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Curbside organics pickup returns Monday in some Brooklyn neighborhoods

Mayor Bill de Blasio addresses a brown compost bin at an April 22 press briefing.
Ed Reed/Mayor's Office

After more than a year-long hiatus, the city’s Department of Sanitation will restart its curbside organics pickup next week, starting in a handful of Brooklyn neighborhoods where the most people signed up for the program, Brooklyn Paper’s sister publication amNewYork Metro has learned.

New York’s Strongest will start picking up food and yard scraps from people’s brown bins on Monday, Oct. 4, in Brooklyn’s Community District 6, which includes Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Columbia Waterfront, Gowanus, Red Hook, and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s own backyard in Park Slope.

Brooklyn CB6 had 2,643 addresses sign up for curbside composting since DSNY launched its online portal in August, or 19.3 percent of that area, compared to an average of just 2.9 percent across all eligible community boards, according to data provided by the agency.

The board’s district manager, Michael Racioppo, said he was not surprised about the enthusiastic response, saying many eco-friendly locals were disappointed when the city temporarily dumped the program last year. 

“When it was initially  suspended, there was a big outcry about it and hope that it would be resurrected as soon as possible,” Racioppo said.

De Blasio, a self-described “obsessive composter,” paused the old organics program for almost a year in May of 2020 as part of a $106 million pandemic-induced cut to the agency and initially didn’t plan to restart it until mid-2022, six months after he leaves office.

After pressure from politicians, including his own former Sanitation Commissioner and mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia, de Blasio announced in April that the program would start resuming this fall in a memorable press briefing where he was joined by a brown bin.  

The Big Apple’s compost comeback is on a voluntary basis, meaning DSNY will start to pick up your organics if enough people in your local community district sign up online or through 311, and if your neighborhood was already part of the old program

Sanitation will add more neighborhoods every month based on demand, according to the agency. 

The top four areas for sign ups are all in Brooklyn, with Downtown Brooklyn’s CB2 at number two (14.8 percent), followed by CB7 in Sunset Park (9.6 percent), and north Brooklyn’s CB1 (7.9 percent), as of Sept. 1. 

Some areas of the South Bronx and southern Brooklyn had very low rates in comparison, the data show. 

Garcia pushed de Blasio back in spring to make the program universal, warning that launching it as an opt-in program would reinforce existing racial and economic inequalities in the city.

“It is going to turn composting into a ‘luxury’ that is available for New Yorkers that have the resources to organize community support and submit bureaucratic paperwork. Curbside organics should be universal – plain and simple,” Garcia said at the time.

The former politico, who was recently appointed to Director of State Operations by Governor Kathy Hochul, did not respond to requests for comment.

The Bronx’s CB2 — covering Hunts Point, Longwood and portions of Morrisania — was second last with only 18 addresses signed up, or 0.6 percent, and seven out of the lowest ten were in that borough. 

The board’s district manager said there had been little outreach about the program’s return in the area and called on the city to be more proactive by talking to local property owners and provide bi-lingual notices in the neighborhoods where there is a large Spanish-speaking community. 

“I think the community wants to participate in it, there needs to better awareness about it,” said Rafael Acevedo. “You have to take the initiative here and follow through with it.”

A Sanitation spokesman said the agency sent out 18,555 mailers in Bronx CB2 and is working with local organizations to further spread the word.

“We have conducted extensive outreach in recent months, encouraging New Yorkers from all neighborhoods to express their interest in curbside composting service,” said Vincent Gragnani. “As part of our longstanding commitment to environmental justice, we continue to seek community partners to help us spread the word. We also continue to promote and expand the number of food-scrap drop-off sites across the five boroughs.”

To sign up for curbside composting visit nyc.gov/curbsidecomposting or call 311. 

This story first appeared on amNewYork.

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