New York City’s trash problem feels reminiscent of a bad group project: no one wants to step up and take responsibility for the work, but there’s plenty of finger-pointing to go around.
On Thursday, four of the city’s agencies in charge of its upkeep promised to deliver on a new strategy to tackle the mess and share the workload. And the mayor is promising $14 million to get it done.
The head of the sanitation department said what really stinks about the problem is — it’s been building for decades. At intersections and corners referred to by the city as “no man’s land” areas, there have been longstanding squabbles within city government over responsibility.
“Fast forward to the 1980s when New York City unwittingly created no man’s lands of its very own through an interagency agreement that was designed to create jurisdictional clarity for cleaning purposes, but that ended up being used for decades to obfuscate responsibility,” Department of Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch said.
“A way for an agency to look at a dirty part of our neighborhood and say, ‘That’s not my job. That’s not my problem,'” she added.
But that kind of hot potato runaround is over, so the city claims, thanks to a multi-million dollar investment and coordination between the departments of sanitation, environmental protection, transportation and parks and recreation.
“America’s biggest city is going to be America’s cleanest city. We’re investing more than $14 million this fiscal year alone to participate in the largest cleanup effort in decades,” Mayor Eric Adams said Thursday.
Part of that earmarked funding has gone to the hiring of new city employees and expanded cleaning shifts. At least 200 new sanitation workers have been hired and are ready to hit the streets as soon as Monday. That’s in addition to new evening shifts focused on ” hotspot cleaning” at parks and rat mitigation.
Adams teased new approaches to combat the ongoing rat crisis.
“When it comes down to — we have a few tools and tricks that we are going to be rolling out around rats in the next couple of days,” the mayor said. “We’re testing some of them right now.”
The DSNY commissioner said complaints of overflowing trash cans are already down to pre-pandemic levels. But many New Yorkers still say they’re not happy about the piles in their neighborhoods.
“You see dirt everywhere, and nobody wants to take the blame,” Paula Caiazzo said.