Food Waste Composting Is Back in Forest Hills
Starting on May 16, 2021 
Op Ed by Dan Miner, Co-Chair, Forest Hills Green Team and Aleda Gagarin, New York City Council Candidate District 29   


One of the best ways for New Yorkers to significantly lower their greenhouse gas  emissions is by separating their food waste, and handing it off to NYC’s organics  collection program, also known as composting. This has included curbside pickup in  many parts of the City, and drop-off locations in other areas, all of which were  temporarily suspended due to the pandemic. 

The Mayor recently announced that curbside food and yard waste collection will be  restarting. Since those services will not be starting in our community in the near future,  the Forest Hills Green Team, in conjunction with the Queens Botanical Gardens and  Friends of MacDonald Park will be setting up a food waste drop off site at MacDonald  Park, beginning on Sunday, May 16. 

One third of NYC’s waste stream is made up of organic waste, much of it from food  scraps and leftovers. When food waste isn’t separated from regular garbage, it’s often  sent to be burned in incinerators or buried in landfills, where it decomposes in the  absence of oxygen and produces the greenhouse gas methane, which is up to 34 times  more powerful than carbon dioxide. Municipal solid waste landfills are the third largest  source of human related methane emissions in the US, and produced about 15% of US  emissions in 2018.  

Landfills around the country are filling up, and becoming more costly for cities to use for  their waste. To meet the City’s goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030, we will  need to prioritize composting our organic waste. NYC has had the largest curbside  organics recycling program in the world, serving 3.3 million people, supplemented by  many food scraps drop off sites throughout the city.  

To fund emergency responses to the pandemic, Mayor de Blasio cut $28 million for food  waste collection and composting from the Department of Sanitation’s FY 2021 budget,  which led to the suspension of many related programs in spring of 2020. The Mayor  recently announced that curbside organic collection will be starting back up in  communities where it was offered prior to the pandemic, but that service wasn’t  available in Forest Hills. All we had available was a weekly food waste drop off site at  the MacDonald Park greenmarket on Sundays, and the volunteer run Compost  Collective on Yellowstone Boulevard and Kessel Street on Saturdays.  

Ever since that service was suspended, residents were asked to discard food scraps  and yard waste with their trash, which has resulted in a tremendous loss of momentum  for these vital programs. Community outreach will have to be redoubled before their  reintroduction. We urge the Mayor and City Council to restore funding to composting and recycling programs as soon as possible, and to invest in community education  about the many benefits of composting.  

Fortunately, another option will soon be available. Queens Botanical Garden is  partnering with volunteers from Forest Hills Green Team and Friends of MacDonald  Park , who will staff a Sunday food waste drop-off collection site at MacDonald Park in  Forest Hills, adjacent to the Greenmarket. Residents will be able to come by and drop  off their food scraps with FHGT volunteers between the hours of 10 AM and 1 PM.  QBG will pick up their containers and compost the food waste at their main facility. The  finished compost will be returned to the community for distribution at the site.  

QBG is seeking other organizations willing to host food waste drop off locations in their  community, perhaps where sites have previously been co-located, at some of the 50+  Greenmarkets operated by GrowNYC. We encourage other local groups to partner in  these important efforts towards a sustainable future, and look forward to seeing our  neighbors at our new composting site. 

Members of Forest Hills Green Team, a volunteer initiative started in 2018, have  revitalized and helped start gardens at Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School and  Forest Hills High School, and have developed a community beautification project at the  LIRR overpass on Yellowstone Boulevard. FHGT has organized events and conducted  advocacy about environmental issues and climate change response. This year, FHGT  interviewed candidates for the 29th District City Council primary this June, following the  new format of ranked choice voting, resulting in endorsements of Aleda Gagarin as our  first choice candidate, Lynn Shulman second, and Evan Boccardi third, although he has  since withdrawn from the race and, along with Sheila Shapiro, will be coordinating this  compost site. To volunteer with FHGT to assist in the compost project, contact

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st Hills Green Team  Announces Endorsements for
NYC Council District 29
February 18, 2021


Forest Hills Green Team (FHGT) conducted an extensive endorsement process, using Ranked Choice Voting within its membership, to endorse Aleda Gagarin as their first choice to be the next City Councilmember for the 29th Council district, with Lynn Shulman second, and Evan Boccardi third. Ranked Choice voting will be used in the June Democratic primary for the race.

“Aleda is 100% aligned with the Forest Hills Green Team positions on all the issues that concern our team” said Mark Laster, Co-Chair of the Forest Hills Green Team.

