Bill Morris in Building Operations on July 6, 2023
Co-op and condo boards that rent commercial space to businesses that serve food — restaurants, grocery stores, bodegas and more — need to be aware of a new law. Beginning July 30, all waste from those 40,000 businesses citywide must be placed in secure, rodent-proof containers rather than being set out on the curb in rat-friendly plastic bags.
The administration of Mayor Eric Adams is expected to extend the containerization requirement to all chain businesses with five or more locations in the city. Combined, the two rules will cover one-quarter of all businesses in the city and will affect the discarding of 4 million pounds of waste every year.
“The two simple proposals will have a transformative effect on our city and will eliminate the mountains of food waste piled up on bags on our sidewalks — making New York City’s streets cleaner and more welcoming to all,” Adams said last week when announcing the rules with Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch.
Since this is New York City, the requirement of secure bins, which must be placed inside or within three feet of the property, met with prompt and predictable pushback.
Some restaurant owners say the bins will take away valuable outdoor seating space. Others claim the bins will mar their restaurant’s aesthetics. Andrew Rigie, head of New York City Hospitality Alliance, tells Crain’s that the restaurant industry would “strongly oppose this fanciful mandate” and that many businesses without indoor space would need to install permanent containers on the sidewalk, which would serve as “ugly obstructions.”
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Josh Blackman, for one, begs to disagree. As chief executive of BrownstoneBins, a maker of lockable metal bins, Blackman believes the city’s new rule means his company has come up with an idea whose time has come. "I think BrownstoneBins are attractive," Blackman says. "What we're trying to do is get the garbage bags off the street. Don't restaurant owners want to make their space attractive?"
BrownstoneBins are available in customizable arrays that range from one to six bins. They’re made of rust- (and rat-) resistant aluminum with stainless steel hardware. The hinged lid lifts up and the lockable front door swings out for easy removal of cans up to 44 gallons. They range in cost from $1,900 for a single bin up to $9,830 for a six-bin array, and they come with a five-year warranty.
The bins were developed during the pandemic by Brooklyn-based, family-owned Brownstone Property Group.
The new rule requiring secure containers follows another edict designed to combat the city’s burgeoning rat population. With complaints of rat sightings at an all-time high, the city decreed in April that building owners, including co-op and condo boards, must set out their garbage after 8 p.m. instead of 4 p.m. (one of the earliest set-out times in any major city in the country). Garbage in secure bins — now a rarity in the city, though that may begin to change after July 30— can be set out after 6 p.m.
Co-op and condo boards, their property managers and their building staffs immediately complained that the new set-out times played havoc with work schedules. “I’m sure the Department of Sanitation means well, but this is going to turn daytime jobs into nighttime jobs,” said Peter von Simson, chief executive at New Bedford Management. “It’s a pretty rotten situation for the people who are doing the work.”
The Adams administration is hoping that secure garbage containers will be a pretty rotten situation for the city’s rats.
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