Elected Lawmakers Aim To Evenly Distribute Unwanted City Facilities

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Video: Elected Lawmakers Aim To Evenly Distribute Unwanted City Facilities


Back in the 1980s, the city made an effort to regulate "Not In My Backyard" battles by setting up a system to spread unwanted facilities like homeless shelters and wanted facilities like libraries evenly throughout the five boroughs. However, elected leaders now say that effort did not go far enough. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.

Between the trash, the stench, the trucks and the smog, no one wants a waste transfer station in the neighborhood.

Pediatrician Jennifer Ratner, who lives on Manhattan's Upper East Side, is currently fighting a planned waste transfer station near a park, citing health concerns.

"I'm just baffled," said Ratner. "We need to improve the environment for all of our children in the city."

These battles -- often called “Not In My Backyard” -- often go on across the city, but what's not as well-known is that officials tried to address them all in 1989.

Back then, a law was written into the City Charter about building unwanted facilities like transfer stations and wanted ones like libraries. The law aims for each community to get its fair share.

Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr., who led the City Charter rewrite in the late 1980s, said he found at the time that undesirable buildings were disproportionately placed in poorer neighborhoods and among people of color.

"The people who did not live in Manhattan felt that the government was too 'Manhattan centric,'" said Schwarz. "We thought that was totally unfair, but also harmful to the development of the city."

The charter changes includes requiring the city to note whether a community is overburdened with bad things or too few good things when planning a building.

Despite the effort more than two decades ago, 14 stations in the South Bronx, 15 in Brooklyn and five in southeastern Queens handle 70 percent of the city's garbage.

"What's right to do is distribute it throughout the city, regardless of income, regardless of race," said Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander, who recently held a hearing on “Fair Share” to figure out what went wrong.

Lander said there are loopholes in the locating of everything from homeless shelters to drug addiction treatment facilities.

"Rather than aiming for a fairer share, they basically wrote rules that say, 'You have to disclose what you're doing,'" said the councilman.

That is not enough for Lander, and he is working on a proposal to map out all facilities with related health issues online, so complaints on matter like childhood asthma rates can help with factual planning and fair sharing across the five boroughs in the future.

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