Farmers Market Compost Layoffs Loom In NYC Budget Scrap

NEW YORK CITY — A popular New York City farmers market composting program moved closer to the permanent scrap pile — and some advocates are raising a stink.

GrowNYC filed a state notice Friday that 60 workers face layoffs this summer, a season when its city contracted green bins would normally dot farmers markets across the city.

The layoff notice has actually been recycled a few times since December as GrowNYC — and other community composting programs — struggled to save the bins after City Hall officials cut their funding amid sweeping budget cuts and an ongoing shift to city sanitation-run curbside composting.

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An anonymous donation after the city cut funding in the fall will keep the GrowNYC program running and worker employed until June, said Chelsea Connor, a spokesperson for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents the workers.

“We are lobbying for the city to [re-fund] the community compost program to continue giving New Yorkers more accessibility for composting throughout the many farmers markets in all 5 boroughs,” she said.

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City Hall officials didn’t respond to Patch’s requests for comment, nor did GrowNYC representatives. Sanitation officials referred Patch to City Hall for comment.

The cuts represent a potential significant shape in the New York City’s growing composting landscape.

A constellation of community composting programs such as GrowNYC’s for years had converted thousands of New Yorkers into composters, who would take their food scraps to farmers markets and other drop-off points. From there, the organic waste would bypass landfills and instead be transformed into fertile soil for parks, gardens, street tree soil and homes.

Composting’s popularity prompted city officials to develop a citywide curbside compost program, which now runs alongside recycling for all Brooklyn and Queens residents.

Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island residents are expected to receive curbside composting service beginning in October, officials said.

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Mayor Eric Adams and sanitation officials have touted the curbside program, but advocates have grown concerned it will needlessly subsume the established community composting network.

Sure enough, Adams’ citywide budget cuts announced in November slashed the $3 million that community composting received from the city.

Adams has since reversed many of those cuts, but community composting has yet to have its funding restored.

Anonymous donations helped temporarily save several of those programs, including GrowNYC’s, but advocates and City Council leaders warned that support should not supplant funding from the city.

“The immense public outcry over the Mayor’s November Plan cutting funds for these programs is a testament to New Yorkers’ commitment to combating the effects of climate change,” said Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, the Council’s sanitation chair Sandy Nurse and Council finance chair Justin Brannan in a joint statement in December.

Council Member Shaun Abreu has since vowed to make sure community composting is here to stay.

“Makes absolutely no sense to cut,” he wrote in a recent tweet.

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