Plastics! Lander’s bag fee under attack in Albany

Plastic whack: Daniel Sanabria is dead-set against the city’s 5-cent charge for plastic shopping bags, which is currently under attack by state lawmakers.
Brooklyn Paper
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Kensington is the front line for the fight over New York’s controversial plastic-bag fee.

Councilman Brad Lander (D–Kensington) successfully championed the 5-cent surcharge on the shopping sacks in Council last year, but state Sen. Simcha Felder (D–Kensington) is now pushing a bill to override the city measure, claiming Lander is just pandering to environmentalists and that Albany can come up with a better solution.

“We’re going to come up with a real policy that protects the environment and not make some politician a hero for some advocates,” said Felder, a Democrat who caucuses across the aisle in the Republican-controlled senate.

Council narrowly passed the fee 28–20 last year, but its rollout was pushed back to Feb. 15 due to the state kill bill, which the Senate passed 42–18 on Jan. 17 with the support of Kings County state Sens. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge), Diane Savino (D–Coney Island), and Roxanne Persaud (D–Canarsie).

The nickel fee, which will go back into stores’ coffers, is supposed to encourage shoppers to forgo the landfill-clogging carrying devices and replace them with reusable totes, but critics claim it is a regressive fine that will fall hardest on low-income households — although people making purchases with food stamps or the Women, Infant, and Children’s program will be exempt.

Felder says he’d rather subsidize tote bags and give shoppers a discount to use them.

“The mayor and City Council believe that the way to solve the problem is punitive,” said Felder. “What about giving them a nickel for not using a bag?”

Felder is optimistic that the measure will be a success in the Assembly, where it’s backed by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay), but other local lawmakers aren’t so sure the upper house will even bring the bill to a vote — let alone pass it.

“The Assembly may or may not take it up,” said freshman Assemblyman Bobby Carroll (D–Kensington), who supports the fee. “There are some strong opinions on both sides.”

Most Assembly members support the spirit of the city’s law, but are concerned about its implementation — like the fact that the 5-cent fee will go to retailers instead of into, say, an environmental fund, according to Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon (D–Park Slope), who also supports the fee.

But the main concern remains the effect it will have on working-class families, Simon said.

Ideally, legislators at both levels will work together on a solution to the plastic-bag plight that doesn’t fall on the little guy’s shoulders, she said.

“If the city and state can come up with a solution together to accomplish the goal in a way that is effective and doesn’t disproportionately burden certain communities and accomplishes the environmental goal, I think we can get a ‘yes’ on this,” she said.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D–Bronx) did not return requests for comment, but has refused to tell other news outlets whether he will bring the bill to the floor.

Cuomo likewise did not return requests for comment, but has also been generally noncommittal on whether he will sign or spike the measure if it makes it to his desk.

Lander did not return requests for comment.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Mike from Williamsburg says:
What word best describes Felder's admission that he just wants to prevent another politician from looking like a hero? Cute? Disgusting? Funny?

Felder knows darn well why giving people a nickel to not use a bag won't work, even though it has the same net effect. It's because no one would care and he couldn't try to make himself look like a hero on this issue.
Jan. 26, 2017, 9:55 am
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
Landfill clogging? What will you put your trash in lieu of a plastic bag? A plastic bag that you buy to put your trash in?