“FHGT wants everyone to recognize that we are in a climate emergency, and must urgently reduce our carbon emissions to stall climate change and avoid worst case scenarios. We need to do as much as we can at the individual, community, state and national levels to respond. We can be proud that NYC is already a world leader in municipal climate response. We need to ensure that the next Councilmember for the 29th District is fully committed to that goal.”

“Lynn Shulman is committed to continuing NYC’s climate change efforts, and has extensive experience.  Aleda Gagarin, however, combines an exceptionally detailed climate policy agenda, and a proven record as an activist and innovator that will enable her to push the City forward. Both are excellent candidates. Evan Boccardi, while less experienced, is knowledgeable and thoughtful, and we encourage him to remain involved,” said Laster.

FHGT interviewed candidates and reviewed their responses to a questionnaire covering:
- commitment to full implementation of Local Law 97, which requires all buildings larger than 25,000 square feet to meet ambitious carbon reduction targets
- support for the Renewable Rikers proposal, which will replace the jail facility already scheduled to close by 2027 with a new wastewater treatment facility and solar energy systems
- creation of a permanent new NYC Department of Climate Change and Sustainability with enough funding to properly implement and monitor the many initiatives launched in recent years
- return of full funding for organic waste collection and community composting programs
- suspension for petitioning requirements in NYC elections this year to protect public health during the pandemic

FHGT’s full position statement is available on its Facebook page.

Since its formation in 2018, Forest Hills Green Team members have worked on community projects including creation of the Forest Hills HS community garden, revitalization of the MELS High School garden, and beautifying the LIRR underpass on Yellowstone Boulevard by the 112th Police Precinct, receiving funding from the Citizens Committee of New York. Members have also organized presentations and met with elected officials on a number of environmental issues.

With a NYC Council vote in 2019, NYC became the largest city in the US to declare a climate emergency.  That year, the Council passed the Climate Mobilization Act, a slate of climate laws

designed to drastically reduce NYC’s carbon emissions. All new buildings and buildings

undergoing major roof renovations now must be covered with solar panels, green roofs,

or some combination of the two.

# # # # #

Council Candidate Questionnaire

1. What is your opinion of climate change, and how do you think NYC should respond to it?

2.  Do you think Local Law 97 is sufficient to address the issue of climate change in ​NYC?

3.  What are your views on the Renewable Rikers proposal?

4.  Do you support Intro 1399 - Creation of a NYC Department of Climate Ch​ange ​and Sustainability?

5.  What are your views regarding the Queens Boulevard Bike lane?

6.  What are your thoughts about Queensway?

7.  Do you have an opinion on composting?
8.  Do you support the further implementation of rain gardens? 

9.  Do you support  Intro 439 - Supporting electric vehicles in NYC?
10. Do you have an opinion on leaf blowers?

11.  What civic group(s) do you plan to be involved with whether or not you win the election?

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Forest Hills Green Team

City Council Race Policy Positions
February, 2021

How NYC should respond to climate change

FHGT wants everyone to recognize that we are in a climate emergency, and must urgently reduce our carbon emissions. which have already altered the chemistry of the Earth’s atmosphere with countless consequences.  We need to do as much as we can at the individual, community, state and national levels to respond.  There are many interpretations of the Green New Deal, which is a name for the concept of moving the US off fossil fuels to renewable energy.

We can be proud that NYC is a world leader in municipal climate response.  We urge everyone to support these laws and participate in the innovations they have set in motion.  In 2019, NYC passed the Climate Mobilization Act, a slate of climate laws designed to drastically reduce NYC’s carbon emissions.  All new buildings and buildings undergoing major roof renovations now must be covered with solar panels, green roofs, or some combination of the two. Buildings required to benchmark their energy and water consumption are now also required to display their energy efficiency scores and letter grades.

Support for full implementation of Local Law 97

The centerpiece of the act is Local Law 97, which requires all buildings larger than 25,000 square feet to meet ambitious carbon reduction targets.  This will cover about 50,000 residential and commercial properties out of over 1 million buildings in NYC. These carbon caps will start in 2024 and will become stricter over time, eventually reducing emissions 80% by 2050. It is widely recognized as the most ambitious building emissions legislation enacted by any city in the world.

FHGT asks city officials to oppose any rollbacks or delays to the law, and to support its full funding and implementation.  Locally, Councilmembers can urge privately owned and co-op multifamily buildings in central Queens to proactively strive to improve their energy efficiency.


The Renewable Rikers Plan

City Council has already voted to close the prison facilities on Rikers Island by 2027 and replace them with new jails around the City.

