I am just back from ten days away with my Dad watching my friends’ four kids down at the Jersey Shore.
What did I miss? Just kidding… I had planned to send out a newsletter while I was there, but between football, the beach, cheerleading, surfing, aquariums, Jenkinsons (IYKYK), sleepovers, meatballs and donuts etc., there was little time left in the day.
I am going to send out a couple of different newsletters over the next day or so to start getting information into your inbox again. I will be back on a normal approach next week. This one is about the new Garbage Lid Laws and upcoming Outdoor Dining law changes, both which I have gotten a lot of questions about. I will separately send out the long awaited results of the rat survey shortly.
LID LEGISLATION – THE FACTS
It was a confusing start, but this is where we have gotten to now:
- August 24th is the Effective Date of the new laws
- September 23rd, after a 30 Day Grace Period is when enforcement will start.
- The goal of the new laws is to reduce one of the main food sources for rats – exposed garbage.
The administration has said they are not looking to be militant about enforcement of good neighbors, but rather have more tools to enforce those who are bad actors and are significantly contributing to the growing rat crisis. So be the good neighbor. We are all in this together. And also remember – this is about food waste. The law applies to everything, however what is most important is food waste be contained.
WHAT IS CHANGING?
For buildings with 10 or fewer units, you will need to put your garbage in containers with tightly fitting lids.
- These lids can be permanent (like a tote) or attached with a cord. This is a good short video I found on how to do this: Tips to Keep from Losing Trash Can Lids - Today's Homeowner (todayshomeowner.com). If you don't have a drill and need one, just let me know and I will pop over with one.
- Many have asked whether their standard round, Rubbermaid type cans with lids that snap are ok, and my understanding is the answer is you won't be bothered so long as they can seal tightly. But you may want to take the time to add a cord (see above) anyway to reduce the chance of losing it.
For buildings with more than 10 units
- If you have the space you are required to have lidded containers.
- Only if you don’t have the space can you just use bags and these either must be 1 ml thick bags with rat repellent or 3 ml thick bags.
- This is still very much a work in progress of finding solutions for big buildings. We are finding that many of our big buildings - like 1500 Garden - were not built with sufficient trash storage capacity. So areas we are exploring may ultimately include collecting garbage more frequently, among others. And I have asked the city to update our zoning to ensure future buildings contain sufficent space.
For ALL food and beverage service establishments, regardless of the amount of units on the premises, you are required to use refuse containers with properly fitting lids.
HOW BIG CAN THE CONTAINER BE?
Volume limit – minimum 10 gallon, no maximum. Previously, our laws limited the volume to be 32 gallons but this was removed in the City Council led amendment given many of you already have the bigger 50 gallon lidded totes and expressed concerns about having to change. That said, the 32 gallon size – which is like the typical round Roughneck ones you see – is recommend.
Weight limit – The administration added the new requirement that the total weight of the trash can cannot exceed 50 lb to correspond with our contract with Cali Carting. I think this was more meant to apply to the bags themselves, not the trash can. Especially when you think about this in the context of large buildings with large receptacles. But no one is going around with a scale to measure. In practice, like Cali does currently, the haulers will take the bags out of any can that is too heavy.
WHAT OTHER FEATURES ARE REQUIRED?
- The cans must now be equipped with handles so they can be picked up by one person.
- You must paint your address on the side of the can so it is visible. An easy way is to buy stencils and some spray paint. You can get stencils locally here - Hillman 6 in. Card Stock Serif Stencil Set 38 pk - Ace Hardware. If you get / have some, please consider sharing with your neighbors.
ARE THERE ANY EXCEPTIONS?
Yes - the new law has a broadly worded exception provision that was inserted in the City Council led amendment. At the time, this was added last minute in the negotiations with the mayor’s office as a stop gap measure to address the myriad questions raised by the public where this one size fits all law may not perfectly apply including, among others:
- What if a resident is disabled or has mobility issues?
- What if someone has no food waste - due to composting?
- What if the property owner is a senior who will struggle with trash cans and has very little food waste?
- What if someone has no room to store trash receptacles?
- What if the experience has been Cali leaving the trash cans strewn all over the street?
- What if people walking by use the trash cans to put their dog waste in without bags?
After the City Council approved this, the administration chose to narrow the exceptions to be solely those with space constraints. I asked most of your questions above at the last City Council meeting – and with regard to those who are disabled or have mobility issues, the administration will work with them. For most of the other questions, an exception would not be made.
To apply for an exception click here - [City of Hoboken] City of Hoboken Trash Containerization Exemption Form (seamlessdocs.com). Only property owners can apply – so if you are a tenant, you will need to reach out to the property owner if you need an exception.
IS THE CITY PROVIDING ANY NEW GARBAGE CANS?
Yes, the city has secured 3,000 compliant receptacles and are working on a plan to make them available on a first come, first serve basis city wide once they are delivered. More to come.
