Members of New York City’s Strongest weren’t sure what to think when the Department of Sanitation launched its first calendar three years ago.
Could you really feature the unsung men and women responsible for picking up trash and clearing snow in a tasteful but glamorous light?
“I think initially there was some skepticism,” said Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia. “Now there are people who come up to me and say ‘I should have been Mr. July!’"
The Department of Sanitation celebrated the release of its 2019 calendar on Tuesday with a signing event at the CityStore in the Municipal Building. Garcia joined the staffers highlighted in the desk calendar, who hold myriad jobs including sanitation worker, supervisor, tire repair worker and enforcement agent.
“When you think about the department, most don’t think about the people who make it run,” Garcia said. “It’s not just the diversity of people but also the diversity of jobs. We need our auto mechanics, we need our folks who work in solid waste, we need the folks who are behind the truck. They are all part of the team.”
The calendar also includes a wealth of tips on topics such as recycling, disposing of potentially harmful products and becoming a temporary snow laborer.
The portraits are luminous and sometimes playful but never cheesy. Photographer Michael Anton, who has worked with the sanitation department for over 10 years, holds shoots at many different locations to show the variety of jobs.
“Then, it’s whoever the camera liked that day,” Garcia laughed.
Twin brothers Christopher and Michael DeCicco of Staten Island grace the cover of the calendar. Their late father, Attilio, had a long career in the department before retiring as a superintendent.
“Our mom said she wished he could have seen us,” said Christopher, a supervisor in the division of Solid Waste Management who joined the agency in 2006.
Michael DeCicco, a sanitation worker, joined his brother at the agency five years ago.
“This promotes the department in a good way,” he said. “It’s something different.”
Pauline Sealy, a sheet metal worker in the Bureau of Building Maintenance, admits she was a little nervous to be the face of October in the calendar.
“I actually feel pretty proud now,” said Sealy, who lives in Freeport. “The public will get to see the face of sanitation, the people that actually put in the work to keep this city clean and healthy.”
She also thinks her story as a woman in a nontraditional job could inspire others.
“I hope my face will tell some little girl out there, or maybe even an adult, that maybe this is something we can all do,” Sealy said.