Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Department of Sanitation

Department of Sanitation

  • As City Council Continues Push for Sanitation Funding, Administration Touts Investments 'In a Lot of the Right Places'

    (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    Trash and sanitation have become a top issue for the City Council in this year’s budget season, but Mayor Eric Adams’s $99.7 billion executive budget proposal for the 2023 fiscal year that begins July 1 failed to fund many Council demands. At a hearing on Tuesday, Council members questioned administration officials on their sanitation priorities — from corner basket pickups to composting — and their approach to a problem that has

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  • How Trash Became a Top-of-the-Heap City Budget Issue

    Council Member Chi Ossé on a sanitation tour of his district (photo: John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit)


    Trash has become among the most prominent issues in this year’s New York City budget negotiations, as well as the focus of larger policy debates about how the city handles its garbage and recycling.

    The infamous mountains of black bags that clutter sidewalks, the overflowing waste baskets at street corners, and the litter on city streets have all been the subject of significant attention from Mayor Eric Adams, Comptroller Brad Lander, and many members of the New York City Council,

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  • What Comes First in City's Reset on Food Waste? Skip the Truck

    Compost collection (photo: New York City Department of Sanitation)


    Last week was Food Waste Action Week in the United Kingdom and across Canada.

    The focus? Reducing and preventing food waste, with a variety of programs supporting smarter purchasing and cooking, with the goal of attacking what nearly every household generates too much of.

    By the (Canadian) numbers: 63% of the food households throw away is considered avoidable, meaning it could have been

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  • Max Politics Podcast: The Future of NYC Trash, with City Council Sanitation Chair Sandy Nurse

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    City Council Member Sandy Nurse (photo: @SandyforCouncil)


    February 4, 2022 - Max Politics Podcast: The Future of Garbage and Trash, with City Council Member Sandy Nurse

    City Council Member Sandy Nurse, the new chair of the Council's Sanitation Committee, joined the show to discuss her background in recycling and green jobs, her approach to chairing the committee, the future of organics recycling, commercial waste zones, curbside trash containerization, and more.

    Listen to the conversation and let us know what

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  • Kathryn Garcia Talks Trash

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    Kathryn Garcia (photo via the Department of Sanitation)


    This could be the election that flips an old maxim on its head: we may soon find out that there are many different Democratic ways to pick up the trash.

    While garbage probably won’t be among the top issues most voters care about when electing the next mayor of New York City, what better opportunity for a real conversation about how the city handles its trash and recycling than having the recently-departed sanitation commissioner among the candidates vying for the city’s top job.

    Kathryn

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  • Kathryn Garcia Officially Launches Campaign for New York City Mayor

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    Kathryn Garcia as Sanitation Commissioner (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


    Kathryn Garcia, the former commissioner of the city’s Department of Sanitation, officially launched her 2021 mayoral campaign on Thursday, pitching her credentials as an experienced government official who has time and again been called on by the mayor to clean up municipal messes.

    During her six years as sanitation commissioner, Garcia had the monumental task of overseeing trash pickup, snow removal, and recycling operations for a city of 8.5 million residents and many tens of

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  • Digesting a New Path Forward for Residential Composting in New York City

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    Compost collection (photo: New York City Department of Sanitation)


    As we come out of the Thanksgiving holiday and head further into the season of holiday meals, it is useful to take a moment to think about where all of those leftover food scraps end up. The ability to divert this organic waste from landfills is a lot more limited this year due to substantial budget cuts to New York City’s voluntary composting program. Utilizing recently-developed, small-scale organic

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  • 'The City Needs a Crisis Manager': Kathryn Garcia Plots a Run for Mayor

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    Kathryn Garcia (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


    Earlier this month, Kathryn Garcia, a top official in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, resigned after more than six years as commissioner of the Department of Sanitation. In her time serving under the mayor, Garcia has worn many hats beyond that of keeping the city clear of trash and snow. De Blasio entrusted her with leading the city’s effort to abate lead exposure among young children, named her the interim chair and CEO of the struggling New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) for part of 2019, and then appointed

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  • Max & Murphy Podcast: Kathryn Garcia on Trash, Food, & Possibly Running for Mayor

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    Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, middle (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


    September 16, 2020 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Kathryn Garcia on Trash, Food & Possibly Running for Mayor

    Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, who has been tasked with several other key roles by Mayor Bill de Blasio, is stepping down from her post as she considers jumping into the 2021 Democratic primary for Mayor. She joined the show to discuss her tenure at the Department of Sanitation, her work as interim NYCHA CEO and the "COVID-19 food czar,"

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  • City Fiscal Crisis is an Opportunity to Reimagine Failing Programs, Like Organics Recycling

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    Questions about recycling abound (photo: Michael Anton/Sanitation)


    The May 13 op-ed by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Member Antonio Reynoso, New York City Must Keep and Expand Organics Collection, It’s an Essential Service, suffers from two major fallacies.

    The authors begin their piece:

     “While is it is no secret that the city’s curbside organics collection program doesn’t pay

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  • New York City Must Keep and Expand Organics Collection, It’s an Essential Service

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    Organics collection (photo: NYC Department of Sanitation)


    Among the businesses listed as essential in Governor Cuomo’s PAUSE order are "trash and recycling collection, processing, and disposal" industries. Yet on April 7, Mayor de Blasio followed a different interpretation by announcing that the Department of Sanitation’s organics recycling program would be eliminated on May 4. To do away with this critical environmental program just to save a miniscule percentage of the city’s budget doesn’t make sense, and here’s why:

    While it is no secret that the city’s curbside

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  • A Key Piece of the City’s New Trash Overhaul You May Not Be Aware Of

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    (photo: @BKROT)


    For most New Yorkers, the city’s private sanitation industry is mostly out of sight, out of mind. Yet it impacts us in major ways. The industry’s old trucks chug and idle along inefficient routes, spewing pollution throughout the city each night. Once collected, the trash is dumped in communities of color, namely north Brooklyn and the south Bronx. Carters make huge profits while paying their predominantly black and brown workers horrendous wages.