WHERE CAN I FIND MORE ABOUT OUR GARBAGE LAWS INCLUDING FINES FOR VIOLATING?
- City of Hoboken, NJ Receptacles; Approved Containers; Plastic Bags: § 110-25 Storage of refuse receptacles. (ecode360.com)
SOME ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS I HAVE RECEIVED
- If I get new cans, how do I get rid of old cans? Place at the curb after 7:30 pm (9:00 pm for Washington Street) on Wednesday night upside down with a paper sign that says "this can is garbage”.
- If my lid is lost by Cali, will I still get fined? Irrespective of how you lose your lid, you would run the risk of being fined. Here is a link to replacement lids for standard 32 gallon Roughnecks to keep handy: Rubbermaid Roughneck Plastic 32 gal Garbage Can Lid - Ace Hardware. And remember to watch the video above about adding a cord…
- What about oversized items like a piece of furniture or shelves? The same rules apply as current – these items do not need to be put in bags or in containers.
- What if my garbage exceeds what my container will hold? In that instance, do your best to keep your food waste in the container, and any excess garbage that is not food waste can be put in a bag next to it.
- Is Cali going to be ok with this given there will be more cans on the curb? I am told yes, they are ok with this.
- We live in a mid-sized building and have a LOT of trash cans which may not actually fit at the curb? Can we still put just garbage bags out? Unfortunately no – many buildings are having to change the way they store and handle trash to comply.
OUTDOOR DINING LAW CHANGES
Amidst the growing rat crisis, many have suggested that our outdoor dining areas – specifically parklets and streateries – are a primary food source, going as far as calling for their closure. People generally enjoy eating outdoors and as you will see in my Rat Survey results, closing streateries scored low on the list of suggested steps that the city should take. A higher scoring approach was to amend the laws to ensure outdoor dining facilities are cleaned regularly and controlled for rats. And the administration is taking this approach.
At the next City Council meeting, we will be voting on proposed legislation that clarifies that owners of outdoor dining areas are responsible for cleaning and pest control. And if the outdoor dining areas are not clean and free from rats, they are subject to fines. It seems obvious, but this was not actually part of our municipal code concerning outdoor dining.
The legislation also provides guidance to property owners to keep their outdoor dining areas clean and free from rats:
- Inspect and clean dining areas and surrounding sidewalks daily
- Regular powerwashing of sidewalks and areas under platforms
- Schedule regular extermination service
- Modify platform structures to include trap doors and open space underneath and to not block drainage
- Keep garbage stored away from the outdoor dining structure
- Empty and replace any planters with any signs of rat burrows.
I am not exactly sure how this will be enforced - what specific measure will be used to determine if a restaurant can be fined. But it is a start.
I have been asked what I mean when I say too often "the city is run like a campaign instead of a city" and it basically means when the need for headlines is what drives policy. The process of changing our laws concerning garbage over the past few weeks has been a good example and it has been very frustrating to watch given how important of a public health issue this is for our community and how many people this policy touches.
Most of the City Council members felt that the mayor’s office's initial, rushed version of the new Lid Law was lacking any input from the public, and was being driven by their need (and CM Cohen's, the mayor's endorsed candidate in the 5th Ward) to finally show an effort regarding the growing rat / public health crisis. So we got to work on offering suggestions for amendments that were initially rebuked until they realized they did not have enough votes in support of the rushed verison. It was then the mayor’s office acquiesced and allowed an amended version to be put on the agenda simultaneously that reflected at least more input from City Council members and the public. But only if their rushed version passed as well. This negotiation with the mayor's Chief of Staff, Vijay Chaudhuri, was led by CM DeFusco and Quintero. The votes on the legislation tell the story:
- Intial rushed version of the law: passed 5-4; CM Russo, Ramos, and Giattino and I were 'no' votes.
- Resolution to make the law effective immediately: voted down 3-6 as it which would have deprived the public’s right to challenge the new, controversial law and we were voting to introduce an amended version of the law minutes later. Cohen, Jabbour, Quintero voted yes. The mayor's office and CM Cohen had to change the language in the nixles/newsletters that were set to go out the next morning.
- City Council Led Amendment: passed 9-0 on introduction and brought some common sense changes into the mix and reflected input from the public. Then passed 9-0 at the 8/23 meeting.
In the end, it was the independent City Council members (myself included) using our voting block of five votes that ensured that our new laws started on better footing and not just a headline. Most of the time - in the range of 90% - the City Council votes unanimously on legislation. But sometimes, we actually do have policy debates and improve on legislation. #morevoices But to have these debates, and without debates we have no democracy, you need to have a majority (at least five votes) that are independent voices representating you. IMHO, especially when policy is most often being driven by the need for headlines.
Both contained garbage and cleaner outdoor dining areas are obvious and necessary steps that we need to take as a city to curb our growing rat crisis. Up next, the Rat Survey results... coming shortly. As always, please share this with everyone you know who may be interested and reach out any time on any issue important to you: 201-208-1764 or [email protected].
Do you like this post?