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Chamber president warns creating commercial waste zones in New York City would be a mistake

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Opinion: Creating commercial waste zones in NYC would be a mistake

By Jessica Walker

Published in Town & Village, April 10, 2018

A troubling situation taking place in Los Angeles should be setting off alarm bells across Manhattan, especially for small businesses. LA recently implemented a new system for handling trash pickup at businesses that, despite several years of planning, has resulted in skyrocketing bills and inefficient service.

This matters to Manhattan because the de Blasio administration is planning to implement a similar system right here in New York. You may not know that large businesses and commercial establishments in our city currently pay private carters to remove their garbage and recyclables and they rely on competitive bidding to get the best contracts. However, the mayor’s proposal would limit choice by allowing only one company to pick up commercial garbage and recyclables in each large geographic zone – with no input from the businesses themselves.

This plan would do away with the current competition that drives down prices and improves service from efficient and well-regulated private companies. What has happened in Los Angeles demonstrates just why this is so problematic.

When LA implemented this type of geographic-based plan, the unfortunate reality was that many businesses saw a slowdown in pickups and their costs doubled, tripled or even quadrupled – generating more than 28,000 service complaints since it was launched last summer. If Mayor de Blasio’s proposal goes ahead, the similar problems could take place across New York – and we know that the cost of doing business here is already high and that small businesses in Manhattan and across New York City simply cannot afford those kinds of cost increases. Nor do residents want to see more trash problems on their streets and sidewalks!

Collecting waste, recyclables and organics may seem simple, but is actually remarkably complex in a place as large and complicated as New York City – and ditching the current competitive-bid system to follow the same path as Los Angeles could have serious negative consequences.

So far the de Blasio administration and the City Council have not held any public hearings to discuss this issue and weigh the pros and cons of implementing a geographically zone-based commercial waste system. That is a mistake in light of the thousands of businesses, workers and residents who would be directly impacted by such a plan.

Mayor de Blasio regularly reminds us that “small businesses are the lifeblood of this city” – and we wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. While the city’s expanding environmental goals are vitally important, so too is concern for the exploding costs of doing business in New York.

Before going any further, the administration and the City Council must slow down this process and hold public hearings to examine the impact of implementing such a massive experiment in New York.