Just in the nickel of time.
Gov. Cuomo overruled the city’s planned 5-cent plastic-bag fee on Tuesday — one day before it was scheduled to go into effect — signing a state bill that forbids his arch nemesis Mayor DeBlasio from implementing the charge until at least 2018.
In a lengthy statement, Cuomo bemoaned the environmental havoc the plastic sacks wreak on New York — including an anecdote about reeling them in while fishing in the Hudson — but nevertheless declared the city’s bill “deeply flawed” because the fees will enrich retailers instead of government.
“Most objectionable is that the law was drafted so that merchants keep the 5-cent fee as profit, instead of the money being used to solve the problem of plastic bags’ environmental impact — essentially amounting to a $100-million-per-year windfall to merchants,” he said. “The windfall profit to private entities is unjustifiable and unnecessary.”
The news is a particular blow to Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), who had championed the fee for years as a means of curtailing the 1,700 plastic bags collected by the sanitation department per week, and eventually saw it score a narrow 28–20 victory in City Hall last year.
“We fought plastic bags, and for now, plastic bags won,” said Lander in a joint statement with Manhattan Councilwoman Margaret Chin. “They are stubborn and toxic forms of solid waste. They never biodegrade, so they pollute our trees, oceans, and landfills forever. And they are hard to dislodge from the state legislature, too.”
Lander says he stands by a fee at the register as the right way to wean New Yorkers off their plastic-bag habits and onto reusable totes, although many of his Albany counterparts — including state Sen. Simcha Felder (D–Kensington), who first introduced the moratorium ultimately endorsed by Cuomo this week — argued that it is a regressive tax that will disproportionately fall on low-income shoppers.
Cuomo says he plans on establishing a task force to create a statewide plan to solve “the plastic bag problem,” which is supposed to report back by the end of the year.