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Department of Sanitation

Sanitation Ends Hells Kitchen Containerized Trash Pickup Pilot Early

These garbage containers must make way for the next generation of containers.

12:00 AM EDT on August 23, 2023

Kevin Duggan|

Mayor de Blasio’s garbage pilot program has been banished to the dustbin of history.

The Sanitation Department is winding down a modest containerized garbage collection program on one residential block in Hells Kitchen ahead of schedule, as trash officials shift their attention to a more promising pickup pilot uptown. 

Since late last year, DSNY has collected residential waste from dozens of curbside containers on W. 45th Street, between Ninth and 10th avenues; the test case was supposed to last until November, but will wrap up next week.

The collections still relied on New York's Strongest hauling bags by hand from the garbage enclosures, unlike containerized collection in other global cities that use mechanical lifts.

"Schlepping individual bags from a bin into a standard collection truck was never the go-forward strategy citywide," said DSNY spokesman Vincent Gragnani.

The agency had inherited the plans for the pilot from the de Blasio administration before shifting gears and is now moving on to a garbage pilot featuring containers that will be hoisted via mechanical lifts attached to the back of its rear-loader vehicles. The project already began outside some schools and will expand to 10 residential blocks in West Harlem in the coming weeks, according to officials.

The effort on W. 45th Street was part of Sanitation’s Clean Curbs project, which also includes containerized collections of commercial waste at 46 locations throughout the five boroughs. Those will continue as the residential portion ends, according to DSNY reps.

The agency and its contractor CITIBIN installed six pods of nine bins each along the curb lane last year, which were locked and only accessible by Sanitation workers and building supers.

However, one of the sets of containers near 10th Avenue suffered chronic dumping outside of the boxes, said Christine Berthet, who with her pedestrian safety advocacy group CHEKPEDS had helped organize the block to get all the buildings on board with the program.

Berthet noted that the other five pods worked fine and that the program overall was successful in removing the usual heaps of black bags from the sidewalk.

"We’re happy that DSNY took this up and involved the community, and that they’re going on to the next level," she told Streetsblog.

The agency could have tested out ways to combat the illegal dumping, which it has recently scaled up elsewhere by deploying hundreds of new surveillance cameras.

“There was an opportunity there to make it a kind of mini lab and try different things to see how to contain the dumping. I think it’s a missed opportunity, but that’s the decision of DSNY, it’s their call,” Berthet said. 

DSNY Commissioner Jessica Tisch said in March that this version of containerized collection was “not scalable” citywide, because it drained city resources and bags still routinely landed outside. 

The agency together with its hired consultants at McKinsey did a deep dive study earlier this year showing how the city could containerize its notorious five o'clock shadow of garbage lining the streets, but that will require a historic political lift from Mayor Adams to repurpose some 150,000 curbside spots in residential neighborhoods that drivers long ago commandeered for personal vehicle storage.

NYCHA is working on a separate project to containerize garbage at its public housing projects using mechanical hoist trucks at five of its complexes in southern Brooklyn starting in the first half of next year.

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