Op-Ed: Tired of All this Garbage By A. YONKERSITE

Hezi Aris Op-Ed 40 Comments

Yonkers City Seal“I’ve got mine, you get yours.”

An old New Yorker Magazine cartoon depicted a huge sanitation worker grinning maniacally as he was about to toss an empty garbage can to the curb in front of an apartment building, shattering the pre-dawn silence. The caption read, “The sort of thing that brings joy to the ashman’s black heart.”

I’ve often thought of that cartoon as I lay in bed early in the morning after being awakened by the sanitation workers of the Yonkers Public Works Department, who come by three days a week at about 6:30 a.m. to collect garbage and recycling. I recently moved to a new address, and found that the collection started an hour earlier than it had at my old address, just blocks away.

I called the department to inquire as to why these pickups were scheduled so early in the morning. A receptionist gave me the old, “We’ve always done it that way” line, but transferred me to a supervisor. He told me that the collections had to be done at that hour to avoid both the rush hour and school buses transporting children. The pickups couldn’t be done later, he said, because that would take them into the afternoon rush hour. I figured this was an argument I wasn’t going to win, and I just had to grin and bear it. It’s bad enough in the winter, but in the summer, with the windows open, the noise is an unwanted wake-up call, as much as two hours before I actually have to get up.

Like that ogre-ish fellow in the New Yorker Magazine cartoon, the local sanitation workers seem to delight in either tossing the cans to the curb or, on many occasions, leaving them in the middle of the street, literally. I’ve seen them sitting like traffic berms, which cars must drive around, although sometimes the cans or lids are just run over, breaking them and rendering them useless. Even so, with holiday schedules and snow emergencies, some weeks we’re lucky to get pickups and recycling at all.

Most residential garbage collection in Yonkers takes place on Tuesdays and Fridays. Tuesdays seem somewhat illogical, perhaps, considering that people are home on the weekends and therefore generating more garbage. Fridays would seem to make more sense: an end-of-week pickup, then none on the weekend.  Recycling is done on Wednesdays, alternating paper and cardboard one week with “co-mingles,” cans and glass and plastic bottles, the next. 

In weeks with a holiday, collection is pushed back a day, which results in many weeks when there is only one pickup. When there is a Monday holiday, the Tuesday pickup is done on Wednesday, the Wednesday recycling pickup on Thursday and the Friday pickup is canceled. The problem is that sanitation workers in Yonkers get an inordinate number of paid holidays. For instance, between Election Day and President’s Day, they have eight holidays, including Lincoln’s Birthday, which was abolished for most people years ago in favor of President’s Day. Eight holidays in 16 weeks – one every other week. All told, 12 vacation days a year – on average, one a month. If collection days were Mondays and Thursdays, that would still allow for two pickups per week, even with holidays. But that would mean no more four-day work weeks for the sanitation workers.

This year, in addition to the Martin Luther King Day holiday on Jan. 20, a foot of snow was dumped on Yonkers the following day. The city posted a notice on its website advising that garbage collection would be delayed because of the holiday and the snow. The Tuesday collection was done on Thursday and both the Wednesday recycling and Friday garbage collections were canceled. The former meant that no co-mingles would be collected from the previous pickup, on Jan. 8, until the next scheduled pickup, on Feb. 5. Residents either had to store them in their homes, apartments or garages or take them to the recycling center on Saw Mill River Road. With the inordinate amount of snowfall this year, the center has also closed early on some days or completely on others. The workers were presumably put to work on snow-related duties.

Then, after the snowfall on Wednesday, Feb. 5, the city again canceled recycling for that week – also the one in which co-mingles were scheduled to be collected. And again, the recycling center was temporarily closed. This meant that no co-mingles were collected from Jan. 8 until the next scheduled pickup, scheduled for Feb. 20. The snowstorm threw the schedule into chaos and it should have been obvious that an emergency pickup schedule could have been instituted. Some people, such as the elderly or those without cars, may not have the means to transport their recyclables to the center, if it waA even open. Additional snow also resulted in cancellation of the paper recycling pickups for more than a month.

