Sanitation Says it Will Fire Worker Who Killed Pedestrian [UPDATE]

Credit: News12
Credit: News12

SB Donation NYC header 2The can man will be canned, man!

Days after it was forced to reinstate a suspended Sanitation worker who ran over and killed a Crown Heights pedestrian, the city now says it will use an “administrative process” to fire the rogue employee.

Sanitation officials had said earlier on Tuesday that they had to allow Aaron Gilchrist to return to work this week after the conclusion of his automatic 30-day suspension for running over Alberto Leal on Oct. 11 — but then said they would go further.

Aaron Gilchrist in a photo obtained by the New York Daily News.
Aaron Gilchrist in a photo obtained by the New York Daily News.

“Sanitation worker Gilchrist was suspended for 30 days, the maximum allowed by law,” an agency source told Streetsblog. “He is currently administratively grounded, meaning he is prohibited from operating a DSNY vehicle.

“DSNY will be taking additional disciplinary action against the driver through the administrative process and will be seeking termination,” the source concluded.

The killing of Leal, 37, shocked residents of Crown Heights. Police said that early on Oct. 11, Gilchrist, 37, drove his massive garbage truck the wrong way up Brooklyn Avenue from Eastern Parkway, where he struck Leal. Then Gilchrist turned his vehicle around in an attempt to cover up the crash, a video showed.

Gilchrist, who earned more than $120,000 last year, was charged with failure to yield, failure to exercise due care and driving the wrong way up a one-way street.

Council Member Robert Cornegy, who had called for Gilchrist to be fired, was ultimately less than excited by the Sanitation move.

“While DSNY’s new response is a welcome and positive step, it seems clear that the agency only took this action due to public pressure,” Cornegy said in a statement. “Let’s remember that after it was first reported that this driver was returning to work, DSNY just said that he was back in an office job and that they were simply grounding him from driving a truck ‘until we are advised that it is OK for him to return to full duty.’ So I’m pleased that our pressure on DSNY was effective in this case, but we need to keep working to advance a broader shift in the agency’s mindset on these issues as part of efforts to increase safety in waste collection across New York City.”

Teamsters Local 831, which represents Sanitation workers, was “closed” for the night, and could not respond to a reporter’s query, an operator said.

Story was updated on Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 1:30 p.m. to include a statement from CM Cornegy.

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  • walks bikes drives

    Wow, am I in the wrong profession. With a masters degree and the same amount of time in with the city, as a teacher, I make 2/3 the salary of the guy who takes out the trash.

  • Joe R.

    I was saying the same thing. Even my best year so far was only marginally more than this guy made doing a job a high school graduate could do. On average I make far less.

    Starting pay for a garbage collector is only about $34K, but the average pay gets close to $90K after 5 years:

    He probably had a good amount of OT to get over $120K. I guess I’m still way ahead as far as hourly rate goes though. I only averaged 26 hours a week in my best year.

  • Tooscrapps

    Of all the high paying public sector jobs, these guys actually deserve it. (When they actually do it safely and correctly.)

  • Joe R.

    TOs and bus drivers also deserve their high pay. It takes a good amount of training to operate a bus or subway train, especially in NYC.

    My problem with a lot of municipal operations isn’t the compensation per worker but the fact archaic work rules and practices cause things to be grossly overstaffed. Even DSNY falls into that category. For example, we should have trucks with lifts for dumpsters which are placed so as to serve multiple residences. Instead of putting trash cans out you dump your trash can into the dumpster. This way you can have one-person garbage trucks where the operator can remain in the cab. And subway trains can dispense with the conductor. Lots of municipal operations are amenable to such efficiency increases.

  • cjstephens

    Whenever I see how much someone in a position like this makes, I ask myself, “how much would you have to pay me to do that job”? Sanitation workers earn that money, and while I might envy the salary, I’m not about to volunteer to do that work. Same applies to correction officers, who also have very high salaries.

  • Joe R.

    Also ask if you even could do that job, much less do it long enough to get a pension. I doubt my body would have held up under the strain for more than a few years doing that kind of work, even when I was in my 20s. As it was, I ended up with severe CTS by my late 20s doing jobs where I used my hands a lot for just a few years.

    Frankly, I don’t think anyone should do jobs like this for more than a few years. Have high pay for jobs like DSNY but no pensions, the idea being people will find something else once their bodies start to get tired. The city could save a ton of money in the process. While collecting trash is an important job, it’s not something you do better after being on the job for 10 years versus 1 or 2. A case can be made for retaining teachers for 35 years on the basis of continual improvement but not for a lot of other municipal functions. Pay and benefits should reflect that (i.e. no pensions for jobs where improvement plateaus after a few weeks or months).

  • SheRidesABike

    In addition to be a dirty job, sanitation (public and private) also has one of the higher fatality per employee rates. Some of that is due to being struck by drivers who apparently don’t want to slow down for essential public services.