Dec. 20, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
A non-profit organization that operates a composting facility near the Queensbridge Houses NYCHA complex has been granted a six-month extension on its lease by the Parks Dept.
Big Reuse was required to leave the site, located under the Queensboro Bridge at the corner of Vernon Boulevard and Queens Plaza South, at the end of the year– but it will now be permitted to remain open until June 30, city officials announced Friday.
The impending closure was controversial since activists and elected officials viewed the site as playing an important role in tackling climate change as well as bringing community volunteers together.
Big Reuse currently uses the site to turn food scraps, wood chips and other organic waste into nutrient-rich soil that is then used as fertilizer at city parks.
In response to the outcry, the city decided that it would give Big Reuse a six-month lease extension and pledged that the Dept. of Sanitation would help the non-profit find another site.
The non-profit has been composting at the site for over a decade in partnership with the Dept. of Sanitation.
The Parks Dept. plans to convert the composting site into a maintenance and parking area for its staff. The property will be incorporated as part of its $11 million revamp of Queensbridge Baby Park, which is located at 41st Road and 12th Street.
The park, which is about 800 feet away from the composting site, is about to undergo a major overhaul. The Parks Dept. will hold a community input meeting about the new Queensbridge Baby Park project in January.
The lease extension was welcomed by the Dept. of Sanitation’s Acting Commissioner Edward Grayson. He said that he was pleased that the site would not be shut down and that composting would continue– at least for the next six months.
Grayson said that the extension comes at a time when the agency has been forced to suspend curbside composting collections due to the city’s fiscal crisis.
“Despite our budget cuts, DSNY remains deeply committed to its expansion and the environmental justice it brings. Communities also need and deserve quality public space,” Grayson said.
However, Big Reuse and its supporters say that the parcel should remain as a composting site permanently.
They say that there is enough public land adjacent to Queensbridge Baby Park for the Parks Dept. to use and have formed the “Save Our Compost” coalition to lobby the city to preserve the site.
The advocates say that the budget cuts to the Dept. of Sanitation have made it even more imperative to save the site.
Queens Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer said that the park can be redeveloped without evicting Big Reuse and that the current proposal is “unacceptable.” He also noted that the composters should not be kicked out for parking.
He did, however, say that Big Reuse should remain on the site until an alternative location is found.
“What we need is a promise not to evict Big Reuse until they have a new site, a simple extension is not good enough,” Van Bramer said Friday.
— Jimmy Van Bramer (@JimmyVanBramer) December 18, 2020