Forest Hills Green Team's was one of many neighborhood organic waste drop-off sites to close since community composting was scrapped in the previous city budget. Credit: Ambar Castillo

In an 11th-hour reversal, the city restored funding to community composting programs for its 2025 fiscal year budget. Mayor Eric Adams praised his own efforts and Speaker of the City Council Adrienne Adams’ ability to “,” but advocates say a monthslong campaign led by the Save Our Compost ż coalition was the driving force.

“Today is impossible without the tireless engagement of all advocates, organizers, and composters — and the testimony of countless New Yorkers who saw the obvious: cutting community composting does nothing but destroy all the positive green habits our city has been asking us to practice,” said Council Member Shaun Abreu in a on Friday.  

It was a rough year for community composting organizations. In November, Adams announced plans to cut the program. This defunded the nation’s largest program of its kind, just to save less than 1% of ż’s $7 billion budget deficit. While funding was restored, the future remains uncertain for community composting organizations. 

Why the funding doesn’t fix everything 

Community composting groups made drastic staff cuts and some had to completely close their sites after Adams announced budget cuts last year.

While some of the jobs can be restored, it’s going to look different, says Anneliese Zausner-Mannes, the education director of Big Reuse, one of the largest community composting nonprofits in the city.

“They’ve broken down infrastructure,” she said. “We had to let go of people at the end of the calendar year. Then there was another wave … You can’t just expect someone to sit and wait for six months, not have a job and then jump back without reservation. I mean, it’s terrifying.” 

In addition, this past Sunday, the city made operations tougher for Big Reuse. The parks department evicted Big Reuse from its main site under the Queensboro Bridge to build a city employee parking lot. 

The parks department evicted Big Reuse from its main community composting site. Photo courtesy of Big Reuse

Big Reuse did get $1.4 million in the new budget, but it says having to find and set up a new location might impact how far the money can go. 

“There are a lot of bricks to build a foundation for a solid site,” Zausner-Mannes told Epicenter ż shortly before their eviction deadline. “We had the foundation. We still have it. We have pieces of it, but on Sunday, it crumbles.” 

Despite being short at least one major composting site, advocates say the new budget, which also restores funding the city cut for public libraries and arts institutions, is a win.

Why it matters

The budget cuts announced last year meant the city would close operations where scraps are fully composted but keep certain sanitation programs (the brown and orange “compost” bins). Yet those sanitation programs process scraps in a way that contributes to climate change. With curbside pick-up and other sanitation programs, the waste ends up producing methane, which is more harmful than carbon dioxide. The programs that were scrapped were the ones far better for the environment, as our previous reporting explains. 

When community composting programs (like Big Reuse and Growż) were stripped of their budget, they were forced to close sites and services. Most New Yorkers had nowhere to take their yard waste or food scraps for composting.

Organizations like Growż made organics drop-off and pick-up services possible at farmers markets. Credit: Ambar Castillo

The cuts also led to the loss of dozens of jobs across community composting organizations — jobs this newest funding wouldn’t necessarily give back. 

Even Growż, which received a large private donation late last year to temporarily save organics collection at greenmarkets and some community gardens, shut down its sites and services in May. 

Staying resilient in the face of budget cuts

But these big community composting organizations were far from the only groups affected by the cuts in recent months. Growż and BigReuse made drop-off and pick-up services possible at farmers markets and community gardens. 

The community garden run by Forest Hills Green Team (FHGT) was one of them. FHGT depended on Growż to pick up their food scraps and other organic materials. But after Growż shut down its hauling services, FHGT could no longer offer its food scrap drop-off services. When Epicenter ż attended its last day of collection services, volunteers and community members dropping off food scraps said they were sad to see it go. 

Forest Hills neighbors relied on the neighborhood food scrap drop-off site until it was forced to close in May. Credit: Ambar Castillo

For some Forest Hills neighbors, having a drop-off site within walking distance allowed them to fit composting into their busy lives. And for people with mobility issues, it gave them physical access. For all neighbors who participated, it also created a sense of community, a chance to slow down, chat, and greet the site’s mascot, a cockapoo named Prince. 

Mark Laster, co-founder and co-chair of FHGT, didn’t want to stop helping his neighbors compost. “One of the reasons we’ve been able to keep this going for so long is that people have buy-in,” he said. “People really feel great about coming here, people see the community service. You hear the thank yous that we get, you see the regret that people have that we’re leaving. I didn’t want to lose that.” 

Forest Hills Green Team volunteers included its mascot, Prince, in food scrap drop-off operations until it was forced to close in May. Credit: Ambar Castillo

What’s next

With the new budget funding for community composting, Forest Hills neighbors hope they will be one of the many communities across the city to get their collection site back. Coalition members will know more in the coming weeks.  

Laster says temporarily saving community composting in the city is one example of how collective action can make a difference, despite the disillusionment he sees in some Queens neighbors with local and national elections.

Community members dropping off food scraps at the Forest Hills Green team site said they were sad to see it go. Credit: Ambar Castillo

“If it wasn’t because of hundreds of people doing this work, keeping the pressure on, and then having friendly council members who agreed with us, then we wouldn’t have the power to get it done,” Laster said.

Update:

We did hear back from ż Parks and Recreation after this article was published. A spokesperson sent the following statement.

“Parks understands the importance of composting, and we value organizations promoting sustainability throughout ż. Big Reuse’s license agreement with our agency expired on June 30th, and the organization has moved off of the site. Parks will be moving forward with our scheduled capital project to improve Queensbridge Baby Park. This capital project will convert space currently inaccessible to the public into open space for the local community to enjoy, representing the newest publicly accessible parkland within the park district in years.” – Chris Clark, Press Officer

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