There was the Speaker – Sheldon Silver – standing on a crowded street in Chinatown this afternoon, peering into a large vat of old cooking oil. Photographers jockeyed for position to get a good view. Not a bad photo op. This slick (sorry) bit of political stagecraft in front of the massive dim sum palace, Jing Fong, was intended to promote the expansion of an innovative restaurant recycling program.
We were there a year ago, in front of Russ & Daughters, for a similar photo-op. There are now more than 120 Lower East Side restaurants taking part in the program, which retrieves, free of charge, old cooking oil from local restaurants, convertaing it into cleaner fuel for cars and trucks.
Today, Silver announced a partnership with the LES Ecology Center, the Doe Fund and Asian Americans for Equality to expand the program in Chinatown. According to the Ecology Center’s Tara DePorte, language and cultural barriers have made outreach to Chinese restaurants difficult. High school students working with AAFE are now teaming up with the Ecology Center to persuade restaurants to take part. Silver’s office reached out to Jing Fong (one of the neighborhood’s biggest) to become the first Chinatown participant.
The Speaker noted that restaurants joining the program are eligible for tax credits available to businesses who use bio-diesel fuel and produce it. The oil will be collected by RWA Resource Recovery.