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Thread: Is NYC Dirty?

  1. #1

    Default Is NYC Dirty?

    This is a topic that in my opinion seems to be of little interest to New Yorkers and that is the dirty city streets of NY.
    After having been away from NY. for 10 years in Europe and seeing just how the streets are kept clean there, I am appauled at the filth, grime and smells encountered on our country's number 1 city streets!
    I realize the population of New York is far greater than any of the European cities but New York is also sectioned off into boroughs and neighborhoods thus making them small cities and easier to clean.
    Chicago has the advantage of alleyways behind all it's city streets where garbage bags can be collected for pick up. New York must put all the garbage out on the sidewalks infront of the buildings. Can nothing be built to contain the mountains of garbage?
    The litter is unbelievable. Garbage cans are often overflowing and street cleaning machines move at such a fast pace that they couldn't get close to the curb to sweep up the garbage if they wanted to. This is also not just a localized problem. You can find this in any borough and any neighborhood. Sure, some are better than others but it's an overall generalization.
    I don't mean to sound negative about NY. This is a fantastic city but the embarassment of showing visitors around the city with newspapers blowing down the street and plastic bags caught in branches of trees, not to mention the garbage scattered on the subway tracks, is something that we New Yorkers should care a little bit more about!

  2. #2

    Default Is NYC. dirty?

    There is not much garbage scattered where I live. *And you hardly ever smell any odors outside related to garbage. *But...my town only has a population of 30,000, so this is to be expected.

    I did notice smells in NYC and a lot of filth around, but I don't see anyway to get around this in such a large and populated city. *If everyone made the effort to be sure that garbage was properly disposed of, and placed into trash bins, it might help.

    One of the big surprises to me when I was there, was the condition of the pavement. *Streets here are well taken care of, so the bumpy, rough rides there were quite shocking. *Is it just hard to work on them because of all the traffic?

  3. #3

    Default Is NYC. dirty?

    Well...it is an undeniable fact that there is a certain percentage of New Yorkers who don't know where to place trash.

    Also...you're right, there's very little room to hide trash in the city because of the lack of alleyways. I'm not sure what the solution is to this problem. But I'm pretty sure that if NYC had locations to place trash bags, the city would be ALOT cleaner. Got any suggestions?

    Don't worry about making a complaints about NYC. I have numerous complaints about NYC, but I still love it. It's only when people voice their complaints can there be a possibility for change.

  4. #4

    Default Is NYC. dirty?

    Generally, the trash gets placed on the street in the late evening the day before "trash day" for the particular neighbourhood. *It is usually removed very early the next morning. *The major problem is the bits of garbage left behind after the bags are removed. *Perhaps the city should focus in on that and create incentives for the garbage haulers to clean up after themselves.

  5. #5

    Default Is NYC. dirty?

    Unfortunately it seems that the trash collectors are *some of the people who care the least about the cleanliness of the city streets. If you watch them in action this is quite obvious. I don't feel they should need to be offered incentives to clean better. Perhaps they need to be suspended or fired. In today's current economy there are probably people who might do a better job.
    Inspectors should be sent around to look at the cleanliness of the streets after the streetsweepers and garbage collectors have passed.
    Also containers should be built in buildings or on sidewalks to keep the garbage in. I think you'd see a much cleaner city then!
    I also know there are laws for littering but if the laws were reinforced Bloomberg might not have to raise mass transit fares.

  6. #6
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
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    Default Is NYC. dirty?

    This is by far my biggest pet peeve with NYC. It gets downright filthy and it doesn't have to be that bad. I lived in other U.S. cities, and while the population definitely has something to do with it, I think people simply litter more here. And if they don't litter more then they have grown accustomed to living with the filth.

    Over the past few weeks we have had a few blustery rain storms. When this happens, you find the city littered with cheap umbrellas. It's unbelievable, almost humorous, how many umbrellas there are all over the streets - just feet away from the garbage cans. It starts to rain, people quickly buy a cheap umbrella, the wind turns it inside out, they throw it to the ground.

    Just an observation, and I hope this doesn't come off as prejudice, but it seems certain ethnic groups seem to tolerate the garbage more than others. Maybe it's a cultural thing, or maybe it's because so many immigrants use NY as a temporary home and just don't care. Either way, some of these neighborhoods look like the third world countries they stemmed from.

    At the same time, New Yorkers don't seem to notice the litter. I don't mean piles of garbage, I mean the little scraps of plastic and paper that inundate every nook and cranny. When I moved back after living away for a number of years, the amount of litter was the most noticeable thing I encountered, and more shocking was that everyone just seemed to accept it as part of New York life. *

    Yes, we need better recepticles, more frequent trash pick-up and street cleaning, but New Yorkers definitely need to try to keep it cleaner. The laws are in place - enforce them!

  7. #7

    Default Is NYC. dirty?