Remember when we went to plastic bags to "save the trees"?
Jan. 26, 2017, 9:57 am
Jeff from Canarsie says:
I go supermarket shopping once a week and it takes 12 or so bags for my entire groceries. Does Lander expect me to bring 10 or so re-usable bags with me every time I go to the supermarket? Hopefully, if repeal of this idiocy fails in the Assembly or is vetoed by the whimp of a Governor we have, a court will find this is an illegal tax which has not been authorized by the State Legislature. These people such as Lander live in a dream world.
Jan. 26, 2017, 10:37 am
Harvey from Park Slope says:
Its time for the Albany to ditch the Lander Nickel and Dime Bag Tax BEFORE IT STARTS. I am very disappointed in my new Assemblyman Robert Carroll and if he is going against the little guy - the working person in the city in favor of Lander's fee, then he deserves to be defeated in his re-election bid in 2018. This not about plastic verses paper; rather this is about Lander and Lander forcing all to fork over a nickel for each shopping bag, both plastic and paper. Lander appears to have certain democrats under his spell and these sheeps, like Robert Carroll just tow the Lander line blindly. Instead of paying a nickel, one can order on line plastic bags for a penny or just shop in NJ where these bags are free and don't have morons as politicians like Lander. Lander claims to be a progressive but what the Lander bag fee is a regressive tax which hurts the working class more than the rich, who like Lander both can afford to pay a nickel or dime per bag and get their food sent home in boxes. If Lander used his brain, he would just throw in the towel now and discuss rationally other alternatives for the city. But asking someone like Lander to weigh the pros and cons may be asking too much of this native of a upper class neighborhood of St. Louis.
Jan. 26, 2017, 10:38 am
Johnny from Windsor Terrace says:
If Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie doesn't allow the Assembly to vote on the bill to ditch the bag fee, then it is obvious that he doesn't give a darn about the average New Yorker just struggling to get by on a daily basis. Let's have this vote and then work out a deal which his helpful for our environment without placing an undue burden on the working class of this city. And if Heastie doesn't understand why we the people are overwhelming against paying a nickel for our bags, then he needs to be voted out as Speaker immediately.
Jan. 26, 2017, 10:43 am
Mayor John V. Lindsay from Gracie Mansion says:
Many bags could be eliminated if store clerks would just ask the customer if they need a bag, especially in drugstores, bodegas, etc., where the purchases are often small items and the small bags are basically useless for repurposing. As Rufus said, grocery bags are used for trash. How about we institute a "Need a Bag?" public education program and while we're at it, revive the "Don't Be a Litterbug!" program from the 1960s. The whole city is a pigsty and it's not just plastic bags!
Jan. 26, 2017, 10:54 am
Jane from Midwood says:
I am a a 23 year old who recently moved to Brooklyn after graduating from George Washington University in Washington DC. A few years ago, the city of Washington started to force all to pay a nickel for each shopping bag. As I had no car and still have no car, these nickels added up as the bags had to be doubled and even tripled. Living on a tight budget as we all know what it costs to attend college, I was spending between $3 - $ 4 each week. If Brad Lander has his way, these nickels will cost me almost $200 each - I am single - imagine how much more it will cost the average family? But Lander doesn't give a damn as he appears to be a self-center egotistical man from a well to do family from the Mid-west who never had to struggle financially. I can not understand how politicians who call themselves progressives like Booby Carroll, Jo Ann Simon and others would even support such an fee which really, really hurts those struggling like me (my rent is high, the MTA is raising the fare, etc.) I hope that Speaker Heastie understands the harsh affect of Lander's nickel fee on all shopping bags - please realize that this isn't about plastic as paper bags will also cost a nickel - will have on the majority of people in this city and will permit the State Assembly to have this vote and rescind Brad Lander's bag fee.
Jan. 26, 2017, 10:55 am
Tyler from pps says:
Jeff -- You sound like a whiny little twerp. Is you trip to the supermarket for TWELVE bags of food a spur of the moment occurrence? I highly doubt it, sir.

YES. You should bring reusable bags. Put hem with your shopping list. (And if you're not creating a shopping list, you're not actually worried about the money and wouldn't even notice the 60 cents added to your bill.)

It's not hard. It doesn't take any effort. Just do it. If you use the sturdier bags, you probably only need 5 or 6 (vs. 12 thin plastic bags).

Or, you can just bring back the 12 bags you used this week, next week.

Are all of you people sobbing your eyes out for the plight of the "average New Yorker" the same people who screamed for a decade about the HORRORS of a nickel deposit on bottles and cans?
Jan. 26, 2017, 10:59 am
George from Park Slope says:
The reason the city is a pigsty is because most neighborhoods don't have waste baskets on busy streets (Brad Lander removed those from 13th Avenue in Boro Park), food is sold on streets by trucks and carts, and taxis and car service drivers just empty their cars on our sidewalks. And in the subways, its because eating on the trains and station is permitted - just take the Washington Metro where no food or drinking is allowed and see how clean their trains are.
Jan. 26, 2017, 10:59 am
Tyler from pps says:
Editor -- It's NOT Simcha Felder (D)

It's Simcha Felder (I ran under ALL parties because I'm an opportunistic douchenozzle who doesn't have a principled bone in my body, but I'm currently claiming to caucus with the Democrats, ya know, until I decide to change my mind)
Jan. 26, 2017, 11:02 am
Mayor John V. Lindsay from Gracie Mansion says:
They took the wastebaskets off busy streets because people were filling them up with their household trash. Apparently this did not happen years ago.
Jan. 26, 2017, 11:08 am
Dave from East Flatbush says:
Why didn't this story prominently feature the photo of the guy who is against the bag tax?
Once again, The Brooklyn Paper has shown the liberal basis in the media still exists. It would be the right thing for Speaker Heastie to allow a vote on stopping this bag tax in the state Assembly.
Jan. 26, 2017, 11:48 am
Ruth Brown (Brooklyn Paper) says:
Dave - the plastic bag photo is the image on our home page. Our CMS automatically selects which photo is splashed up the top of our stories based on size.
Jan. 26, 2017, 11:56 am
deposit falsity from Brooklyn says:
Deposits are a falsity as they push the cost back to the consumer whether you use the plastic bag or not and the companies profit off of it because they're holding the money till they have to give it back (or not).

And the government profits off of it too as they add on new enforcement teams with your tax dollar and keep the revenue from fines.

It's a racket is all.

Instead, just ban the things if they're bad for the environment.

