Growing and Greening the City, Council Will Also Vote on Bills to Reform City Recycling Practices and Reduce Soot Pollution across the Five Boroughs

City Hall, July 29, 2010 – At today’s Stated Meeting, the Council will vote to approve proposals for the New Domino complex on the Williamsburg waterfront and the Flushing Commons development in Northeast Queens. Taken together, these developments will create nearly 3,000 units of housing, 800 of which are affordable. Both projects will result in 4.5 acres of public space and more than 732,000 square feet of commercial and retail space.

The Council will vote on a set of environmental bills, the first of their kind in the country. Updating the City’s 20 year old recycling law, the Council will vote on a legislative package to create comprehensive reform around New York City’s recycling practices. Additionally, the Council will vote on environmental protection legislation to improve the quality of heating oil used to heat buildings, ultimately reducing soot pollution and lowering energy costs across the city.

The Council will also vote on a resolution in support of the litigation of United States of America vs. State of Arizona and other actions opposing Arizona’s controversial immigration law.

Significantly increasing public and community space and transforming the Flushing business community, the Council will vote to approve the Flushing Commons development in Northeast Queens. The 11-building complex will contain a total of 1.2 million square feet of residential, retail, cultural/community and office space, 760 apartments, as well as open park and cultural space comparable to the size of Rockefeller Center. This development is expected to generate $850 million in economic output from construction and an estimated $720 million in annual economic output.

“Approving two large-scale developments in Brooklyn and Queens today sends the strong and clear message that New York City is still growing in all corners of the city and getting stronger everyday,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “Taken together these projects will create thousands of permanent and construction jobs and 800 units of affordable housing. Years from now, both New Domino and Flushing Commons will be proof that even in the toughest of times, when we work together and focus on shared priorities, we put our city on a path to responsible and visionary economic growth.”

“After years of planning, meetings and negotiations, the Flushing Commons/Macedonia Project was unanimously approved by the New York City Council’s Land Use Committee,” said Council Member Peter Koo. “I am confident that the rest my colleagues will also understand the great benefits and vote to approve the project. I want to thank everyone who participated in the process and contributed to the evolution of this project. In addition to creating jobs, revenues and community benefits, we will implement a $6 million “small business assistance” package that will protect our local merchants who are so important to our community. When completed, the Flushing Commons/Macedonia Project will be a community gathering place, a dynamic retail location and a wonderful place to live. As a result of everyone working together, we made the Flushing Commons/Macedonia Project a reality and we have ensured that the future of downtown Flushing is bright, energetic and vibrant.”

“I want to congratulate my colleagues and the entire Land Use staff for their diligent work in the Flushing Commons and New Domino developments,” said Council Member Leroy Comrie, Chair of the Land Use Committee. “I want to thank all the unions, small business owners and community groups who took part in this process to make sure all voices were heard on the Flushing Commons issue. The economic benefits from this project will benefit the entire borough of Queens for generations. Additionally, it was in the best interest of the City to move forward on the project to preserve the Domino’s site. The discussions leading to this agreement were centered on insuring there would be a partnership between the community and developer. Both of these projects will provide desperately needed affordable housing for New Yorkers.”

Specifically, the Flushing Commons development will bring the following long term benefits for the Flushing community:

• Approximately 2,600 construction and 1,900 permanent jobs;
• 1.5 acres of public outdoor open space to support community sponsored cultural events and performances;
• A 62,000-square foot, state-of-the-art YMCA which will include a full size gym/basketball court, running track, two pools, daycare and a significant youth center;
• 36,000 additional square feet of community space;
• The creation and implementation of a comprehensive strategy to identify local businesses and residents to work on the project during and after construction;
• A 1,600 space parking garage sized to meet parking demand and priced at below-market rate;
• Parking capacity at Muni Lot 2 increased from 87 spaces to 275 spaces; and
• 1,144 additional interim parking spaces within four blocks of Muni Lot 1 during construction.

At the request of the City Council, the Administration has secured $6 million to support local Flushing businesses during the construction period. Specifically, the City will provide:

• $2,250,000 for marketing and advertising support for small businesses impacted by the project construction through the Flushing Small Business Assistance Plan (FSBAP);
• $200,000 in services for the Flushing businesses including pro-bono legal assistance, guidance for loan applications, employee hiring and training services, business courses, guidance in accessing government services and assistance in understanding government regulations and access to government contracts;
• $500,000 for loan guarantees for Flushing businesses through NYCEDC’s Capital Access program which could leverage up to 1.5 million dollars;
• $3,000,000 for additional parking relief for merchants during construction through an extended parking rate cap; and
• $50,000 for additional wayfaring signage on streets around the construction and at the interim lots directing shoppers and customers to the Union Street area.