With the holidays for Lincoln’s Birthday on Feb. 12 (which, again, no one else gets) and President’s Day on Feb. 17, plus sanitation workers either diverted to snow removal duties or unable to pick up garbage or recycling, there was no pickup between Feb. 11 and 19. Eight days of garbage and recycling piled up in garages, hallways and back yards. 

With all those paid holidays, I find that even two large garbage cans and a smaller one are sometimes not enough to hold everything generated by a family of four. How many garbage cans do I need? We’ve had to put out boxes full of garbage, which have to be tightly secured to prevent urban wildlife from ripping them open looking for food. At Christmastime, the pileup of extra boxes and wrapping makes a single-family home’s garbage look like that of an apartment building.

On top of that, the city posts an online residential guide that details all the pickup and recycling days, holidays and Christmas tree and leaf removal days. Many homeowners are apparently unaware of that or don’t bother to check it; they put garbage at the curb whether it’s going to be picked up or not, and just leave it there until it is. In weeks when there is no Friday pickup, they’ll put it out on Thursday night and it won’t get picked up till Tuesday morning, four-and-a-half days later. Can’t blame the sanitation men for that. I am amazed that people do not complain about either the health hazards or the effect on property values of huge loads of trash in front of their homes. I would rather pay the overtime and have the garbage picked up than to look at it.

Now, I understand that sanitation workers do a difficult, unpleasant job, one I probably could not do, nor would I want to, and they deserve to be paid for that. But in this harsh economic climate, it’s not unreasonable to ask them to sacrifice a little. They do have jobs, after all, are paid fairly well, get good benefits and have all those days off. I’ve worked in industries, such as health care, where individuals get days off, but it’s essential that the business keeps running and the public is served, so other people are scheduled to work. The removal of garbage is an essential service that should not be subject to work schedules and union demands.

In 2010, the city’s finances necessitated layoffs and the unions resisted a 5-percent pay cut, telling the administration to raise property taxes 30 percent instead. When Mayor Philip Amicone suggested that some givebacks might be in order, an unofficial work slowdown suddenly resulted in pileups of uncollected garbage all over the city. Local media documented this, and politicians complained. On my former block, no garbage was collected for 12 days. In that sweltering July, we were lucky to be spared an infestation of rats feasting on piles of trash. If a simple suggestion by the mayor resulted in a work slowdown of that magnitude, imagine what the voice of a single homeowner might bring about for that person’s home or block. It is not as though a giveback here or there to improve productivity and serve the taxpayers is going to result in a massive loss of all the benefits the union has worked for. The workers seem to have lost sight of the fact that we are all in this together, instead choosing an “I’ve got mine, you get yours” attitude. And the city, undoubtedly fearing a strike, has capitulated, at the taxpayers’ expense.

A. Yonkersite is an anonymous author in fear of suffering retribution into the future as he / she had in the past. This person is known to the editor.

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Hezi ArisOp-Ed: Tired of All this Garbage By A. YONKERSITE

Comments 40

  1. A Facebook User

    Thanks for the information. Most DPW workers that I run into daily are hiding off Lockwood ave or sitting in there trucks or reading newspapers in there spots good for them that’s there thing not mine.
    as for real physical labor I HAVE NEVER SEEN IT.

  2. jimmyj

    to billy wilson you broke your ass for 17 years but u must remember these men & women can only retire with 55years old & 30 years of service I can tell you most of these guys walked in your shoes

  3. tom

    Does everyone realize that there are rules that we garbage men have to follow, please allow me to list a few..1. no can over 32 gallons has to be taken 2. no can or bag over 50 lbs has to be taken 3. no construction debris of any kind is to be taken 4.all garbage must be curbside….I can keep going on but theres no need, my point is if we followed these rules 90% of the garbage in the city would be left out. Most garbage men go above and beyond for the people we serve, we work in the snow,rain 100 degree heat and the freezing cold,without the proper uniform or protection…and lets not forget, they took our uniforms away. I invite anyone who thinks our job is easy to meet us at our shop and come along for a day and see how you feel afterwards. Don’t judge till you walked in the shoes of a garbage man for a day

  4. One Termer

    cant wait till he starts campaigning, he thinks by buying off democrats and republicans with jobs will help him out later??? he is taking care of the ones that never supported him and hated him, and the ones that are loyal and supported him are getting screwed over so no matter what he will have a hard time winning, here is my prediction
    Democrat primary 100% possible just to name a few are Mayer,Lesnick,and they will win!
    Republican challenge 100% Justin is not going to give spano a free ride few names circulating cant predict yet
    Heard the Ind party has re-org this year so I don’t know if he gets that support.
    so mike keep fucking over your loyalist the guys that are with you from day 1 and and reward the ones that mother fuck you and worked against you,see you soon on the campaign trail…………

  5. Billy Wilson

    Would like to thank the DEPUTY COMMISSIONER SAM B.for finally having a plan to get the streets clean of ice and snow .Mike give Tommy the boot another useless guy in your shadow he looked
    Lost and filthy clothes on news 12 clean that guy up at least please
    If he going to be near you.Please thank Sam for all his work.

  6. threesidesto truth

    Once privatized garbage comes in you will see increases that will make you cringe.
    Once they get their hooks in a city it is over.
    They will have clauses and such to get them out of a jam as soon as they start.
    You would see garbage threats of one day a week unless the city comes up with more money or individuals.
    According to some upper towns the garbage collection increases from private carters have eclipsed tax base raises by 5 to 7% over the last five years.
    And that is the high end increases.
    Privatized garbage up 27% in four years, good luck.
    By the way, how can you ask where they live with all the carpetbaggers currently Running our city? That is just as big an issue.
    How about people who choose to retire, collect a government pension and come back for another job with a “waiver” that says we have to hire them because of their expertise(connections really).
    That holds a job hostage from somebody looking to work in the “workforce”, not a “retiree”.

  7. One Termer

    cant wait till he starts campaigning, he thinks by buying off democrats and republicans with jobs will help him out later??? he is taking care of the ones that never supported him and hated him, and the ones that are loyal and supported him are getting screwed over so no matter what he will have a hard time winning, here is my prediction
    Democrat primary 100% possible just to name a few are Mayer,Lesnick,and they will win!
    Republican challenge 100% Justin is not going to give spano a free ride few names circulating cant predict yet
    Heard the Ind party has re-org this year so I don’t know if he gets that support.
    so mike keep fucking over your loyalist the guys that are with you from day 1 and and reward the ones that mother fuck you and worked against you,see you soon on the campaign trail…………

  8. YO

    Google, just don’t forget the fact that Deputy mayor Gerry doesn’t live in Yonkers, not the PD,FD,Human resource commish, Parks commish etc. That’s who’s running this city. Don’t forget Mikey said we have well qualified people in this city, he just chose not to use them and if he did they are gone already!

  9. plus.google.com/102865305757161999839

    Yes jimmy I do live in southwest Yonkers and my children graduated
    From Saunders and I try to most of my work at home.Some of people that live near me include hedge fund manager since you like to brag about your pay I didn’t see your name on the lohud city of Yonkers
    Salaries top 1000 list your title is environmental helper? No bragging about better shape are you really jack lalane? And as for what you make my company could start you off at current rate if qualified.
    GBBINC.com ….My driver made over ?????? Last year good luck
    With the trash the CoY has inquired many outside agency’s to
    Automat trash pick up.

  10. JimmyD

    Google…actually I have never been a sick abuser and I am probably in a lot better shape than you. Last time I ate an Italian combo was….NEVER and Jimmy is not an Irish name. Good Day

  11. plus.google.com/102865305757161999839

    So sorry jimmy forgot you have Irish name you think after 17 years on the most dangerous 2 hour job a day .You might of been made a
    White shirt or get to sit in the garage eating Italian combos sleeping and answering calls from your guys ……must be another sick abuser.
    See you in front of GIULIO’S pick up the trash.

  12. plus.google.com/102865305757161999839

    Jimmy D You did not answer the question sound like a real politician from Yonkers .Once again do you live in Yonkers and if not please tell why and not jealous of your paycheck so typical of Dpw to brag about pay .I know the schools right,what about the snowplowing of roads,taxes to high right or maybe the people who live in the Getty square area please tell us yes or no good day.

  13. Service

    Bla bla bla the problem with DPW is they are part and parcel of the patronage system that is the root of all evil in COY-get paid for 8-then work 8-not work 3-4 hrs & get paid for 8.

  14. JimmyD

    Does the amount of DPW workers living in Yonkers have any subsidence? Does that make them better workers? We can say how many teachers, police officers, firefighters, etc live in any one city. You can be NYPD and live in Orange County. Very few towns/cities require a worker to reside in that city. Unless of course you are the mayor or town supervisor but that’s a whole different story. Maybe people are jealous because we make decent money. Considering how dangerous our job is, our salary is justified. Mill workers make 50-75K a year and yet we don’t crucify them. A longshoreman makes over 100K a year, again no argument there, but when it comes to municipal workers, we are in the limelight. NYC sanitation workers make $69,339 a year after 5 1/2 years. Yonkers makes far less than that and we pick up more garbage than they do. We have to complete our routes no matter how much garbage is out there. NYC sanitation workers fill up the truck once, and they are done for the day. The next shift comes in and completes the route. Yonkers sanit workers don’t get anything extra to dump the truck…NYC sanit workers get extra money for that. NYC sanit workers can retire in 22 years, Yonkers sanit workers must work 30 years and be over 55 to retire. The same goes for Con-Ed workers. They are the first people to be ridiculed when the power goes out but when you see them on your street after a storm, you beg them to get your power back on as quickly as possible. So its easy to pick at Yonkers DPW workers but when you know the facts hopefully that will alter your view a bit.

  15. East Sider

    If anybody on the east side creates more than 90 gallons of garbage in a week, then they should be charged extra. If people actually recycled boxes, newspapers, plastics, and metal then there would be no need for 4 cans.

  16. plus.google.com/102865305757161999839

    CoY should put it up for bid CITY CARTING ALREADY RUNS THE MURF CENTER .Give them that sheet hole CoY recycling center on saw mill to
    It will save the CoY millions No trucks to fix get rid of that filthy garage on nepp.Then no more truck batteries tires part will be stolen.Put them on pothole crews with shovels show what is to Work 8 hours.

  17. Garbage

    Not a huge fan of the sanitation department but the automated garbage collection truck only works in city’s where street parking is not allowed. Would never be able to do that in yonkers. Maybe only on the east side where everyone has a driveway.

  18. JimmyD

    First off I am a CoY sanitation employee for the past 17 years. Garbage is collected 4 out of 5 days a week not just Tuesdays and Fridays like your article implies. The Mon/Thurs routes are larger and the majority of them are in southwest Yonkers. These routes have an average tonnage that is higher than the Tues/Friday routes so it makes sense to cancel the Tues/Fri routes on holidays. Lets let the public know what the real story was in 2010…the city implemented a one day a week refuse collection. The city was divided into quadrants where each section was picked up one day, ie. Mondays northeast Yonkers, Fridays northwest Yonkers etc. Since the 1950s (from my knowledge), Yonkers has always had twice weekly pickup. Residents were used to their sanitation workers hustling through their routes and getting a normal amount of garbage picked up rather quickly. Now in 2010 the system changes. They want us to pick up double the amount of garbage in the same amount of time. You don’t need to be an expert in math to figure out this is impossible. On paper I can tell you that that plan make look good, but in the field its impossible. Lincolns birthday?? Are you serious? The police and fireman get the same holidays so your gripe is also with them as well…correct?? In addition, if you say that their job is more dangerous, you are wrong. Sanitation workers are number 6 in a Forbes 2012 survey of America’s most dangerous jobs. Police and firemen are not even in the top 10. (no offense to police or firemen) Since we are salaried employees, it does not cost the city anything extra to pay us for Lincoln’s birthday. Also I would vouch for most of us that we would rather work a holiday so we don’t have a “double day” the following week. Now the “automated collection” issue: you mention that you would like to see everyone get a 90 gallon can where a one man truck will pick up weekly, but you also mention that having 3-4 cans isn’t enough (assuming each can is 32 gallons that’s 32×4=128 gallons) You would be 38 gallons short with a single 90 gallon container. Not trying to argue here just trying to bring out the facts. I think we are all hard working individuals who strive for the best. Are there some “bad apples” out there, of course. If you were on my route you would never of wrote this article.

    1. ED

      Just had my trash guy pick up my can over his head, slam it down on the street breaking it in half. he thought is was a little too heavy…even if it was, the unprofessional and angry aggressive behavior continually shows the hiring standards for these guys, uneducated, temperamental, and not able to perform a job that someone with a -15 IQ can do. You keep defending these guys, not even capable of admitting the the issues exposed at hand. They should fire all of you guys, and give the jobs to people that actually want to work and that pride in what they are doing. JimmyD…. you should like stand up kind of guy, I agree with you,if I was on you route, I probably wouldn’t feel this way.

  19. one

    The city should implement a new garbage collection system. Replace most existing equipment and furnish residents with new 90 gal refuse containers on wheels. The one man operated truck collects the garbage from the remote controlled arm. Refuse collection costs can easily be cut in half as it only takes one man to collect it, and pickups can be reduced to once a week.

  20. LIONS AND TIGERS AND MAYORS, OH MY

    Very well written letter, but if you are afraid of putting your name to a formal letter to the city, I don’t think you have much of a spine. What kind of retribution would you fear if you write under your name? There would be ample evidence for you to pursue any vindictiveness with the authorities if you did fall victim to some sort of retaliation which you seem to fear. Doesn’t anyone in this world have any guts anymore? People are fighting in Iraq and you are afraid to suggest garbage pickup changes to the city of Yonkers. LOL

  21. threesidesto truth

    Nice complaint. well drafted and to the point. My garbage guys are non of the above, courteous and helpful is what they are.
    As far as helping out, yes, perhaps hire more when there is a long line of holiday and snow days.
    What do you think other departments do when they need to, not hire?
    look towards the leadership not the pawns and see where it breaks down.
    As far as amicone is concerned he lied in the budget and made many suffer while doing what, giving the store away through the IDA?
    I believe sanitation is rated by the tonnage they collect in a day. Saying that, I remember an editorial where someone cited the fact that Yonkers dpw picked up more tonnage per man than nyc and I don’t think it was refuted?
    As far as they have theirs, dpw and a few others have no contract for over 5 years while the police and teachers have enjoyed new contracts. With that said, what would you like them to give back?
    I am sorry for your headaches and am glad that I do not share them. I realize it is a way of life in an urban setting and that if the city does not want to pick up my recycled paper for a month, the problem does not start at the garbage man level, that problem lies somewhere near the top.

  22. plus.google.com/102865305757161999839

    They do there 2 hours stuff cash from all demo debris side job since the recycling center banned all NON BIG FAMILY FRIENDS AND FAMILY. Never pick up a heavy bag or can a 89 year old woman puts out to curb look for a Xmas $$$ break cans leave a mess block traffic for hour or two put when there stuck behind school buss can be heard a mile away blowing air horn.CoY should just put it up for bid and save city MILLIONS get people that work 8 HOUR days instead of 2 and every other week is Holiday day or two .WHERE IS THE IG REPORT KITTLY WHY WERE YOU LET GO? OR FORCED OUT? HEZI GET HER SIDE OF STORY.

  23. Bla bla bla bla

    Are you freaking serious with this dribble?
    This is the best you can up with in this screwed up city?
    My 6:00 am sanitation men are the best guys ever!
    I would not have it any other way.
    Maybe you came out to them and whined/complained like a little girl.
    You reap what you sow perhaps?
    Stop whining and focus on the real issues that plague this City!
    Good grief was this article a huge waste of my time!
    Suck it up!

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