With legislators from southwest Brooklyn leading the charge, the state Assembly on Monday, February 6 overwhelmingly passed a year moratorium on the pending five-cent fee on disposable bags, which was slated to go into effect February 15
With State Senate passage of the bill having taken place some weeks ago, it is now up to Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign the bill or veto it. The Assembly passed the moratorium, 122-15. This is the second delay for the city’s bag fee, which was initially supposed to go into effect last October.
“Hopefully Governor Cuomo will sign the Assembly’s legislation to stop the madness, and suspend this ridiculous tax from going into effect,” noted Boro Park Assemblymember Dov Hikind, who joined local assemblymembers including Nicole Malliotakis, Peter Abbate and William Colton in opposition to the bag fee. “This is just another burden on hard-working taxpayers, and we cannot allow New Yorkers to be nickeled and dimed.”
Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz agreed. “New Yorkers deserve better than to have their pocketbooks robbed in what amounts to a misguided attempt to help the environment,” he said. “New York State has already proven that recycling plastic bags is possible, and it is up to the city to figure out how to remove and recycle bags before they reach landfills.” he said.
Nonetheless, environmentalists are against the effort to nullify the bill. Statistics indicate that New Yorkers throw away 10 billion plastic bags, amounting to 7,000 garbage truck trips to landfills, and costing New York City taxpayers more than $12 million every year.
Assemblymember Felix Ortiz, of Sunset Park, is one. “I am reintroducing legislation to ban the use of disposable plastic bags by all merchants in the state of New York,” he said, contending, “It’s about time that New York go the ‘full measure’ and join California and over 150 other communities across the United States to take this major step forward to protect the environment. Disposable plastic bags are a nuisance. They litter our streets and subways and are clearly harmful to nature. Let’s stop debating taxes over these bags and do the right thing: eliminate them completely.”
New York City Council Member Brad Lander, the bag fee bill’s prime sponsor in the Council, concurred. “With the federal government set to eliminate hard-fought climate protections, the fate of our environment rests with state and local policymakers,” he said, stressing, “Now is a time for innovation at the local level to protect the environment and address climate change, not for rolling back the progress we’ve made through thoughtful, deliberative policy making. I strongly urge all New Yorkers to oppose Albany’s attempts to consign New York City to the proliferation of plastic bags in our waste stream for years to come.”
A concern for advocates of the bag fee is that the state legislature is trying to push the question back until it is taken up by a new City Council, with many of the fee’s supporters term-limited out.
“Albany is aiming for yet another delay, this time until after a new City Council is seated in 2018. The legislature’s new bill prevents this Council from amending or reauthorizing their own law, clearly hoping that the next Council will not have the political will to stand up to Albany’s bullying,” said Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “We are extremely disappointed in the Senate and Assembly for advancing a bill that is bad for the environment, bad fiscally, and just plain bad policy by unfairly singling out only New York City. For these reasons, Governor Cuomo must veto this bill.”