Waste in, waste out – but in a Well way!
One of the city’s largest and most influential business improvement districts is helping bring New York City’s trash collection into the 21st century – ridding the sidewalks of leaky, stinky trash bags with l pioneering use of a curbside lane for a litter bin.
The Times Square Alliance will install such a trash can on Tuesday in the street at the northwest corner of 43rd and 8th Avenue (another large enclosure will be in a more conventional location, the sidewalk of 7th Avenue and 41st Street).
“With 300,000 people crossing Times Square again, our commitment to cleaning the sidewalks is a priority for the Alliance,” said group chairman Tom Harris, referring to daily foot traffic in the iconic Midtown location. , known as “Crossroads of the World.”
Four-bin speakers shouldn’t be that important. For decades, municipalities in countries as diverse as Spain, France, South Korea, Argentina and the Netherlands have used underground containers, pneumatic tubes and sorting bins to keep streets clean and garbage out of reach of pedestrians. But New York, for a variety of reasons, can’t shake off its famous “5 o’clock shadow” – the mountains of black plastic trash bags on the sidewalks that walkers must navigate each collection day.
And the city has long been hostile to the use of curbside lane for anything other than car storage. In fact, when a group of Hells Kitchen activists corral a “parking lot” space on W. 38th Street two years ago, the Department of Transportation sent a cease and desist letter. .
So this time around, the fencing is a big deal and was done with the help of the Sanitation and Transportation and Small Business Services Departments, and District Council Member Erik Bottcher.
The Times Square enclosures are the inaugural project of Clean Curbs, a two-year-old collaboration between the sanitation and transportation departments. The program, which was slow to start due to the pandemic, has both commercial and residential components. The commercial stream, which started first, has several potential projects in the pipeline. The residential component, which will use the sidewalk of a Manhattan block with enclosures used by multiple apartment buildings, is expected to debut in a few months, DSNY spokesman Joshua Goodman said. The Alliance pays for its boxes, which cost just over $9,000 each.
“Containerized litter on the street is an idea whose time has come in New York City,” said Bottcher, a member of the council’s sanitation committee. “This is particularly necessary in dense and very busy areas. I’m thrilled the Clean Curbs program is coming to Times Square and look forward to expanding it to other areas soon.
The development of Times Square follows a broader trend in the management of the municipal public realm, in which business improvement districts – public-private partnerships that are unfettered by city contract rules – are outpacing the bureaucracies of the city in important public functions, such as pedestrianization. BIDs have stepped into the sanitation and safety breach in many commercial districts for decades — forced by the downgrading of public services that began with the city’s 1970s fiscal crisis. Often, the BIDs and the city will work in tandem, such as in efforts to create plazas and “shared streets” north of Madison Square and in the Flatiron District. Sometimes the BIDs have quietly innovated without city support. The upscale and edgy Meatpacking Business Improvement District, for example, has been informally operating a trash corral across the street from Ninth Avenue for some time.
Founded in 1992 as a result of the city’s decades-long effort to “clean up” Times Square’s Red Light District, the Alliance covers most of the territory from West 40th to West 53rd Streets between Sixth and Eighth avenues, including the theater. District and Restaurant Row (W. 46th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues). It spent about $5.6 million and has 70 employees on additional sanitation in 2021, on a budget of $20.3 million.
CITIBIN, which manufactured the Alliance’s enclosures from aluminum covered with a bamboo composite used in outdoor patios, has positioned itself to capitalize on Clean Curbs and other city programs. A woman-owned small business, it grew out of a DIY business started a decade ago by Park Slope resident Liz Picarazzi, which began receiving orders from customers who wanted rat-proof solutions. for residential waste or to replace dilapidated enclosures. Last year, the company, which employs six full-time people and sells half of its product to single-family homes and the other half to property managers and developers, made $1 million in revenue. .
“I’m a New Yorker,” said Picarazzi, who marketed her product with fun videos like “Experiment: #PizzaRat versus CITIBIN.” “I want to see these things cleaned up!”
Goodman stressed, however, that given the hundreds of tons of trash New Yorkers produce daily, trash enclosures are “not a silver bullet” to the sidewalk litter problem. “The only way to have less litter is for people to litter less,” he added, “and any New Yorkers who are concerned about litter dumped on the sidewalk should also do their part to reduce the amount of waste produced each day.”