New York City Battles a Garbage Crisis

Last year's budget cuts have led to mounting complaints as the city's sanitation department falls behind on collections and rodent complaints surge.

1 minute read

April 28, 2021, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

As the pandemic eases and cities start trying to entice people back to their emptied cores, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio "started hiring workers for a newly created City Cleanup Corps— a  10,000-employee force to eradicate graffiti, collect litter and beautify parks" and "pledged to restore some of the sanitation budget cuts he made last year" in response to mounting complaints about public sanitation.

Despite pre-pandemic successes, the progress former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia made "skidded to a halt last year" as budget cuts made by Mayor de Blasio "led to reduced collection, rat mitigation and composting services," write Gerald Porter Jr. and Skylar Woodhouse for Bloomberg. According to city 311 data, "[c]itizen complaints about dirty conditions spiked 150% between March and August 2020, and rodent complaints surged." At the end of March 2021, "waste tonnage was up about 15% compared with the early months of the pandemic," and rodent complaints increased by 80%.

Former commissioner Garcia is now running for New York City mayor among "crowded field of Democrats," some of whom have also "seized on trash as an issue that could vault them ahead." Whoever wins "will have to undo the 'devastating effects' of the sanitation budget cuts" as activity—and trash—return to pre-pandemic levels.

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