A New Vision for Cleaner Streets

May 2015: Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and Councilmember Corey Johnson unveiled a new “big belly”-style trash can at W. 14th St. and Eighth Ave. Photo courtesy Office of Councilmember Corey Johnson.
May 2015: Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and Councilmember Corey Johnson unveiled a new “big belly”-style trash can at W. 14th St. and Eighth Ave. Photo courtesy Office of Councilmember Corey Johnson.

BY COUNCILMEMBER COREY JOHNSON | Nearly every day, I see garbage cans overflowing throughout my district in neighborhoods like Greenwich Village, Chelsea or Hell’s Kitchen. Just as often, I hear from frustrated constituents who express a growing sense that our city is failing in its duty to simply keep the streets clean. On weekends, these problems only seem to grow worse.

When we cannot keep our public spaces clean, it instills a sense that our city is in over its head when it comes to performing basic functions. Sanitation is one of those crucial municipal issues that come at the crossroads of both quality of life and public health. In the greatest city in the world, we have to do better.

This district — which spans the West Side of Manhattan from roughly Canal St. to Columbus Circle — is in a unique position when it comes to sanitation. While our residential population is about 170,000 people, we have a daytime population that often exceeds 1.3 million people. As home to Times Square, the High Line, the Whitney, the Theater District, the Garment District and so much more, we have a lot of pedestrians on our streets every day.

That means a lot of waste to clean up — roughly 210 tons per year, to be specific.

The men and women of the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) perform difficult work every day with finite resources, and they do an outstanding job. But with burgeoning tourism, a rising population and countless weekday office workers, the sanitation demands of my district are too great for DSNY to handle alone.

Since taking office in 2014, I’ve been diligently seeking new ways to improve our sanitation services. I’ve funded the installation of 90 new, large waste baskets around the district, with 22 more on the way. And each year, I’ve allocated significant funding to DSNY for additional garbage collection.

But more has to be done.

That’s why this year, we’ll be taking a bold new approach in the district. I’ve allocated funding from the 2017 budget to hire the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless (ACE; acenewyork.org), a not-for-profit organization, to provide comprehensive cleaning services to our neighborhoods.

ACE is a truly inspirational organization, with a mission to help homeless New Yorkers get back on their feet through employment training and job opportunities. To date, ACE has helped over 2,500 homeless New Yorkers find full-time jobs and start new lives.

What’s more, ACE knows how to get the job done. We’ve already seen them do an outstanding job at several parks and corridors in our district, and that’s why I’m confident that they will handle this expanded role with diligence and excellence.

As of Thurs., Nov. 3, we have three full time ACE employees on our streets 40 hours per week, all 52 weeks of the year. They’ll be emptying and bagging full garbage baskets, sweeping sidewalks, and doing so much of the tough work that it takes to keep our streets clean.

While they’re starting off on particularly high volume corridors like Christopher St. in the Village, and Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Aves. in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, they’ve offered to be flexible to meet our greatest needs on any given week.

Individual business owners and building managers can also get involved by joining the Adopt-a-Basket program, in which the DSNY gives residents and businesses the tools they need to supervise the waste basket on their corner and ensure that it remains tidy. Call 311 or my office if you’d like to join this vital community program — it’s a great way to be part of the solution.

Of course, nothing can replace the amazing employees of the DSNY, who will continue to service our neighborhoods as well. To further support their efforts, I have allocated $20,000 for additional mechanical broom service and $20,000 for Manual Litter Patrol, a DSNY initiative that focuses extra-attention to high volume areas in need of greater services.

At the end of the day, results are all that matter. I expect these solutions to make a major improvement on our streets. But I always want to hear from you, the people who live and work in the district, to make sure that our city is living up to the highest standards of services.

If you see a sanitation issue that needs to be resolved promptly, please let me know. You can contact my office by calling 212-564-7757, or by email at district3@council.nyc.gov.

See you around the neighborhood!