A First Step Toward Mandatory Composting
Good morning. It’s Tuesday. Composting is coming to New York City. We’ll find out when and what it will mean. We’ll also get details on a $5.5 million payment to a man who was wrongly convicted of raping the author Alice Sebold when she was in college.
Credit…Sarah Blesener for The New York Times
Mayor Eric Adams’s administration proposed a composting mandate on Monday, new rules that will require residents who have yards to separate leaves, flowers, twigs and grass clippings from the rest of their trash.
The yard-waste mandate is the latest in a series of changes in the way New York City handles trash. Adams, a Democrat in his second year in office, has prioritized making the city cleaner and getting rid of as many rats as possible. He said last week that he would soon announce his choice for a “rat czar,” a position advertised as requiring a “killer instinct.” The job could pay as much as $170,000 a year.
As for composting, New York is following cities like Toronto and Portland, Ore. Both started with a yard-waste mandate and eventually required residents to compost food scraps as well, Jessica Tisch, the New York City sanitation commissioner, said on Sunday. Food-scrap composting is also mandatory in San Francisco, which has run a composting program since the 1990s, and in Seattle. And Los Angeles just introduced a composting mandate of its own.
Most experts say that to be successful, composting has to be mandatory, an idea that the mayor hinted at on Twitter: “If we want our curbside composting program to continue to be successful,” he wrote, “we need full cooperation from New Yorkers.”
I asked Emma G. Fitzsimmons, our City Hall bureau chief, to explain what we can expect.
The citywide rollout of mandatory composting begins in Queens. Why there? How soon will composting come to the rest of the city?
The city tried out a new curbside composting model in Queens and restarted it this week after a winter pause. It makes sense that the proposed mandate requiring people with yards to compost leaves would start in Queens, where there are more single-family homes with yards compared with Manhattan.
Curbside composting — and the new yard-waste mandate — should come to Brooklyn in October, to Staten Island and the Bronx next March and to Manhattan in October 2024.
Why is composting important? What kinds of trash does the city want composted?
We have all grown accustomed to recycling plastic and paper, and this is the next step, to recycle food scraps and yard waste instead of sending it to landfills. Advocates say that using those materials to create compost will help the environment and reduce carbon emissions.
The city wants New Yorkers who have curbside pickup to compost food scraps like meat and fruits and vegetables, coffee grounds, grains, eggshells and yard waste like leaves, flowers and grass clippings.
When you interviewed the sanitation commissioner, she spent a good deal of time talking about yard waste. People who live in apartments have a super or a resident manager who’s supposed to take care of that. What will composting mean for someone who lives in an apartment?
New Yorkers who live in apartments can set aside food waste for composting in a bag or container and then put it in a communal bin for their building. The building staff will then have to put compost out on the curb on that block’s recycling days.
This is the first time the city has mandated composting, but it’s not a year-round mandate, is it?
The city plans to start with a composting mandate just for yard waste for eight months of the year, avoiding the peak days of summer and winter. Once more New Yorkers become comfortable with composting, city officials hope to make composting food scraps mandatory as well, and they would be likely to make the policy year-round.
What about fines? And will the Sanitation Department hire more inspectors to see that the mandate is complied with?
Residents are expected to pay similar fines to the ones currently given for failing to recycle plastic and paper, which start at $25. But the city will have a three-month grace period without enforcement, and the yard-waste mandate is slowly being implemented one borough at a time. The city hasn’t said if it will hire more inspectors, but that is certainly a possibility, though officials seem more focused on positive reinforcement than a punitive approach.
Expect a mostly cloudy day near the low 50s. At night, temps will drop to around the high 30s.
In effect until April 6 (Passover).
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For the man exonerated in the Alice Sebold rape case, $5.5 million
In November 2021, the best-selling author Alice Sebold apologized to a man whom she had identified in court as having raped her 40 years earlier. The apology came a week after a state judge in Syracuse, N.Y. — where Sebold was a college freshman when she was assaulted — vacated the conviction of the man, Anthony Broadwater. The judge said the case against Broadwater had been deeply flawed.
Now, New York State has agreed to pay Broadwater $5.5 million to end a lawsuit he filed. Lawyers for Broadwater and from the office of the state attorney general signed off on the settlement last week. It requires a judge’s signature, but Melissa Swartz, one of Broadwater’s lawyers, said that the judge had given verbal approval last month.
The attorney general, Letitia James, said in a statement that the settlement was “a critical step to deliver some semblance of justice to Mr. Broadwater.” Swartz said Broadwater, now 62, was grateful that the state’s lawyers had not insisted on taking a deposition from him, which would have forced him to revisit events now more than 40 years in the past. “That would be extremely difficult for Tony to go through,” she said.
Sebold described the assault in detail in “Lucky,” a memoir published in 1999. Broadwater was arrested five months after the incident, when Sebold passed him on the street and contacted the police, saying she might have seen the man who had raped her. Broadwater’s lawyers subsequently argued that prosecutorial misconduct had tainted a police lineup and that the conviction relied on a since-discredited method of microscopic hair analysis.
Broadwater has also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Onondaga County and the city of Syracuse, as well as an assistant district attorney and a police officer who were involved in the case against him. That suit is pending.
Flaco vs. the ornery ornithologist
When Flaco the owl fled the Central Park Zoo,
Through vandalized mesh (yeah, so what else is new?)
The renowned ornithologist, Dr. Olive O’Duff,
Said, “We must capture that bird and I know my stuff.
What bird in his right mind survives in New Yawk?
He’ll get eaten and chomped by a rat or a hawk.
He will nibble on poison, sriracha and hoisin.
He’s nuts as a loon, thinks he’s out for a lark.
Get him back in his cage! Get him back before dark!”
But Flaco the owl, now as free as a bird,
Flew to places of which he only had heard.
Bergdorf’s and MoMA, the Highline, the Met,
Off on a flight he would never forget:
“It’s a hoot and a howl and a hot hootenanny,
Exploring Manhattan, each nook and each cranny.”
Ah, but Dr. O’Duff said, “I gotta be tough,
This Flaco is wacko, and enough is enough.
It’s for the bird, I’m his staunchest proponent,
I value his vigor, that worthy opponent.
Does he think he’ll survive outside of captivity?
Bait the traps, men, and damn his proclivity!”
Flaco, meanwhile, was nothing but smiles,
Flying o’er rooftops and mocking gargoyles.
Bird watchers watched him and pointed and stared.
“You’ll never taste freedom if you haven’t dared.
You don’t need to be smart,
Just sharpen your claws,
Keep your hearing superb.”
He was met with applause.
When Olive O’ heard this, her feathers were ruffled,
She said to her minions in a voice soft and muffled:
“Flaco has taught me, better shoot for the moon,
Be brisk, take the risk, and owl’ll be seeing you soon.”
— Lou Craft
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].