Just as years of effort to relieve the South Bronx from handling so much of the city’s waste were about to pay off, a law requiring the burden to be shared is in trouble in the City Council.
Its failure would leave Hunts Point and Port Morris responsible for disposing of a disproportionate share of the city’s commercial garbage and would continue to fill local streets with the trucks that haul it from Manhattan and elsewhere in the Bronx.
Just how Intro 495, a proposed law that would cap the amount of garbage that can be dumped on the South Bronx, North Brooklyn and Southern Queens, went from near-certain passage to imminent defeat offers a text book example of the city’s backroom politics.
As Politico New York reported last month, the fair share proposal began to lose support after two Hunts Point-based operators of waste transfer stations hired one of the state’s most powerful lobbyists, a firm with close ties to Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and to two of the four most powerful men in Albany—Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx and State Senator Jeff Klein, whose district includes the Hunts Point waterfront.
In March, Sanitation Salvage and Mid-Bronx Haulage jointly agreed to pay the MirRam Group $7,500 a month for a year to lobby the City Council, according to filings with the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
MirRam’s roots are in the Bronx Democratic Party machine. The “Ram” in its name is Roberto Ramirez, who before founding the firm with Luis Miranda was the Bronx boss and the party’s most noteworthy kingmaker. Miranda is the longtime campaign consultant to Klein. The firm’s client list grew “exponentially,” the Daily News reported, when Heastie rose to the speakership, with Ramirez’s help.
The waste transfer companies also have long-standing ties to the Bronx establishment through their generous campaign contributions. Hunts Point-based Metropolitan Waste Transfer contributed $2,500 directly to the Bronx organization and has given $14,000 to Klein over the last two election cycles, according to the State Board of Elections.
Mid-Bronx Haulage gave $3,000 to Klein’s last campaign, and Sanitation Salvage added $2,500, along with a total of $5,000 to other Bronx candidates and to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Metropolitan’s Accounting Manager Barbara Perrone, who has given $2,500 to the borough president’s war chest, also contributed $1,000 to help Rafael Salamanca gain his City Council seat in March.
As the Council member who represents the Bronx neighborhoods most burdened by waste transfer stations, Salamanca is crucial. If he opposes the measure, he will give the other Council members political cover to say they are following his lead.
Salamanca has been an exemplary representative since his election in March–the Energizer Bunny of New York politics, bouncing from community organization to community organization in an effort to learn and to help. It would be absurd to suggest that he has been bought, but it has been clear from the beginning that he is bound—tied to the party organization by his need for its backing.
Without the machine’s expertise and fund-raising he could not have gained his seat. With the end of his rookie term approaching next year, he needs the party’s help to gain power in a new Council.
The fair share legislation that would relieve Hunts Point and Port Morris of part of their role as the city’s garbage dump confronts our Councilman with the first test of his loyalty. Can he stand up for residents who have waited far too long for relief, or will he bow to the will of the power brokers?