget will lead to more sickness and death, and that’s not something this City can stomach after a long and hard pandemic.”
The budget featured cuts at nearly all municipal agencies, and is set to save city taxpayers some $2 billion over the next year, Jacques Jiha, Adams’ budget chief, said Wednesday in a Council budget hearing.
The budget is focused on "fiscal responsibility" in recovering from the pandemic, Jiha said.
Wednesday’s hearing marked the first step in the budget negotiation process between the Council and Adams’ team.
More hearings are expected in the coming months before the Council must pass a final version of the budget ahead of the July 1 start of the 2023 fiscal year.
Meanwhile, the City Council Sanitation Committee met Friday to further discuss the potential budget cuts.