Simultaneously creating jobs and increasing affordable housing in Brooklyn, the Council will vote on the New Domino development on the Williamsburg waterfront. The 11-acre development includes: 4 acres of open space; approximately 2,200 residential units, 660 of which are affordable; 223,570 square feet of retail including a grocery store that shall adhere to the FRESH zoning standards; and 143,076 square feet of community facility space that will allow for an elementary school should there be a need in the future. Additionally, the landmarked Refinery Building will be preserved as will the Domino Sign which will be moved to the Refinery Building.

New York City Council Member Stephen Levin, in an agreement with Community Preservation Corporation Resources (CPCR), established a plan where the New Domino development will only be 34 stories, down from the initial 40, while maintaining the original 660 units of permanent affordable housing. CPCR will also provide a shuttle bus to the nearby Marcy Avenue JMZ subway station to mitigate transportation problems.

“I want to thank Speaker Quinn, Assembly Housing Chair Vito Lopez, Mayor Bloomberg, Council Finance Chair Recchia, Council Housing Chair Dilan, Land Use Chair Comrie, and Zoning and Franchise Subcommittee Chair Weprin for helping to negotiate this agreement for the community,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “I truly appreciate all of their support and with their help the community will have a project that will address the needs of the neighborhood. Assembly Member Lopez tirelessly worked on this project for many years. His commitment to building a development that will suit the needs of his community was essential to the agreement we built. I look forward to continue working with CPCR to ensure that all of the community’s needs are addressed as the project is built and inhabited. I am pleased to say that I have had a very productive dialogue with numerous community groups and members of the Bloomberg administration on additional steps that we as a City can take to further improve the quality of life in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.”

The Council will vote on eleven bills to reform New York City’s comprehensive residential recycling law. These bills aim to dramatically expand and improve recycling in New York City through a variety of initiatives including expanded plastic recycling, a new clothing and textile recycling program, and improved public space recycling. The package of legislation represents the first significant expansion of the city’s residential recycling program since it was created in 1989.

When New York City first passed its residential recycling law in 1989, the program was among the first and most ambitious residential recycling programs in the country. Now, 21 years after the original law was first enacted, this new package of legislation promises to return New York to its rightful place at the forefront of recycling in the United States. (A summary of the new recycling legislation is attached.)

“We’re incredibly excited to be voting on a package of bills that will dramatically expand and overhaul the way we recycle here in New York City,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “Our legislation will divert over 8,000 tons of plastic every year away from landfills and incinerators. That’s equal to the amount of trash produced by nearly 10,000 people each year. This is one step close to making New York City cleaner and greener for our current and future residents.”

“The City’s comprehensive residential recycling law provides a recycling infrastructure separate from home collection. Upgrades to Local Law 19 include an expanded public space recycling initiative, which would require DOS to site a total of 700 public space recycling bins. These revisions promote a culture of recycling in New York City by making it available and convenient for both residents, as well as visitors,” said Sanitation Committee Chair Letitia James. “Therefore, public receptacles make it easy for everyone to readily discard their used bottles, cans or papers. And, the City Council’s efforts to increase the amount of waste collected for recycling honor this year’s 40th anniversary of Earth Day.”

“I am proud to be the sponsor of the yard waste recycling bill,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz. “This legislation will help New York City become a leader in the sustainable collection of yard waste material. For too long yard waste has made its way into landfills, where it is not able to correctly decompose and cannot be reused. I thank Speaker Quinn for her leadership in improving recycling and look forward to this bill becoming law in the near future.”

Since the closure of the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island in 2002, the value of recycling has taken on a whole new meaning for New Yorkers. Today, we spend more than $300 million each year to dispose of our garbage outside of the City. As a result, every ton of waste that we divert for recycling is one less ton that we pay to have delivered to places as far as Ohio and Virginia for disposal. And with the development of the new Sims recycling facility at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, our recyclables will be processed right here in New York City, and their transportation will have a far less significant environmental impact.

The Council will vote on a bill that will significantly reduce air pollution, promote the use of alternative fuels, create new “green jobs” and improve the overall air quality in New York City. If passed, this will be the first local law since the City Council and Administration started working on a legislative strategy to decrease environmental pollutants from New York City’s heating oil.

