EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an open letter submitted to Edward Grayson, commissioner of the city’s sanitation department.
Dear Commissioner Grayson:
On Sept. 22, many of us received an email from the city’s sanitation department telling us that our community in the Northwest Bronx will not receive curbside composting services because “there weren’t enough sign-ups” in our neighborhood.
When we learned months ago that city residents had to sign up to have curbside composting reinstated, many of us in the Fort Independence Neighborhood Association encouraged our neighbors to sign up through our listserv, and through face-to-face conversations.
We are disappointed that our community has been waitlisted.
More concerning, we recognize that — even if we made the cut — the process for deciding who will receive this service is ill-advised, unfair, unjust and ultimately betrays important values for which New York City claims to stand.
Setting up a competitive system that forces people to opt-in rather than opt-out is sure to heighten inequity and disparate treatment in New York City. While we do not know which communities have been chosen to have curbside composting reinstated, they are likely some of the wealthier, whiter and more privileged communities in the city. People who already are comfortable and fortunate are more likely to have been educated about the long-term value of composting, be personally familiar with it, and have the time and energy to spend organizing to get neighbors to opt-in.
Further, the sanitation department system for opting-in is based on interacting with a web-based form. More privileged communities also have more access to and comfort with the required technology.
While it may be necessary to roll out curbside composting gradually, this system for deciding where to start is just wrong, and betrays the vision for a just and more equitable city. New York City and the sanitation department should have selected a group of diverse communities throughout the city and educated each of these communities, recognizing that each one may need unique methods of outreach and obtaining information.
This process would have been fairer and would have been a great learning process for the sanitation department to develop a successful citywide rollout that recognized the unique needs of specific neighborhoods, ultimately resulting in more representative engagement in composting.
Instead, we have a process that will privilege the already privileged, and leave more vulnerable communities to wait.
This letter was written on behalf of a number of residents that include Tanya Greene, Margaret Groarke, Jack Marth, Maria Farland, Laurie Srebnick, Miriam Ford, Nancy Schwartz, Kateh Esmaeli, Kendra Sibley, Sasha Wilson, Karl Appuhn, Jordan Moss, Kristin Hart and Elizabeth Wilson.