City Council members are calling out Mayor Eric Adams’ proposed budget cuts to the Department of Sanitation as trash concerns continue to mount.
At a City Council hearing on Friday, council members emphasized the need for the city to prioritize sanitation services as growing concerns over missed collections, overflowing litter baskets and increased rat sightings are raised citywide.
“It's clear that the quality of life for New Yorkers navigating our streets has dropped drastically,” Councilwoman Sandy Nurse, who chairs the sanitation committee, said. “The solution is very simple — we must acknowledge the recovery of our city needs, requires significant investment in ensuring clean streets at the same quality for every single block in this city.”
The mayor’s preliminary budget would cut the sanitation department’s funds by $47.8 million, on top of budget cuts made earlier in the pandemic, according to Nurse.
Edward Grayson, the commissioner for the Department of Sanitation, said neighborhood litter basket pickup would be impacted.
Prior to the pandemic, the city had over 700 basket trucks servicing the city on a weekly basis. Currently, there are 588 basket trucks operating, with 136 of those trucks funded through a one-time funding initiative last year.
“There is a planned reduction in service and that's something that we need to talk about,” Grayson said.
Complaints to 311 over dirty conditions and rat sightings steadily increased from 2020 through the beginning of 2022, she said.
And the citywide total for sanitation-related calls to 311 in 2021 was over 147,000, up from 96,000 in 2020.
The issue of equity and which neighborhoods are prioritized by sanitation services was also brought up by city leaders.
Councilman Erik Bottcher, who represents Chelsea, Greenwich Village and Hell’s Kitchen, raised concerns with Grayson, over the amount of trash in his district
“We can definitely do more work,” Grayson said. “I’m the sanitation commissioner, almost nothing is acceptably clean to me.”
The areas with the most overall 311 complaints on sanitation-related issues are the north and south shores of Staten Island and in three community boards in Queens: Community Board 5, which includes Ridgewood and Maspeth, Community Board 12, which includes Jamaica, and Community Board 7, which includes Flushing and Whitestone, according to Grayson.
Grayson said he remains optimistic in his ongoing conversations with the mayor as the budget continues to be worked on.
The commissioner also called on council members to encourage their constituents to abide by alternate side parking regulations, citing the impact on street sweeping.
“For some drivers, the risk of a $65 ticket once a week is simply the cost of free parking on the city street,” Grayson said.
He said he’s working with the mayor’s office to come up with updated alternate side parking guidelines moving forward.
In 2020, alternate side parking was reduced to once a week in residential areas, with the reduction extended due to budget cuts, he said.
Grayson also cited other ongoing efforts of the sanitation department at the hearing, including the Precision Cleaning Initiative, which involves borough-based teams to conduct targeted cleanings of litter conditions and volunteer clean-up initiatives.