“New York City consumes 1 billion gallons of heating oil annually, more than any other city in the United States,” said Environmental Protection Committee Chair James F. Gennaro. “Our legislation will annually replace 20 million gallons of petroleum with an equal volume of renewable, sustainable, domestically produced biodiesel. We are already home to what will be the largest biodiesel processing facility in the country as well as a growing grease collection industry, and we expect to see more and more green collar jobs and green economic growth as a result of our legislation.”

Air quality improvements expected from this and other sulfur reduction efforts have the potential to save hundreds of lives each year in the City. Residual fuel oil burning contributes to the wide variation in air quality across the five boroughs resulting in poorer air quality and increased health risks in areas most affected. These initiatives will have an especially great impact on the air and health of Manhattan and Bronx residents.

This bill will require the amount of sulfur in Number 4 heating oil to be capped at 1,500 parts per million, reducing the current cap by half. Burning heating fuels accounts for nearly 14 percent of fine particulate matter pollutants in the air – more pollution comes from this source than from vehicles or power plants. The particulate matter created by heating oil contains heavy metals and other pollutants that damage our lungs and hearts, contribute to asthma and significantly decrease life expectancy. Intro 194-A also would require that all heating oil used after October 1, 2012 contain at least 2 percent biodiesel fuel.

The Council will also vote on a resolution in support of the litigation of United States of America vs. State of Arizona. It calls on all branches of federal, state and local government using their power to oppose the Arizona law, including the Council’s decision to ban its employees from using public funds to travel to Arizona, and endorsing the Council’s decision to file an amicus brief in support of the federal action at its discretion.

“SB 1070 tears down the fundamental rights of anyone living here in the United States and while yesterday’s ruling was a significant step in the right direction, the battle still continues,” said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “We hope that this resolution will encourage other municipalities to take a strong stance against this unfair and unjust law.”

“I support this resolution because it is critical that we bring attention to the need for reform in our national immigration policy. The lack of a sensible and comprehensive immigration policy on the federal level has served to embolden radical approaches such as the Arizona law, which seeks to legalize discrimination,” said the Chair of the New York City Council’s Committee on Immigration, Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights). “I was pleased to learn of Judge Bolton’s decision yesterday to block key elements of Arizona’s immigration law from going into effect because these types of draconian measures against our immigrant population are totally unacceptable. It is our duty and our obligation as people, and as citizens of the United States to ensure that everyone’s rights are respected and that everyone is protected under the law.”

“Although Judge Bolton’s decision stops the most troublesome aspects of S.B. 1070, this legislation continues to be a dangerous threat to immigrants and the Hispanic community as a whole, and the people of New York will continue to protest until we have nationwide immigration reform and every human being is treated with dignity and respect,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, main sponsor of the bill. “As a result, we are moving forward with the resolution to boycott Arizona. The resolution would ban City Council employees from using public funds to travel to Arizona and calls on the Mayor to institute a similar ban and also endorses the City Council in filing an amicus brief in support of the Plaintiffs in The United States of America v. The State of Arizona. ”

The Council is also voting on a Resolution to support 19 tenants in a lawsuit who claim they were discriminated against because of their source of income and use of government-funded housing assistance programs, such as Section 8 vouchers.

The Council’s resolution authorizes the Speaker to join the Administration in filing, on behalf of the Council, a brief in support of the tenants in the Tapia litigation. By supporting the tenants, the Council would assist in enforcing two laws aimed at assisting low-income tenants find and maintain affordable housing.

Both Local Law 44 of 1993 and Local Law 10 of 2008 were enacted by the Council and prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenants based on their source of income, including the use of government-funded housing assistance programs such as Section 8 vouchers. In Tapia v. Successful Management Corp., Plaintiffs, a group of low-income tenants in rent stabilized apartments, filed a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court against their landlords seeking a judgment declaring that the landlords must accept their Section 8 vouchers under both local laws. The Defendants, landlords, argued that local laws protect prospective tenants but not current tenants who do not have preexisting agreements to accept Section 8 vouchers. The lower court rejected the landlords’ arguments, and the landlords are now appealing to the Appellate Division, First Department.

“The Council passed two important laws that protect low-income tenants from discrimination based on their use of Section 8 vouchers,” said Annabel Palma, Chair of the General Welfare Committee. “It is now imperative that they be enforced. By formally supporting the tenants in the Tapia litigation, we are ensuring that the laws are implemented as they were meant to be, and that they achieve their intended purpose.”

