For years, Southeast Queens has been one of three New York City communities forced to put up with the private waste industry, which local leaders and residents have deemed a bad neighbor. Residents have suffered through loud trucks, damaged roadways and foul stenches—courtesy of private sanitation company Royal Waste—that have permeated nearby neighborhoods.
This week, a highly anticipated piece of legislation, Introduction 495-C—which aimed to limit space dedicated to waste storage and processing in communities of color—was scheduled for a vote in the City Council. This was the opportunity to provide much needed relief to the people of Southeast Queens.
That is, until members of the council—including I. Daneek Miller, who had been a champion for waste equity in Queens—dropped support for the bill.
While Miller has defended himself, noting that his overall stance on the issue has not wavered, we think that there are some factors that plague Miller’s decision.
Miller said that the bill didn’t go far enough in addressing the issues in his district. But we believe that his constituents—who will have to spend another year suffering from the polluted air near the Royal Waste facility—would have preferred the council take a step forward, rather than no step at all.
He also argued that Royal Waste might not have been incentivized to cooperate with future proposals if Introduction 495-C had passed. However, everyone from Mayor Bill de Blasio to several members of the council had shown support for the cause. It is hard to believe that with this kind of backing, future legislation wouldn’t carry the kind of weight that would pressure private waste companies to cooperate.
These excuses look even weaker when you consider that four current Royal Waste managers all donated money to Miller during his run for reelection year. It’s a bad look for the councilman, especially considering Southeast Queens’ checkered political past.
Advocacy groups have a right to be outraged. The City Council’s indecision will cost middle class homeowners their peace of mind. Miller and his colleagues had an opportunity to provide the waste equity that they said they wanted and blew it. We agree with residents and advocates who say that the entire situation stinks.