    I couldn't agree with you more! New Yorkers really seem to accept the litter as a part of life in NYC.
    I have no idea why. Most New Yorkers are not from here and barring the people from 3rd world countries, most of these people come from cleaner places. I don't know why certain neighborhoods look like the third world! It seems like there are simple solutions to this problem. It is not discussed at all! I wish people would get more involved in the cleaning up of the city. I've been known to pick up trash on the streets of my own free will. Just as easily as someone can throw an empty plastic water bottle on the street, it can just as easily be picked up!
    If anyone knows of any ways to get involved in beautifying and cleaning up NYC. let me know.

  8. #8
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
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    Default Is NYC. dirty?

    Less garbage now? Recycling in the 1890s?
    While we're on the topic of New York garbage, here's an interesting article in todays Times:

    NEW YORK TIMES
    November 22, 2002
    Finding Surprises in the Garbage
    By KIRK JOHNSON


    The idea that America's output of garbage rises ever skyward more trash, year by passing year has become one of the great unchallenged assumptions about how the world works. The sun rises, the swallows return to Capistrano and our moldering mountain of refuse grows higher. The disposable society, like the tide, sweeps all before it.

    Daniel C. Walsh believed it, too, until he began poking through the musty records in the New York City Archives about 15 years ago. Dr. Walsh, an adjunct professor at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, stumbled on a long-unread paper trail that he said might be unique among big American cities: 100 years of painstakingly kept records about what New Yorkers threw away.

    The millions of entries recording the weight of each cartload and truck, with periodic detailed examinations of what the carts contained began in the late 1800's. And when those entries are laid end to end in a timeline, as Dr. Walsh has done in a paper published last week in Environmental Science and Technology, they shatter a lot of myths.

    The much-lauded greatest generation of the 1920's and 1930's, for example, threw out far more garbage, Dr. Walsh found, than New Yorkers living today in the era of shrink wrap and single-serve. Pounds of trash per person peaked not in the prosperous 1990's, but in 1940.

    Most people might expect that the trash of old was also more organic in content, with a higher proportion of materials derived from plants and animals a kind of dustbin extension of Grandma's kitchen, full of corncobs, peach pits, butcher paper and other compostable artifacts of a domestic age.

    Wrong again. Organic waste made up a higher proportion of New York City's garbage stream at the century's end, mainly from paper, than in any period before four times higher than it was in 1905, and almost twice as high as it was on the eve of World War II.

    Even the history of recycling, the record showed, was not quite what it seemed. By many measures, Dr. Walsh found, the golden age of recycling in New York was not the save-the-earth 1970's, but the gilded-age 1890's, when mandatory curbside separation of trash was imposed. Recycling faded before World War I and did not return until the 1990's.

    Well, then how about product packaging? Surely it must be true that there's more of that now. Here Dr. Walsh, a geochemist by training who is also the chief of environmental monitoring in New York City for the State Department of Environmental Conservation, found that the conventional wisdom is only partly true, at best. The increase in packaging has been more than countered by the decrease in packaging weight. Trash per person in New York has barely budged in the last 20 years.

    The great trend of the 20th century, Dr. Walsh concluded, has been toward less garbage or at least lighter garbage because the economics demanded it and technology made it possible.

    "There are very significant forces out there that are working to minimize the mass of the waste stream," he said. "The forces are strong and they're incredibly effective."

    There are a few huge factors that explain or, some critics might say, skew Dr. Walsh's conclusions. A major element in explaining why the garbage today is lighter, and has a higher organic component, comes down to how New Yorkers heat their homes. The use of coal, which produces ash once tossed into landfills, began declining in the 1920's in favor of oil and later natural gas. By the early 1960's, when pounds of trash per person reached their lowest point in the century, that fuel transition had largely been completed.

    Dr. Walsh also conceded that lighter garbage did not necessarily mean fewer items. The city's records reflect weight per person, not volume. Still, the trend is clear that trash, over time, only gets lighter.

    The average plastic gallon milk jug, for example, is a third lighter than it was in the 1970's. The oil crisis that struck in the middle of the decade pushed truckers and manufacturers to seek alternatives that were lighter and used less raw material. Remember how much an ordinary American beer bottle weighed during the administration of Gerald Ford? Go to a Chinese restaurant and order a Tsing Tao, brewed in China by bottlers who haven't faced the same pressures to lighten up.

    Garbage experts and historians of sanitation (a bigger club than you might think) say that Dr. Walsh has nailed a process that has largely been overlooked: that the market not politics or social policy mostly determines what happens inside the nation's garbage cans. But some also say that less waste per person and less waste as a society are not the same.

    "I think there was not so much a reduction as a shifting of waste," said Mark A. Izeman, a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based conservation group. The change in fuels toward oil and electricity, for example, might mean less garbage that New Yorkers put on the curb, he said, but more waste and pollution at the power plants where energy was produced.

    Lighter plastics have also meant greater reliance on chemically complex plastics that are harder to recycle. Technology, through the disposal of things like computers and batteries, Mr. Izeman said, has also made the waste stream far more toxic than it was in the past.

    The heart of Dr. Walsh's research, however, is the century timeline a kind of ticker tape of trash that flickers by, marked by the rise and fall of trends and forces that would seem to have little to do with what people threw away.