Council votes on the first comprehensive recycling legislation since 1989

Expansion of Recyclable Materials and Recycling Programs

1. Expanded Plastic Recycling. Currently, the city only recycles plastics made of types 1 and 2. This is largely limited to air blown containers with narrow tops, such as soda and water bottles or milk jugs. As a result, a significant percentage of recyclable plastics items, are simply not recycled. The new legislation would require DOS to begin recycling all rigid plastic containers, including items such as yogurt tubs, take out containers, flower pots and medicine bottles. It takes 88% less energy to produce plastics from recycled materials than it does to produce new plastics, and this expansion would divert over 8,000 tons of plastic each year from landfills and incinerators. This component of the bill would take effect following the opening of a new recycling facility located in Brooklyn, which is scheduled to open in 2012.

2. Expanded Public Space Recycling. There are currently approximately 300 recycling bins at public spaces around the city. The new legislation would require DOS to site 200 new recycling bins over the next three years, and a total of 700 bins within the next ten years.

3. Household Hazardous Waste. The legislation would mandate at least one department-sponsored household hazardous waste collection event in each borough every year, with a long-term goal of increasing the number of events, or making such sites permanent.

4. Clothing and Textile Recycling. The new legislation would require DOS to establish a citywide textile collection program by placing deposit bins on city-owned and private property throughout the city.

5. Paint Recycling Pilot. The Council’s legislation would establish a voluntary manufacturer and retailer take-back program for unwanted household paint, which makes up about 50% of household hazardous waste.

Changes and Improvements to Existing Programs

1. Improved Recycling at City Schools. Would require every school within the Department of Education to designate a recycling coordinator and to provide recycling receptacles in each classroom and other locations such as entrances and lunch rooms. Similar requirements would also apply to non-DOE schools.

2. Improved Recycling at City Agencies. Would require each agency to designate a recycling coordinator and implement plans to increase recycling in all city-owned and city-run buildings.

3. Improvements in Leaf and Yard Waste Composting. Would extend DOS yard waste collection to include a spring, partial-summer, and fall collection beginning in two years, and requires the city to begin collecting yard waste for composting from NYCHA facilities.

4. Replaces Obsolete Tonnage Mandates. The original Local Law 19 set mandates requiring DOS to recycle a fixed number of tons of waste per year. These mandates were set at a time when the City produced substantially more waste than it does today and continuing reductions in the city’s waste stream have prevented the City from ever meeting the targets. The new legislation would replace this single vague mandate, with a series of more specific requirements and a more sensible methodology for calculating diversion rates. For example, instead of measuring recycling in sheer tons, which are likely to continue decreasing as the amount of waste decreases, it would establish a set of recycling percentage diversion goals. To assess the success of recycling more effectively, the bill would establish two different sets of recycling goals, one to calculate the recyclable material that DOS actually collects from the curbside, and a second to calculate all materials recycled from residences in the City, including e-waste, plastic bags and bottles returned for refund. If any of these goals are not met, DOS must first consult with Council to improve its recycling program. If the City fails to meet two consecutive goals, it will result in the appointment of an outside expert, to issue recommendations on how the City can meet future recycling goals.

Improved Enforcement, Outreach and Education

1. Makes Fine Structure Fairer for Small Property Owners. Historically, fines for improper recycling have been set at the same amount for large residential and commercial buildings as for single-family homes. This has caused homeowners to bear a disproportionate percentage of recycling fines. The new legislation would establish two tiers for fines – the first for residential buildings with 1-8 units, and the second for buildings with 9 or more units, as well as non-residential buildings.

2. Residential Recycling Guide. Requires DOS to create a guide to the residential recycling program, to be distributed and made available to the public.

3. Recycling Workshops. Would require DOS to provide trainings for owners and employees of buildings with 9 or more units that receive three tickets in one year.

New Reports and Studies

1. Study of Recycling-Related Industries and Jobs in NYC. Requires a study exploring recycling markets and opportunities to expand recycling facilities and recycling-related jobs in New York City.

2. Composting Study. Requires DOS to study methods for expanding capacity to compost residential and commercial food waste and to recommend measures for a subsequent pilot program.

3. Annual Recycling Report. Requires the Commissioner to issue an annual report detailing the recycling totals for all materials recycled under City and State law.

4. Commercial Recycling Study. Requires DOS to complete a commercial recycling study.

5. Follow-up Waste Characterization Studies. Requires DOS to conduct follow-up waste characterization studies in 2012 and 2018 and requires a comprehensive study by 2024.