Last Thursday, New York City Department of Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch held a roundtable with community and ethnic media. She did so after giving the scrum a tour of the facility.

During the tour Tisch presented a micro-truck designed to clean bike lanes and narrow streets. It will be the first time that New York City has them.

“We’re buying dozens now, but we hope to really expand on this. This is going to be the first time that we attach mechanical brooms to them so it will be able to sweep in addition to plow. This is going to make things cleaner for New Yorkers in general, but also for the community that uses bike lanes to do their work, delivering this will be safer for them,” Tisch said.

When she sat with the media for a discussion, she highlighted several key concerns for reporters.

“So what do I want to do? Two big areas. The first is cleanliness,” said Tisch. “I think that all New Yorkers have seen and experienced…less clean (streets), post-pandemic than it was pre-pandemic. And I believe that one of the most important things that the city needs to do now is to clean up our streets to give all the workers in every neighborhood in every community, the dignity of a clean-living environment, for the residents and certainly for also for tourism.  

“People come to the city, and they won’t come back if the city is clean,” Tisch said. “And I am going to place a very heavy emphasis on restoring the cleanliness of our neighborhoods and communities that I think that New Yorkers deserve.

The other goal?

“What we have to do is make our compost collection is both effective and cost effective,” said Tisch. “We have to push harder on extended producer responsibility. So while I know we’re talking about cleanliness today, I want it to be very clear that the work around sustainability…is also very important to me and central to the mission of the sanitation department.

Some of the cleanliness initiatives for Tisch include bringing back alternate side parking.

“On my first day on the job, we announced that we were restoring alternate side parking to pre-pandemic levels,” said Tisch. “…at the beginning of the pandemic, alternate side parking was cut back in most places to once a week. And what that did was it sidelined the most effective clean streets tool that we have, which is the mechanical broom.”

This return-to-normal wasn’t met with open arms by New Yorkers as much as reopening restaurants were, but Tisch said it’s necessary.

“Many New Yorkers once in a while would get an alternate side parking ticket. That’s the cost of doing business,” said Tisch. “[Cutting alternate side parking] took a real toll on the cleanliness of neighborhoods and communities across the city. And that was why on my first day, I was actually very proud to announce that we were restoring alternate side parking to endemic levels of effective July.” She said that the department was waiting until July so New Yorkers aren’t surprised by the return to normal.

One former elected official once had an issue with alternate side parking and tried to pass bills in the City Council to address. Back in 2014 New York City Councilman and current New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez introduced a bill that would end alternate side parking restriction as soon as a street has been swept cutting the wait time that drivers had to deal with.

When the AmNews contacted Rodriguez’s people, they sent a recent release where Adams and Tisch announced a new $11 million commitment to new street cleaning alternatives. Those alternatives include a full restoration of alternate side parking and funding to clean bike lanes year-round.

“Today’s announcement is a great way to kick off Earth Week by delivering cleaner and more efficient streets to New Yorkers,” Rodriguez stated in April. “I thank Mayor Eric Adams for his leadership on climate and sustainability matters and look forward to New Yorkers enjoying clear bike lanes and cleaner streets. And I welcome new Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch as DOT continues our partnership with DSNY.”

When it came to the question of snow season Tisch said the department hires a new class every summer in preparation for the year. She also mentioned another initiative designed to counter the trash New Yorkers see on the streets in the summer as well as the winter called the Clean Curbs Program.

“Some places will fall into a five o’clock shadow, you know when garbage bags [are] on the street and (you) almost have to play again hopscotch and navigate around the big mountains, mountains of trash that we have on the street that does not look good. It also attracts rats and New Yorkers keep talking about it.

“Things like weatherization, making sure that the containers work. [Making sure] the containers working in all seasons,” continued Tisch. Other issues are sizing. How big do containers need to be what if some neighborhoods need to be smaller than many other neighborhoods? So it’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all approach. It has to be very much customized and tailored to the needs of each neighborhood and frankly each street. Last week, we announced our first container was on the street. We did it in Times Square and joked that if we can make it here we can make it anywhere.

When the AmNews asked Tisch about hiring a new class in the summer to get ready for the winter, if they were hiring for summer as well to stave off any smells in the heat. 

“What we do is we hire once a year. We do it in the summer,” said Tisch. “We always make sure that our numbers don’t, at any point in the year, go below a certain level that is required for the department to do its work. We hire based on what we think the number will be the following summer. So it’s not that we have the highest staffing in the winter, we just always make sure to do our hiring in the summer so by the winter they’re all trained up.”

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