1702499220 fill
Blog News

Anonymous donor saves compost collection at NYC greenmarkets, staving off mayor’s cuts

An anonymous donor has temporarily saved the GrowNYC compost collection sites at the city’s greenmarkets after Mayor Eric Adams’ budget cuts threatened to shut them down entirely, the organization told Gothamist on Wednesday.

GrowNYC spokesperson Andrina Sanchez declined to say how much the donor gave the organization, but said it was enough to keep the compost collection program running until the end of June, when the city’s annual budget is due.

The gift also ensures all 53 of GrowNYC’s compost employees who had faced layoffs by Dec. 18 will keep their jobs through June, Sanchez said

“This fantastic news allows GrowNYC to avoid imminent layoffs and keeps our program operational as we continue to advocate for the restoration of community composting,” Sanchez said in a statement.

The nonprofit’s 2022 financial report showed it spent $2 million on Zero Waste programs, which include GrowNYC staffers running collection sites at more than 50 farmers markets and farm stands around the city.

Sanchez did not respond to a question about how much city funding GrowNYC receives for its compost collection program.

The loss of city funding for GrowNYC was part of a larger sanitation department cut that took away $3 million earmarked for several organizations that run community compost programs. All city agencies were ordered by Adams to slash 5% of their budgets last month, which the mayor said was necessary due to costs associated with the migrant crisis.

A request for comment to the sanitation department was not immediately returned Wednesday.

GrowNYC compost coordinator Chris Black said he had expected to be out of a job within days.

“Earlier this week, we heard that our last day of operation would be this coming weekend,” Black said while running the group’s compost site at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in Midtown Manhattan.. “And so we would be laid off the following week. And then we got the news that this grant basically staves that off.”

“But the process itself has obviously added a lot of uncertainty to the idea of us having a job we can kind of count on in this field,” he added.

Patrons of the GrowNYC collection site celebrated the news of the extension, including Carol Testa, who had brought a bag full of vegetable scraps and empty eggshells.

“I’m glad somebody saved it,” she said. “I was very upset with the mayor. We really need to compost, and the thought of throwing all this in the trash was very upsetting.”

Beate Hein Bennett, who dumped a container of scraps into the collection site’s bins, said she has no composting option outside of the greenmarkets. Curbside composting collection hasn’t yet rolled out to Manhattan, and she can’t use the city’s street compost “Smart Bins,” which require a cellphone app to access.

As a 78-year-old retired teacher, she said she was not interested in “apps.”

“I don’t have a smartphone,” Bennett said. “And so therefore I don’t have an app. Therefore I cannot access these compost heaps.”

But the reprieve for GrowNYC does not extend to the other seven organizations that run community composting programs: the LES Ecology Center, Earth Matter NY, Big Reuse, Snug Harbor Cultural Center and the New York, Brooklyn and Queens botanical gardens are all still losing their city funding, Sanchez confirmed.

Those organizations have used city funding to run their own collection sites or process the scraps collected by GrowNYC into compost.

Black said GrowNYC sends some of its collected scraps to the city’s composting facility on Staten Island, but the bulk of the organic waste is processed by the organizations that are set to lose city funding — “a big problem,” he acknowledged.

“The processing is still very much in jeopardy,” Black said.

Lena Frey, another GrowNYC compost coordinator, said the remaining cuts show there’s still work to be done.

“Yeah, this is good news,” Frey said. “But it’s not the end of the story. It’s not the end of our fight to make sure that community composting remains part of the city’s future.”

Black said the GrowNYC staff had been handing out petitions to New Yorkers to save the program since the cuts were announced in November, and he hoped the organizing momentum would continue.

“This is definitely a nice change to be able to tell people that we’re here for now,” he said. “But we’re also telling people ‘it’s definitely not over, you know, stay tuned, there’s gonna be a lot more organizing to do.’”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *