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Garbage Company Involved in Fatal Crash Will Ply Streets of Eastern Queens, Too

The private garbage company whose truck driver struck and killed a Manhattan pedestrian on Thursday according to police has won the right to pick up trash in a wide swath of Southeast Queens, raising concern for safety there.

Photo: Loud Labs NYC|

A Liberty Ashes truck driver was involved in a serious crash in August.

The private garbage company whose truck driver struck and killed a Manhattan pedestrian on Thursday according to police will also pick up trash in a wide swath of Southeast Queens, raising concerns for safety there.

According to police and witnesses, the driver of a Liberty Ashes sanitation truck drove in reverse on Cornelia Street in the pedestrian-heavy West Village early on Thursday morning and fatally struck a pedestrian, whose name has not yet been released by cops.

A map of the 20 commercial waste zones expected to start rolling out in the fall. Graphic: DSNY

The pedestrian died at the scene, while the 35-year-old driver, whose name has also not been released, remained at the crash site and was not charged, despite having driven in reverse against the flow of traffic, according to police.

Photos from the scene clearly reveal the truck's license plate, which indicates that the vehicle has been nabbed five times by city speed cameras and three times by red-light cameras since 2021, according to city stats.

Nonetheless, Liberty Ashes was one of three companies to be selected by the Department of Sanitation to operate in the Southeast Queens zone of its long-delayed commercial waste district program — part of an effort to reform the previous free-for-all approach that allowed all commercial waste haulers to operate all over the city, a scheme that led to catastrophic crashes as carters raced around town.

An official with Liberty hung up on a Streetsblog reporter on Friday saying only that the company had no comment — even before a question was asked.

According to federal records, the company has been involved in five injury-causing crashes since May 2022.

A Liberty driver was also involved in a serious crash in Brooklyn last August, as documented by Loud Labs NYC, an independent news service. In that case, the cyclist survived. But that Liberty truck had been nabbed three times in 2023 alone by city red light cameras, which only operate at 150 intersections. The most recent red-light running was a month before the crash:

Liberty is not the only company participating in the commercial waste zone program with a spotty safety record. Action Carting, which will be operating in X zones, has also been involved in multiple crashes, including the fatal hit-and-run collision that killed cyclist Neftali Ramirez in 2017.

Action will be operating in 14 of the new zones, but not in the same Southeast Queens district where Liberty will be operating starting this fall. At least one of the other two companies in that zone, Royal Waste, also has a spotty record, having been involved in 18 injury-causing crashes in the last two years, according to federal records.

The other company, Recycle Track Systems NYC, appears to be new to the market.

A Department of Sanitation spokesperson said that Liberty, Action and the other winning companies applied to operate in each or multiple zones and could not be barred because the company does have an active permit with the city's Business Integrity Commission.

"As such, Liberty was awarded a contract to operate in one zone out of 20 on the same set of standards as every other carter," said the spokesperson, Vincent Gragnani. "There are very strict data requirements as the law comes into effect in each zone.

"While a company’s past safety record was a consideration in the award process — as every awardee had to have an active BIC license — the much larger safety consideration was around their plans going forward: all awardees must comply with all of the safety regulations built into the law. That was the focus of the safety portion of the [permit] process," Gragnani added.

The Business Integrity Commission could not immediately provide full company safety records, saying that Streetsblog would need to file a Freedom of Information law request.

Streetsblog reached out to all five Council members whose districts will be served by the two fear-inducing companies. None of those lawmakers — Linda Lee, Nantasha Williams, Adrienne Adams, Selvena Brooks-Powers and Joann Ariola — opted to answer questions about their efforts to keep constituents safe.

Note: After initial publication of this story, a Council spokesperson sent over a statement:

“Yesterday’s fatal incident in Manhattan was a tragedy and our hearts are with the family and loved ones of the person killed. It’s critical that pedestrians are safe from traffic violence, and it is critical that city contractors avoid jeopardizing New Yorkers’ safety. Monday’s Executive Budget hearing by the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste will provide an opportunity to question DSNY on safety concerns and issues with its contractors and procedures to address them.”

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