Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks on July 27, 2022
The Queensview co-op in Astoria is a city within the city — a complex of 14 15-story towers that contain a total of 726 apartments. Each building has a representative who serves as a liaison with the nine-member co-op board. One of those reps is Bill Weisman, avid gardener, birdwatcher, and a man on a mission to do his part to save our beleaguered planet.
“I’ve always been interested in composting, and I feel strongly about not sending stuff to landfills,” says Weisman, 70, a retired apparel salesman who has lived at Queensview since 1982. He feels especially strongly about not sending organic waste to landfills — egg shells, coffee grounds, bones, yard waste and such — stuff that accounts for one-third of the city’s residential waste and which, when dumped in landfills, generates methane gas that further depletes the ozone layer. New York City, meanwhile, has announced the ambitious goal of ending all shipments to landfills by 2030.
So naturally Weisman was thrilled when heard that the city was expanding its curbside organics recycling program in 2017. At no charge, the city would deliver brown bins to buildings, into which residents deposited their organic waste, and city Department of Sanitation (DSNY) trucks would haul it to centers where it would be converted into compost. That compost would then return to the city to enrich parks, gardens and tree cuts. As his building’s rep, Weisman approached the Queensview co-op board and management, hoping they would agree to sign up for the program.
“They were not keen on the idea of having brown bins on the property,” Weisman says. “They were concerned about rodents and odors.”
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Weisman looked on with dismay as the curbside organics recycling program’s expansion stalled, then got canceled during the pandemic, then sputtered back to life last year. Today curbside recycling is available in just seven Community Board districts where residents have expressed strong interest in participating. Late last year, Weisman heard about a new pilot program called SmartCompost.nyc., which was installing locking orange bins for organic recycling — 20 on the streets of Astoria and 10 in downtown Manhattan. Weisman called CityRax, the company that won the contract to manage the program in Astoria, asking for informational material he could distribute in the co-op. Shareholders put together a flier that was posted in the 14 buildings and on the co-op’s Facebook page, including the link to register for a free ID card that unlocks the bins: smartcompost.nyc. But there was a problem. The nearest bin was about five blocks from Queensview, and Weisman asked if it would be possible to install a bin closer to the co-op.
The answer was yes, and in February an orange bin was installed across the street from Queensview. “That caused a lot more people from the co-op to use the bin,” Weisman says with satisfaction. “I try to do what I can to get people to compost.”
The bins are emptied six days a week by DSNY crews. “Pretty much every day the bins are full by the evening pickup,” says Kathy Kahng, the principal at CityRax. “We have very little contamination from non-organic waste. The program is doing very well — both for DSNY and for the neighborhood residents. Everyone seems happy, and the residents want more bins.”
Ask and you shall receive. Says DSNY spokesman Vince Gragnani: “This pilot has been so successful, we are expanding it and adding a network of at least 100 new bins across the city in the coming months.”
Meanwhile, residents of the following Community Board districts can sign up for the city’s curbside organics recycling program: Brooklyn 1, 2, 6 and 7; Manhattan 6 and 7; and Bronx 8. The sign-up link is here.
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