There is an entirely separate proposal for what to do with Rikers Island that would keep its 400 acres out of the hands of luxury developers.  (Who would want a high-end apartment directly under planes taking off from LaGuardia Airport though?)  
FHGT endorses the Renewable Rikers Plan, which would put a new wastewater treatment plant there that could replace other wastewater treatment plants around the City, in addition to installing large amounts of solar power and batteries.

Background: reen-infrastructure er-treatment-facility-council-bills ure-rikers-island.html -council-reach-agreement-replace-rikers-island-jails-with/#/0

Closing Rikers Island prison facilities is a done deal

As noted, City Council has already voted to close the prison facilities on Rikers Island by 2027 and replace them with new jails around the City. There is a proposal to put a jail behind Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens. Like it or not, it’s underway.

It’s not surprising that neighbors of the proposed location would protest the plan.  But candidates for office who want to curry favor with NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) activists have a responsibility not just to say no, but to propose a reason for unwinding the process that has already taken place, and a new, better location. 

[FHGT has no position on the closing of the prison, the plan to build new jails, and the proposed location in Kew Gardens.


...But the critiques ultimately did not shake the leading supporters from their positions. "This is the hardest vote I have taken in my entire career. But you know what? I go to sleep at night, and I sleep very well," said Council Member Karen Koslowitz, a Democrat representing the Queens jail site. "The people that say no have no solutions. They just say no."

"Closing Rikers Island and opening community-based facilities is not only beneficial for New York City's corrections officers and incarcerated population, but also beneficial for the Kew Gardens community," City Council Member Karen Koslowitz, who represents Kew Gardens, said in 2018, when Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration unveiled plans for the four new jails.

FHGT has no position on the closing of the prison, the plan to build new jails, and the
proposed location in Kew Gardens.

It’s a Pandemic! NYC Petitioning Requirements Should Be Suspended

Hundreds of candidates for city office now seeking to run in the upcoming June primary,
and many volunteers, are urging Governor Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers to suspend
the requirement that they must collect signatures in order to appear on the ballot, citing
the risk posed by COVID-19 as infections run rampant across New York. FHGT
supports this request and hopes the court rules favorably on February 22


Creation of a NYC Department of Climate Change and Sustainability

There is a proposal, Intro 1399, to replace the Mayor’s Offices of Sustainability and Resilience, which are temporary, with a permanent new municipal department of sustainability and resilience, with enough funding to properly implement and monitor initiatives launched in recent years.  FHGT urges support of Intro 1399.  

Background: create-department-of-sustainability-climate-change 390908A6-46A7-4061-9306-9637ABCB85DD

Funding for Composting Programs

Mayor de Blasio cut $28 million for composting from the Department of Sanitation’s FY 2021 budget. This would dismantle the City’s voluntary curbside food waste collection program, end local community composting operations and drop-off locations, and would harm recycling efforts. Organic trash, including food scraps and yard waste, account for a third of the City’s residential waste stream. For years they have been sent to be burned in incinerators, or to be buried and rot in municipal waste landfills, which produce about 15% of US emissions of the dangerous climate change gas methane. FHGT urges the City to restore the funding and bring back food waste composting.



Supporting electric vehicles in NYC

The City’s electric-powered subway system is a big reason why our individual carbon
emissions are so small. But we are still very reliant on trucks, buses and cars. NYC has committed to electrifying its entire fleet of buses by 2040. NY State has a goal to get
850,000 zero emission vehicles on the roads by 2025. But NYC needs to provide the
recharging infrastructure they need. Intro 439 would require the Department of
Transportation to install and maintain at least 100 public on-street fast-charging electric
vehicle chargers in each borough. Additionally, this bill would require that at least one
out of every 10 newly created public parking spaces be equipped with a fast-charging
electric vehicle charger. FHGT supports passage of Intro 439.


Leaf Blowers

Leaf blowers are not useful tools. They increase noise and air pollution without
much improvement to the environment.
The FHGT supports Senator Liu’s bill
banning leaf blowers but we would prefer it bans leaf blowers year round.

" Emissions from gas powered leaf blowers are substantial. The amount of CO (carbon
monoxide) emitted from a typical backpack leaf blower for just 1 hour is equal to CO
coming from the tailpipe of a current year automobile operating for over 8 hours. For
the other pollutants, the amounts are even greater.


Queens Boulevard Bike Lane

Background: - - an op ed by candidate Eliseo Labayen


The Queensway plan


The QueensWay is a community-led effort to transform a blighted, 3.5 mile stretch of abandoned railway in Central Queens into a family-friendly linear park and cultural greenway. This elevated pedestrian and bicycle pathway would connect the communities of Rego Park, Forest Hills, Richmond Hill, Glendale, Woodhaven, and Ozone Park.