    Some workers have reported making as little as $80 for a 16-hour shift. Even more disturbing,

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  • The City’s Pouring Money Into Trash Basket Pickup, and Complaints of Overflowing Bins are Dropping

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    (photos: Department of Sanitation)


    In the public conversation surrounding quality of life in New York City, litter baskets -- the mostly green, metal-wire trash cans standing guard on street corners throughout the five boroughs -- have taken on a unique focus. They seem to exist at the nexus between public and private life, providing relief for the refuse-laden pedestrian, and serving as a symbol of the urban order embodied in mundane municipal service delivery.

    Where baskets are placed, how often they are serviced, and how the city enforces the

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  • City's Promised Plan for Quality-of-Life Issues Yet to Materialize

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    Mayor Bill de Blasio (photo:Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)


    As stories of overflowing trash and endless street noise pile up on social media and in the news, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has repeatedly said it is working on comprehensive approaches to some of the most challenging so-called quality-of-life issues affecting New Yorkers, but has yet to reveal an overarching vision for what the city plans to do.

    Last October, Deputy

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  • A Chore We Must Do: Over-Hauling Private Waste Management in New York City

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    (photo: Michael Anton/Department of Sanitation)


    Environmental advocates and labor unions are dissatisfied with New York City’s system of collecting garbage from commercial establishments. Unlike waste from residences, including apartment buildings, which is collected by the city’s Department of Sanitation, waste from office buildings, retail businesses, and restaurants is collected by for-hire companies that charge their customers fees for the service.

    Environmentalists decry the traffic and pollution caused by multiple different waste

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  • Stop the Rat Takeover with the Humble Brown Bin

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    (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


    When the New York Times announced that Rats Are Taking Over New York City, the widely-shared article and subsequent discussion overlooked one obvious remedy: reboot New York City’s stalled, neglected Organics Collection Program, and use it to take away a primary food source for rats near residential buildings.

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  • Justice for New York City’s Private Sector Sanitation Workers

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    (photo: @NYCSanitation)


    Racial segregation is still thought of as a southern issue, but sadly New Yorkers continue to face glaring examples of racial inequity in our own backyards, like the commercial sanitation industry.

    A generation ago, the private carters provided middle-class jobs to a mostly white workforce. But in the years since, the industry has become mostly black and brown, and wages have dropped. A half-century after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the end of Jim Crow segregation, African-Americans remain at the bottom of the economic

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  • New York’s Private Sanitation Workers Deserve Fairness

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    (photo: Spencer T Tucker)


    Each January, we have the opportunity to take a day and celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Every passing commemoration to the life and legacy of Dr. King is a reminder to rededicate ourselves to advancing social and economic justice in New York and across the country. This year, as New York’s commercial waste industry is facing potential overhaul, it is particularly fitting to reflect on Dr. King’s often overlooked work helping sanitation workers in their fight for fair wages and

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  • Imagining an ‘Asset Light’ Sanitation Department

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    (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    Recent news that the New York City Department of Sanitation had its trucks evicted from a Chelsea garage on West 30th Street and will now park them on a side street near Manhattan’s Bellevue South Park should raise a question: why does Sanitation need to garage its trucks in the first place? It's not as if sanitation trucks are Lamborghinis requiring careful protection or 1970s era Jaguars

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  • We Need Commercial Waste Reform, and Now We Have a Plan

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    Council Member Cornegy, the author (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)


    New Yorkers have good reason to be concerned, even angry, about the state of affairs in our city's commercial waste industry. Stakeholders and commentators are absolutely right to note that, among other issues to address, the tragic loss of life in this industry is unacceptable.

    However, agreement on the importance of cleaning up commercial waste carting does not change the fact that a huge question is still on the table: How can we actually achieve our shared goals as

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  • What's The [Data] Point? 1,988, with Antonio Reynoso

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    What's The [Data] Point? Episode 42 -- 1,988, with Antonio Reynoso [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

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    1,988 pounds

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  • City, MTA Must Look Under the Hood for Greater Climate Progress

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    An MTA bus (photo: MTA Bus)


    The new congestion pricing surcharges on taxis and on-demand ride services below 96 Street in Manhattan are designed to address congestion in midtown, but they generate more controversy than impact. They might raise a few hundred million dollars a year for the MTA to fix the subway. But they won’t do anything to reduce congestion or air pollution. Meanwhile another big ticket MTA budget item has gotten little attention but will have a huge impact on New York City's emissions, air quality, and public health: bus procurement.

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  • Reducing Organic Waste Without Increasing Costs

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    photo via NYC Sanitation


    Today, the New York City Council will hold an oversight hearing on the Department of Sanitation's organic waste program started in 2013. The focus on organic waste is merited by the size of the waste stream (more than 1 million tons annually) and environmental benefits of reducing greenhouse gases through use of alternative disposal strategies, such as composting, rather than transport to distant landfills. The City plans to expand the pilot program citywide; however, ...

  • Combatting New York's Enduring Quality-of-Life Problem: Litter

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    DSNY Commissioner Garcia (photo: @NYCSanitation)


    New York is safer and more prosperous than it's been in years, but the city still can't figure out how to stop people from trashing streets with litter.

    Despite a focus on quality of life issues, City Hall has made limited progress in dealing with a problem that has plagued mayors since the days when animals roamed Broadway. Even a small army of workers from the Department of Sanitation (DSNY), business improvement districts, and the Doe Fund still can't fully police 6,000 miles of city streets and more than 27,000

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