    World War I and World War II loom as blips, when trash levels fell because of wartime scrap drives. Trash per person surged in the Roaring 20's and continued rising even during the Great Depression of the 1930's, partly perhaps because of construction debris from the huge public works projects undertaken in those years. Trash levels fell in the mid-1970's as the city's fortunes declined.

    There are also images of a city long faded from view.

    Through the 1930's, for example, New Yorkers lived or at least ate in a greater rhythm with the seasons than they do today. Because refrigeration and transportation were still limited, fresh fruits and vegetables, reflected in the record as food waste, peaked with the harvest in late summer and early fall. Food waste reached its low point in January and February, when fresh produce was for most people not to be had.

    But the most profound conclusion that emerged from the records, Dr. Walsh said, was not the historical nuggets, but the underlying engine that produced them. The big economic drivers of the 20th century improved transportation and refrigeration, the transformation of consumer convenience, the pressure on businesses to cut costs all moved in one direction: toward less waste, not more. He stressed that those findings were a result of independent research at Columbia, not his environmental work for the state.

    "Everything relates to two principal factors one is reducing costs, making things lighter and easier to transport, and the other is making them more convenient to the consumer," Dr. Walsh said. "And that often means making them lighter, also. I see this pattern throughout the century."

    Garbage economics does not always help, though. Sometimes it actually adds to the city's trash burden. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said this year, for example, that weak prices had made much of the city's recycling program untenable. The city suspended the recycling of glass and plastic in June, although Mr. Bloomberg said he hoped to restore the program in the next few years.

    Sanitation experts say that Dr. Walsh's study proves Mr. Bloomberg right: markets do matter when it comes to trash. Another implication is that the market itself might bring recycling back into vogue.

    "Recycling is going to become more cost effective relative to our other alternatives," said Benjamin Miller, a former City Sanitation Department official and author of "Fat of the Land: Garbage in New York, the Last Two Hundred Years" (Four Walls Eight Windows, 2000). Mr. Miller said he thought that rising costs of landfill disposal in places like Pennsylvania, where much of the city's trash now goes, would eventually tilt the balance back to the point where recycling is the less expensive choice.

    Dr. Walsh said he had also become more optimistic that the trend toward reduction would continue.

    "Sometimes these forces happen fast, like the replacement of metal and glass with plastic and aluminum; sometimes they're slow, like the replacement of coal, which took 50 years," he said.

    Paper, currently the biggest item in the waste stream, will ultimately be replaced, too, in coming decades, Dr. Walsh said, by more economic digital technologies.

    "There's no question that it will happen," he said, "because the forces are consistent through the century, and they will be consistent throughout the next."

  9. #9

    Default Is NYC. dirty?

    Think of it this way, in Manhattan and other busy streets over 1.5 million people walk across it on any given day, not to mention, the maybe 500 or 600 thousand cars that do as well leaving skid marks, and blowing exhaust into the ground. I will tell you, more people and cars walk up and down any Manhattan Avenue than most other cities populations.

  10. #10

    Default Is NYC. dirty?

    Right on Rich. No wonder the street maintenance men have such a hard time cleaning up the sidewalks. They run the risk of getting struck by a car or bus, have to deal with abus from pedestrians who bump into them, and end up going back the next morning to more litter and more papers flying around. Those street sweepers and pothole figters and traffic cops should really be applauded (and given a pay raise) for the draconian work they do.

  11. #11

    Default Is NYC. dirty?

    In midtown as well as the upper East and West sides there is this program "Ready Willing Able" where men who were previously homeless are paid to clean the streets and empty the trash cans. *This effectively kills two birds with one stone - deals with the homeless problem and helps keep the streets clean.

  12. #12

    Default Is NYC. dirty?

    I agree that Manhattan sidewalks are among the busiest in the world thus making clean up more difficult. One could say also that in Europe the sidewalkes are three times smaller than in NYC. thus making it more difficult for them to clean the streets due to the real lack of space and the people who crowd them. Anyone who has ever witnessed street cleaning abroad virsus NYC. can certainly see our faults here.
    I don't buy the fact that the city is dirty because of the numbers of people on the sidewalks...while this can make it difficult to clean, other sidewalks in other boroughs virtually unused are scattered with litter as well. On a street I often walk down you can see the same garbage there for a 6 month period or more. They simply do not clean it enough. This is a street with very little foot traffic.
    Also I might add, ironically that Fifth Avenue, one of the cities busiest streets by far is virtually litter free!!!
    I guess this shows that when NYC. has to clean it can!
    It's just a matter of priority!

  13. #13

    Default Is NYC. dirty?

    Oh to hell with this. If you want to see a dirty,smelly city outside of Asia come to London. It stinks.

    There are very few Londoners living in London any more so maybe that has something to do with it. Most of us have abandoned our once beautiful capital city and those who are are left are leaving any time now. The description of Detroit on another forum *applies very much to London these days.

    I wonder how many ex-Londoners are living in New York these days? Mostly those with loads of dosh. Bitter? Of course I f*ck
    ing am!

  14. #14

    Default Is NYC. dirty?

    sorry but the streets of NYC. are far dirtier than Detroit's.

  15. #15

    Default Is NYC. dirty?

    Well that's because Detroit has too few pedestrians and too many browfields...LOL

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