Give them the sack!
State lawmakers on Tuesday passed a law forbidding the city’s planned five-cent fee on plastic bags until 2018, leaving the measure championed by Mayor DeBlasio and Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) in the hands of the mayor’s sworn nemesis, Gov. Cuomo. The fee has now been off and on again multiple times since May last year, and the local vendors who will ultimately be affected by it say they just want a decision.
“How much is it costing the city for this debate?” asked Alex Rashini, manager of Fifth Avenue’s Falafel Corner. “If you count how much they get paid by the hour, you give me a bill at the end of the day, that’s like 40 years of plastic bags!”
Lander’s eco-minded law, intended to discourage plastic-bag use and encourage New Yorkers to start using reusable totes, eked out a narrow 28–20 victory in Council last year.
But some Albany pols soon threatened to kill it — arguing that it will disproportionately affect low-income households — and the city agreed to postpone the rollout until Feb. 15 with promises the law would be altered to the capitol’s liking.
But with no changes made as the deadline loomed last month, Sen. Simcha Felder (D–Kensington) introduced a bill last month to permanently revoke the city’s right to impose fees on bags.
This week, both houses ultimately passed a more subdued version of Felder’s bill, imposing a temporary moratorium on city bag fees until next year — after November’s Council election — although Cuomo hasn’t said whether he’ll sign or spike it.
“They say they’re going to charge, then they say no,” said Alex Ali, manager of Park Slope’s Fifth Ave. Market.
The merchants say they’ve already been preparing for it — Fifth Avenue’s Associate Supermarkets had been gearing up to start using more heavy-duty plastic bags requiring less double bagging, according to store manager Alex Alomeri, but now he’s not sure if they’ll go ahead with it.
But many of their customers — even in crunchy Park Slope — are happy the nickel fee has been delayed if not outright killed.
“I’m not in support of the nickel,” said Warren Street resident George Olivera. “This town’s too expensive as it is.”
Others think those naysayers will soon come around to the idea of reusable totes bags — like the Europeans do!
“They do this a lot of the European countries, it’s a no-brainer,” said Boerum Hill resident Liz Brand, who shops at the Fifth Avenue Key Food. “They’re trained, and Americans aren’t trained yet.”