If you are looking for heroes during a time of national uncertainty, look no further than State Senator Simcha Felder of Brooklyn. This registered Democrat is a bipartisan role model, supporting GOP control of the state senate — thus helping to kill everything from a New York DREAM Act to campaign finance reform — in exchange for the chairmanship of the committee overseeing New York City. (How selfless!) Now, he’s been using his position of power to lead the charge against one of Gotham’s biggest threats.
“We are right now about two weeks away from a crisis facing average New Yorkers,” Felder warned Mayor Bill de Blasio at an Albany hearing this morning that was supposed to be about the state budget — until Felder reminded legislators of the urgent peril.
“New Yorkers are being tired of being insulted and lied to,” he told the mayor.
The threat Bill de Blasio doesn’t want you to know about, according to the senator, is a five-cent fee on disposable bags, with exceptions for carryout bags and people on government assistance, set to take effect next month.
Thank goodness we have people like Simcha Felder looking after us in Albany.
“Mister Mayor, do you know what a loaf of bread costs today? Do you know how much a dozen eggs costs?” Felder asked, holding — you won’t believe his creativity here — a loaf of bread and a carton of eggs. The five-cent fee, which can be avoided by bringing a reusable bag, would be the straw that breaks New York City’s back, he argued.
The fee, signed into law last year by the mayor, passed the City Council by an eight-vote margin. It was “a close vote,” Felder said, justifying his attempt to undo the law and allow plastic bags to stream freely, two or three at a time, from grocery checkout lines into the city’s gutters and trees.
City residents throw away over 10 billion single-use plastic bags each year, according to the BagItNYC coalition, and the city spends $12.5 million annually shipping them to landfills.
Assembly Member Michael Benedetto, Bronx Democrat and Felder sidekick, offered a compromise. “We would like to see, possibly, a postponement in that bag tax, so we can have hearings on it, possibly develop an alternative,” he told the mayor.
This is strange, because Albany already delayed the bag fee, which had been scheduled to into effect in October. Since then, state legislators did not have hearings on it and did not develop an alternative.
Today, Felder blamed this on the mayor. “Neither your office nor the City Council tried at all to reach a compromise,” he said.
Instead of talking about compromise, de Blasio told Fedler why he supports the fee and what he is doing to implement it.
“Using petroleum-based products on a mass scale when we don’t need them, we’re only exacerbating climate change. We’re a very big market in New York City, we have a very big impact on the world, and it’s our job to do it differently,” de Blasio said. “Those permanent bags will be provided for free. A lot of people have them already.”
The Senate has already passed a bill to prohibit New York City, but not other municipalities, from implementing a bag fee. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Governor Andrew Cuomo, in true profiles of courage, have yet to reveal whether they support Albany bigfooting the city’s bag fee.
As of now, the law is still set to go into effect on February 15.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 30, 2017