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Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS
Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS
Councilman Robert Holden at a Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association meeting on Feb. 1.

The Department of Sanitation is looking for ways to fund its $1.7 billion budget, and Queens Councilman Robert Holden was quick to speak out against one of its most controversial proposed solutions.

On Thursday, Holden’s office sent out a press release, and later addressed the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association at a meeting the same night, voicing his opposition to the city’s proposed plan of charging a fee for trash collection.

In January, the city hired a consultant for $1 million to evaluate the feasibility of a “pay as you throw” program that would see homeowners, renters and co-op owners paying to have their trash removed.

“I believe the recent proposal from Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia will impose an undue burden on the working class in my district, as well as other districts across the city,” Holden said in the statement. “This is a mismanagement of taxpayer dollars, and frankly, the plan is trash.”

Holden further explained that New Yorkers’ tax dollars should be sufficient enough to pay for reliable sanitation services.

In an interview with CBS, Garcia likened the “pay as you throw” proposal to the implementation of water bills in the city. When New Yorkers were forced to start paying bills for how much water they used, they began using less water to save money. In theory, charging for trash removal would be a way to give incentive for New Yorkers to recycle, Garcia said.

“Pay as you throw” systems are used in many cities and communities around the country and have been endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency as an effective way to improve environmental and economic sustainability. The gist of it is the less trash you have, the less money you pay.

The role of the hired consultant will be to determine how the program would be implemented, whether residents would be charged by the number of trash cans they fill, the number of bags they fill or the weight of the trash. When he spoke in front of the Ridgewood Property Owners, Holden highlighted what he believes would be the main problem.

“People will start dumping because they don’t want to pay,” Holden said, as several people at the meeting voiced their agreement. “What will they do? They’ll put it on somebody else’s property, or public property, on corners, that’s a problem. We know New York City residents, don’t we?”

Holden assured his constituents at the meeting that he will do whatever he can to stop the “pay as you throw” program in his capacity as a councilman.

If the plan eventually moves forward, Garcia told CBS that there would need to be a stepped-up enforcement program. The consultant is expected to have a more formal proposal within a year.

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