Are Waste Transfer Stations Evidence of Environmental Racism?

By Jeremy Williams

The New York City council held a meeting on Thursday where they made a step towards regulating waste transfer stations in neighborhoods across the city, after two people were killed by sanitation trucks in six months.

The City Council passed bill  0157-2018-C or the “Waste Equity Bill” which will divert trash from overburdened waste transfer stations which are usually located in low income or minority dense districts. Councilman Reynoso sponsored the bill, He believes addresses environmental racism which he referred to as an “insidious method, to which historically disadvantaged communities are made to suffer because of the color of their skin.”

 Reynoso represents District 34, encompasing North Brooklyn and Ridgewood, Queens which has the highest concentration of waste transfer stations within the city.

Before the City Council passed this bill, 72 year-old Leon Clark was killed after being struck by a private sanitation truck in the Bronx, on April 27th. This bill targets dangerous sanitation trucks that recklessly speed through neighborhoods posing a risk to elderly residents. Councilman Reynoso asked the council, “How could a city that prides itself on progressive politics… possibly allow a system like this to exist.”

21-year-old Mouctar Diallo was also killed by a sanitation truck in the Bronx, on November 7th, 2017.

Councilwoman Adams, who represents the 28th District said, “The bill has admirable goals.” However she still struggled with it saying, “While this bill addresses capacity reformation… conspicuously absent are the persistent issues of air pollution, truck traffic, foul odors, and other matters that affect my quality of life and the quality of life of the people in Southeast Queens.” Adams, who did vote in favor of the bill, said that in the future she hopes for a more collaborative effort.

The councilmembers hope to approve a bill in the future that not only tackles increased truck traffic but attacks all of the negatives of waste transfer stations including poor air quality, which is especially harmful to people with asthma. Woodhull Hospital, which serves the 34th district has the highest rate of asthma related admissions across the entire city.

Expect a bill that will bring stronger regulations for waste transfer stations and private sanitation companies in the near future.

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