The History of Trash Removal in NYC

The History of Trash Removal in NYC

One would not think that the reason MLK Day is in existence is because of sanitation workers, but that happens to be the case. In 2007, the Uniform Sanitationmen’s Association vied for a holiday devoted to Martin Luther King, Jr. in renegotiating their contracts to recognize the impact of his speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” delivered in support of the sanitation workers plight in 1968.

New York City is at the height of a nine day strike, which is to be followed by their Memphis counterparts. The public is outraged not only at the stench of the garbage piled chest-high, but also at the series of worker strikes then illegal. The leader of the unionized sanitation John DeLury winds up in jail. Unbroken by public opinion and the judiciary principles of a lowballing mayor, the workers persist. Behind the scenes, the city and state are in a power struggle. The governor allows the accumulation in the streets to reach a health emergency before seizing control of the Sanitation Department and offering them their sought-after deal.

Now, the streets of New York certainly couldn’t have smelt as rotten as centuries before the strike, but a point is to be had that within only nine days of a strike, it became clear that the missing sanitation workers were a problem–that a need for them was so present that the denial of their negotiations for better safety, health and working conditions as well as fair compensation for their labor was unreasonable. At the same time, though, the passing of Local Law 14 in 1968 presented another slew of financial problems to the city as law mandated all incinerators be converted to compactors for the sake of the environment.

The history of trash removal in NYC is even less sanitary than it sounds, and the city is still paying the price for it.

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Fresh Kills

Pre-dating the strike, the mob ran a good portion of the sanitation industry. In 1957, the city mandated that the trash of commercial businesses be handled by the private sector to save some money, but their vision was short-sighted as they failed to vet for the position properly, which led to a rampant spree of organized crime. Crimes which included the air pollution sent up by thousands of incinerators torching trash. These people were not trained to handle the environmental and health concerns of the industry any more than the inadequately prepared landfill site of Fresh Kills was in 1948. It’s no wonder the citizens of Staten Island complained about the environmental injustice dumped upon them.

Fresh Kills was to be closed and re-ecologized into the wetlands it was before capable of supporting wildlife and cleansed of toxic gases and fumes, but then, 9/11 happened, and what previously was the hauling spot for barges of garbage throughout the World Wars became, too, the final resting place for the wreckage of the Trade Center and the remnants of its attack victims. The park that it has become is enough to rival the trash-inspired art of the exhibits of The City Reliquary, memorializing NYC’s trash. In 2020, the Department of Sanitation’s artist-in-residence Mierle Laderman Ukeles will have the first permanent art installation at Fresh Kills Park in a gesture toward the public of New York’s great efforts toward recycling.

White Wings

There was no real sanitation effort in New York City until 1895 when Colonel George E. Warring became commissioner of the Department of Street Cleaning, which would soon be transformed into what is more familiarly known as the Department of Sanitation, established in 1929. Warring ran his crew like the military, dressed them in all white like those in the medical profession for sanitation purposes, earning them the nickname of “White Wings,” and worked into every borough of NYC. Warring’s initiatives dealt with food waste, rubbish and ash.

Some might even say it was Warring who reformed the corruption of the police of his era, right alongside of Teddy Roosevelt, but that’s another story. What started as an unwelcome service in some of the impoverished neighborhoods quickly turned into one deserving of a fan base with its clear results present in the changes in health, hygiene, and the mortality rate of the community.

Similarly, in 1987, Anne Gloria Pabon and Carlen Sanderson gave these gentlemen a run for their money with their effectiveness as the first women initiated into the crapper.

The History of Trash Removal in NYC

What exists between Warring and the inclusion of women is a wasteland of bans and failed solutions. Labor and material shortages during the World Wars results in the halting of the early recycling industry in favor of incinerators pumping toxic gas fumes into the environment and landfills that preserve biodegradable materials. A hot dog from then has recently been excavated by archeologists.

Good or bad, private or public, there always seems to be a hiccup or another in maintaining the trash that doesn’t just go “away.” NYC has no landfills of its own, and in spite of the repeated attempts to dump refuse into the ocean, only to have it wash over the shores of New Jersey, resulting in bitter lawsuits, and now more recently, China restricting or banning all but the finest recycled materials due to its poor processing on our end, we’ve seen few real improvements in waste managing techniques since the time of Warring.

Some of the problem is the result of a failure to comply with the rules and regulations of the industry, like the mob running the sanitation industry in the 1950s. Other problems exist in the very flip-flopping of the practices themselves, and confusion by the general public about whose responsibility it is to keep this earth green.

Why Jiffy Junk

While junk hauling companies may not have the same prestige as other contemporary, eco-friendly options, the Jiffy Junk team is licensed and insured and can be expected to have the right equipment for the task, whether it be the hauling away of junk, the deep cleaning of an estate after a death or foreclosure, or the disconnecting and disposing of a hot tub by eco-friendly standards, or whatever other items might have to make the trip to a disposal, donation or recycling site. To take it a step further, Jiffy Junk goes the extra mile and cleans up after themselves, which is why they are trusted and endorsed by Suffolk County, Nassau County and NYC contractors for the removal of construction debris.

No matter what your situation is, Jiffy Junk has got you covered.

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