Brooklyn, NY – One week to the day after Winter Storm Stella brought snow, ice and rain to the New York area, many city residents are finding themselves surrounded by mounds of trash as the Department of Sanitation has been struggling to balance its dual roles of garbage collection and snow removal.
Both Borough Park and parts of Midwood have been especially hard hit by the slowdowns which were caused when the Department of Sanitation suspended all trash pickup for three days because of frigid temperatures that made post-storm cleanup particularly difficult.
Vito Turso, deputy commissioner at the New York City Department of Sanitation, explained that the same employees who collect the garbage also operate the city’s fleet of salt spreaders and plows.
“That means that garbage doesn’t get collected until after snow operations are completed,” Turso told VIN News.
10,000 tons of garbage and nearly 3,000 tons of recyclables are collected by the Department of Sanitation on a daily basis. Between post-Purim cleanup and pre-Pesach preparations, the lack of pickups has been particularly difficult to bear for Jewish residents of the city.
Turso acknowledged that his crews have been running behind schedule but that his employees have been working 24 hours a day to get back on track.
“Trying to catch up with the backlog while at the same time clearing 314,000 crosswalks, 14,000 bus stops and also handling the day’s garbage is a daunting and time consuming challenge,” observed Turso.
Things should be back to normal by the middle of the week, said Turso.
This past Friday’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Avenue had no impact on the cleanup efforts in other areas reported Turso, and despite the unusually high workload, Department of Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia marched in the parade accompanied by members of the department’s Emerald Society and Pipes and Drums marching band.
A post on the DSNY Emerald Society’s Facebook page acknowledged the many members who attended only “in spirit” because they were busy with the cleanup efforts.
A tweet posted by the Department of Sanitation on Monday advised that with alternate side of the street parking rules back in effect and the onset of warmer temperatures, its crews were finally hoping to get both garbage and recycling pickups back under control.
Delays in garbage pickup following a significant weather event are not unexpected and the Department of Sanitation tweeted a video prior to the March 14th storm advising those who live in the Big Apple to anticipate weather related slowdowns or stoppages.
The Department of Sanitation posted continual updates on social media all through last week keeping residents apprised of its progress.
The unpredictably of the weather played a significant role in the garbage problem according to Councilman David Greenfield who noted that the snowfall for last Tuesday’s storm was overestimated and a predicted snow event this past Shabbos failed to materialize.
“As a result, all of the Department of Sanitation’s equipment was unavailable for garbage pickup for most of last week and hence no garbage was picked up around New York City,” said Greenfield. “The unfortunate result of having the same agency clear the snow and pick up garbage, is that now garbage has piled up across Borough Park, Flatbush and many other parts of the city.”
Greenfield said he has had multiple conversations with city officials about this week’s garbage problem which he described as an “unacceptable situation” in the hopes of preventing similar situations in the future.
Councilman Chaim Deutsch said that he is typically a big fan of the Department of Sanitation, but that in this situation, things moved too slowly for his constituents, some of whom were still dealing with iced up bus stops and pedestrian ramps as recently as this past Sunday. Deutsch noted that both the city and property owners need to clear away snow quickly to prevent possible injuries.
“No one should need to suffer because of neglect,” said Deutsch.
VIN News photographer Eli Wohl said that Borough Park was dotted with veritable mountains of garbage.
“You see trash filled bags sitting on overloaded bins where they roll off onto the street and are ripped open by passing cars,” said Wohl.
It wasn’t just Brooklyn residents who were affected by the sanitation stoppage. Far Rockaway residents reported that their first pickup since Purim took place just yesterday and Avi Faska of Kew Gardens Hills said that his pre-storm Monday garbage pickup never happened, with his regular Thursday pickup finally taking place on Saturday.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind said that garbage pickup at his home is normally scheduled for Tuesdays and Fridays, but that his first post-Purim pickup took place this past Sunday night. Hikind credited the Department of Sanitation for working nights and weekends to clear the backlog and said that his office is continuing to monitor the situation. Despite the slowdown, Hikind had high praise for the Department of Sanitation.
“They are doing everything they can to clean up the mess,” said Hikind. “I understand that people have been very upset and nobody wants to have garbage sitting outside their house for a week but there is a lot of garbage being produced. I think they are doing a great job and have no complaints.”