NIAGARA FALLS – Landlords and business owners turned out in force Monday, calling on city officials to delay implementation of a new garbage and recycling program set to go into effect in less than three weeks.
Making up nearly half of those who spoke out at a public hearing on the proposed new law, some landlords criticized what they called unfair treatment by the city.
Under the new program, landlords of properties larger than four units would have to pay for commercial garbage pickup. They say that’s not fair considering the city’s largest landlord, the Niagara Falls Housing Authority, doesn’t have to pay the same costs.
The city’s new recycling program, under a contract amendment with Modern Disposal approved by the City Council last week, would exempt the authority’s properties at Jordan Gardens and Packard Court from having to participate.
“It will further the stigma that the residents of those properties are incapable of recycling,” said landlord Jodi Collins, one of the 17 speakers at the hearing in Council Chambers in City Hall.
City Administrator Donna D. Owens said the authority will likely end up participating in the city recycling program at some point, but is still working out the details.
Many landlords, who said they were members of the Landlord Association of Greater Niagara, asked for the program’s scheduled start of Aug. 4 be put off 60 days.
The city is in the midst of delivering 96-gallon recycling carts and 64-gallon totes for refuse as part of the new curbside pickup program. Garbage pickup will continue to occur weekly, though recycling will shift to pickup every other week. Under the new contract, residents will be able to dispose of yard waste in clear plastic bags outside the totes from April through October of every year, and city leaf pickup will continue in October and November.
Paul Aswad, who said he owns a couple dozen properties in the city, questioned the equity in the city having taken away free garbage pickup from businesses, which pay a higher tax rate than owners of residential property.
“Our garbage has been collected for decades, our taxes have approached triple the residential rates for decades, and to exclude us as a class from basic municipal services is not equitable or fair,” Aswad said before a crowd of about 70 onlookers in Council Chambers.
Russell J. Petrozzi, vice president of Capitol Cleaners on Main Street, criticized the city for what he characterized as miscommunication about elements of the new program.
“Why is business and landlords the enemy?” Petrozzi said. “We’re not the enemy. We’re the backbone of your city. Without us, there is no city.”
Roughly 400 small businesses, excluding landlords, saw their garbage service reinstated with last week’s contract amendment.
While most speakers said they generally were in favor of the city’s effort to increase recycling and its move to using totes, many criticized the city for failing to include the public in the process of developing the new program.
Mayor Paul A. Dyster, whose administration has been criticized for its rollout of the new program, said after the hearing that he is not in favor of delaying implementation of it. He said he understands the need for a transitional period, which the city has accounted for by getting the totes out to parts of the city weeks before the program is to begin.
Having the new law and contract with Modern in place doesn’t mean either of them can’t be changed, he said.