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Antonio Reynoso

Reynoso: Business Integrity Commission “Incapable” of Regulating Private Trash Haulers

Teamster Local 813 President Sean Campbell, at podium, speaking alongside Council Sanitation Chair Antonio Reynoso, at right. Photo: David Meyer

City Council Sanitation Chair Antonio Reynoso says the Business Integrity Commission is failing to regulate the city's private waste industry.

Speaking today outside the BIC's offices in Manhattan, Reynoso called on the commission to revoke the license of Sanitation Salvage. The company has been involved in two fatal crashes in the last six months.

Last Friday, ProPublica reported that a man killed in November by Sanitation Salvage driver Sean Spence was an off-the-books employee of the company. Mouctar Diallo, 21, had previously been identified as a "homeless man" by Spence, the company, and police. The Daily News reported that Spence was also behind the wheel of the Sanitation Salvage truck that struck and killed senior Leon Clark in the Bronx on April 27.

Authorities said Spence and his on-the-books helper fabricated the homeless man story, but it was two months before investigators learned Diallo was an unofficial employee of the company. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials have not pursued the case. NYPD and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark's office put the responsibility of investigating the crash on the BIC, which to this point has not penalized Sanitation Salvage.

"This tragedy represents a failure on all levels of government: an appalling inability to regulate the private sanitation industry, zero value placed on the life of an immigrant worker, and a failure by law enforcement to adequately investigate the death that occurred under questionable circumstances," Reynoso said. He was joined by nine council colleagues and members of Teamsters Local 813, which represents city sanitation workers.

Sanitation Salvage is hardly the only bad actor in the private waste industry, whose drivers have killed 33 people since 2010. In comparison, city sanitation workers, who collect municipal and residential trash, have not been involved in a fatal crash since 2014.

Unlike their counterparts in the city Sanitation Department, employees of private carters, most of whom don't have union representation, work grueling overnight shifts. Their routes take them across the city, and the company's vehicles are often in poor condition. Over the last two years, the majority of inspections of Sanitation Salvage vehicles resulted in trucks being ordered out of service due to safety violations, according the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

As officials contemplate broader reforms to the way NYC handles commercial waste -- results TBD -- the responsibility to regulate the industry falls on the BIC.

The BIC has never revoked or suspended the license of a company for safety violations, Reynoso said. He said the agency should have subpoenaed Sanitation Salvage owners and managers and revoked the company's license.

So far, only Spence has been affected. Sanitation Salvage has stopped him driving trucks for the time being, at the behest of the BIC after the ProPublica report went live.

"Sanitation Salvage is not a bad apple," Reynoso said. "We're talking about an entire orchard that is rotten. BIC has proved to be incapable of regulating this industry and enforcing acceptable standards for these companies."

"We had two people that have lost their lives from a reckless and out of control company," said Teamsters Local 13 President Sean Campbell. "It's truly a tale of two sanitation industries. The private industry, they want to treat us like the trash we throw away."

"This company is going to continue to play games until somebody drops a hammer on them," said Campbell. "Enough is enough."

In a statement, BIC chief Daniel Brownell told Streetsblog his agency “can initiate the process to revoke the company’s license” if it “finds that Sanitation Salvage should no longer be operating on our streets.”

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