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  September 19, 2004

Courage and Compassion
By Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

When our Administration came into office, the cost of recycling metal, plastic, and glass was spiraling out of control. We took a lot of criticism for suspending a recycling program that was politically popular, even though it was hemorrhaging tax dollars. But because we did, we've now been able to put this program on a sound long-term economic and environmental footing, while also creating new jobs for New Yorkers.

That's the significance of last week's announcement that the Hugo Neu (New) Corporation has made a 20-year agreement to process the metal, plastic, and glass picked up by City Sanitation crews. This new contract will fix the amount the City will pay for this service at no more than $48 per ton. Compare that to the average bids the City was getting just two years ago for doing the same work: $107 per ton. Even if the City had been running a budget surplus, that would have been exorbitant-and remember, in 2002, the City was in a deep fiscal crisis.

So that year, while we continued curbside recycling of paper and metal, we put pick-ups of glass and plastic on hold-both in order to help balance the budget, and also to explore ways to make the program more efficient. What we found was that if recycling processors invested in new equipment, they could both increase their profits, while also driving down the City's costs. But the short-term agreements that the City had been negotiating discouraged recycling contractors from doing that. As the City's finances have improved since 2002, we've phased pick-ups of plastic and glass back in. And at the same time, we negotiated this better, long-term recycling deal.

Hugo Neu is now going to build a state-of-the-art recycling facility on the Brooklyn waterfront in Sunset Park. It will handle the roughly 330,000 tons of metal, glass, and plastic the City picks up every year at a cost that is nearly $20 million a year lower than the price the City faced back in 2002. Roughly 85% of these recyclables will arrive on barges, reducing truck traffic in our city by the equivalent of 55,000 vehicle miles per year. That means New Yorkers will be breathing less truck exhaust, and there will be less traffic and wear and tear on our streets and highways.

The plant will also create 100 permanent new jobs, and the company has pledged to make hiring qualified local residents a priority. In short, we've taken a recycling program that just two years ago was awash in red ink, and turned it into a winner for everyone involved.

In closing, I also want to say a few words about the terrible loss we all suffered on September 10th, when Detectives Patrick Rafferty and Robert Parker were gunned down in East Flatbush. They were truly two of New York's Finest who, between them, had made roughly 900 arrests in their distinguished careers. More than that, they were beloved by the people they served, because they had helped drive crime in Brooklyn down to historic lows. They showed incredible courage and devotion to duty right up to their final moments-and now we're going to ensure that their murderer is punished, and also that we will continue to win the war on crime in which they gave their lives.