‘Save our compost’: New Yorkers to testify at City Council oversight hearing

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Just three months ago, Kathryn Garcia, former NYC Sanitation Chief, helped to open a composting site at Queensboro Bridge; however, locations such as these are now endanger of closing.

New Yorkers will be testifying in a hearing on Friday, Dec. 18 to save park composting sites from the trash heap.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYC Parks Department have outlined plans to remove public composting sites in favor of using the space for other prospects, such as paved over and transformed into parking lots.

This proposal has outraged elected officials and community members alike. In response to this administrative action, Save Our Compost NYC—a coalition of groups working to uplift environmental and climate justice—is pushing the New York City Council to halt these measures while also attempting to rally New York City residents to the cause.

Members of the public are planning to both argue their points on a live Zoom (and via phone) during an oversight hearing on Friday at 11 a.m., as well as drafting affidavits that will be taken into consideration up 72 hours after the virtual meeting. It is hoped that if their collective voices are heard, they can prevent these locations from being dislodged. Advocates for the composting sites say it is one of the few ways for people to contribute to the environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only that, but they also highlighted that the removal of these eco-friendly locations is counterintuitive to Mayor de Blasio’s pledge that New York City will be free of waste landfills by 2030.

Over 200 people tuned in to listen to Save Our Compost’s Zoom session, a plea to NYC Parks to allocate composting sites within parkland.

In an effort to raise awareness about the importance of the fertilization projects and the upcoming hearing, politicians from all over the boroughs joined a web press conference last Tuesday to defend what they call the “Future of New York City.”

Councilmember Antonio Reynoso helmed the virtual event called Save Our Compost, urging NYC Parks to support compost sites on parkland. He shared that after several budget cuts, about $2.8 million was restored to the community compost program, but now the City Parks no longer will be allocating the space to hold compost. By doing so, environmental programs are hindered and unable to provide services, such as the Lower East Side Ecology Center, a community-based organization focusing on sustainability, and Big Reuse, a nonprofit reuse center and hosting site for the compost project.

“Community composting sites are the only way for New York City residents to compost through the COVID pandemic and the associated economic downturn. They provide crucial education and outreach, helping residents stay in the habit of composting during curbside collection and any alternative ways to divert from landfills helps our city’s environmental and economic goals. Now, Parks are trying to take away their sites,” said Reynoso.

Kathryn Garcia, former NYC Sanitation Chief, joins environmentalists in pushing for NYC Parks to continue to host composting sites.

Kathryn Garcia, former NYC Sanitation Chief, and now a candidate for mayor, has been a longtime supporter of zero waste. As she joined the virtual discussion on Tuesday, she shared her surprise and dismay that community compost sites are endangered of shutting down after she just worked on opening a site beneath Queensboro bridge three months ago.

“We were just getting back up and running, and folks have been crying out for places to drop off food scraps so that they knew they could help make, what we call ‘The black gold in the City of New York.’ I really think that these sites bring us together. Not only does it provide an enormous amount of volunteer opportunities, but they are really educational showpieces of the circular economy. You take my food scraps, and I give you back compost, and that then makes the tomatoes of tomorrow,” Garcia said.

Tuesday’s Zoom press conference concluded with over 200 individuals tuning in to show their support, including elected officials: Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Congressman Costa Constantinides, and Council members Carlina Rivera, Jimmy Van Bramer, and Ben Kallos.