The most direct route is always the best and least costly route.
Jan. 26, 2017, 12:43 pm
helen murphy from chelsea says:
what will they tax next ? they just will not stop at all. and with the president we have expect the worse.
Jan. 26, 2017, 1:41 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Jane expects people to believe that she needs 10 plastic shopping bags per day. PER DAY! That's not normal. That's a bag fetish.
Jan. 26, 2017, 1:44 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Hey "deposit falsity," how is it a falsity to make Jane pay for her plastic bag fetish of 10 per day? Why should normal people who need the occasional bag subsidize her eccentricity?
Jan. 26, 2017, 1:46 pm
Dual Citizen from EWbrg says:
Problem is many people have dirty canvas bags. Customers should bag their own groceries like at Pathmark or everywhere in Europe.

In Europe anyway plastic bags cost a similar amount, but they are stronger and people tend to fill them more, without need of doubling them.
Jan. 26, 2017, 2:36 pm
Dave from Brooklyn says:
JFC, the absolutely most hopeless people pop up on these comment boards.

Step 1: Bring a reusable bag
Step 2: Pay no bag fee.

It's really not that difficult.
Jan. 26, 2017, 2:53 pm
Frank from Furter says:
Postmark permanently closed last year.
Jan. 26, 2017, 3:38 pm
Frank from Furter says:
Jan. 26, 2017, 3:38 pm
Lucy from Park Slope says:
What about poor working mothers who use as many as 20 plastic bags a day? Are they supposed to suddenly start caring about the planet? Are they really expected to use all these pennies if they want to keep loading landfills and the ocean with toxic plastic? This is so unfair to people who want plastic in our fish, plastic in our soil, and plastic in our bodies!
Jan. 27, 2017, 3:34 am
Rob from Williamsburg says:
Just this morning I had to detangle a plastic bag from my forsythia bush. My street is littered with plastic bags. The trees in my park have plastic bags woven into their branches. The notion that it is in any way acceptable to use materials for a one-time quick convenience that will then take tens of thousands of years to break down in a landfill escapes me. I got rid of my car in 2008. I do all of my grocery shopping by bicycle with reusable cloth bags. I’m a 55 year old man. Many people here need to go back to school and learn the 3 R’s. Reduce waste. Reuse materials. Recycle. I applaud Brad Landers.
Jan. 27, 2017, 9:26 am
Mayor John V. Lindsay from Gracie Mansion says:
Bags in the trees and all over the streets are a littering problem, not a bag problem. The people who are conscientious enough to bring a reusable bag are probably conscientious enough not to litter. The slobs won't care about the nickel.
Jan. 27, 2017, 10:22 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
With all due respect, Mayor Lindsay, the slobs care DEEPLY about a nickel. Didn't you read the article? Didn't you read the comments? This nickel is the worst thing to ever happen to the slobs, to hear them tell it.
Jan. 27, 2017, 11:09 am
Not Goish from Prospect Heights says:
Maybe the misguided out-of-towner Lander ought to put down his social justice bull ---, I mean bullhorn for one minute and take a look. Park Slope is a pig sty, especially 7th Avenue where there is no Business Improvement District because the greedy landlords and NY Presby Methodist are cheap.
Jan. 27, 2017, 1:15 pm
Tyler from pps says:
Brad Lander has lived in Park Slope for like 20 years.... out-of-towner... jeesh. Get bent, you dimwitted townie.
Jan. 27, 2017, 2:27 pm
Old time Brooklyn from Slope says:
Put a tax on all things plastic and disposable like coffe cup lids for a start and the cups too
Garbage bags as well
The store plastic bags are crappy and already
Paid for in the cost of the goods purchased
I re use mine a few times from a lunch. Bag to small trash can liners
As far as bags in the street that is a social problem
And I have no intent of carrying bags around
Jan. 27, 2017, 6:43 pm
Old time Brooklyn from Slope says:
Must be nice to have such an easy life to get so bent out of shape about grocery bags
Jan. 27, 2017, 6:45 pm
Matt from Greenpoint says:
I prefer Fresh Direct because you get boxes with both plastic and paper inside, sometimes you even get one item per box. That item feels very special to me.

Seriously though, this guy Lander sounds like a real piece of .... work. The guy is obviously not from NYC.
Nobody wants to carry reusable bags around all day for stopping at the grocery on the way home.
And why a nickel? And why per bag? And why does the money go to the store, which has already factored in their bag cost?
Plastic bags are versatile. For some their grocery bags are their trash bags. So now its better to buy big costly trash bags? Good reusable bags cost money and need to be cleaned.
After they take away the grocery bags, they will want to sell us bags for dog poop and bags made from special material. Want a bag for some reason, sure if you have a buck.
Jan. 29, 2017, 5:33 pm
schaz from Greenpoint says:
WE don't need another tax- we need more places to recycle plastic bags, And why include paper bags sourced from sustainable forests in your decree?. Lander I have a piece of advice for you: Put your head in a plastic bag while they're still free.Usually I'm against simplistic cries of "nanny state" by conservarives who want to dismantle and destroy- but in this case I am with them. No tax on plastic or paper bags! FInd other ways to deal with recycling challenges.Don't make the consumer the victim.
Jan. 30, 2017, 1:34 pm

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