City Removes Trash Cans on the UWS, Claiming it Improves Cleanliness; One Local Says It’s ‘Boneheaded’

Overflowing trash basket at West End Avenue and 103rd Street. Photo by Melissa G.

By Joy Bergmann

As someone who walks her dog several times a day along West End Avenue near West 104th Street, tipster Melissa G. says she’s “very trash-can conscious.”

A few months ago, she noticed all of the baskets were overflowing with trash. Then she had another realization: There were now only two baskets per intersection instead of four – one on every corner – which she says had consistently been the case during her nine years on the block.

What happened to the baskets? Did they get removed in anticipation of some windy weather? Surely the Department of Sanitation [DSNY] would soon restore the baskets – thereby easing the overflow trash – she thought.

A neighbor who shared her concerns called 311 and was told that the baskets had been removed because people leaving Riverside Park were putting their trash in them. “You can’t make this up,” says Melissa.

Nope.

Counterintuitive as it may seem, DSNY says having fewer trash baskets increases area cleanliness. “For some reason, when there’s a garbage can on a corner, it attracts litter,” DSNY Community Liaison Nick Circharo told West Side Rag. “The corner without a basket is the cleanest corner. If you take away the baskets, people will take their garbage elsewhere.”

Rust stains indicate this West End Ave corner used to have a wire trash basket.

DSNY spokesperson Dina Montes says that 1,131 litter baskets citywide were removed in the past year for chronic misuse, leaving about 23,250 baskets in place. In an email to WSR, she explained:

“Litter baskets are for pedestrian litter, and are placed in busy commercial and pedestrian-heavy areas, not in primarily residential areas. It’s always been DSNY’s policy that litter baskets be used solely for pedestrian litter and not household garbage or business garbage.

Our Department’s cleaning office routinely reviews litter baskets usage and placement around the city, and will remove baskets that are in areas that do not meet the commercial criteria, or baskets that are chronically misused (i.e. illegal drop-offs, improper disposals of household trash in and around litter baskets, etc.). On the other hand, we will also add baskets to areas that have become more commercial in nature.

[Many of the removed baskets] were in residential areas that did not fit the commercial criteria and were being misused. Removing chronically abused and misused baskets is a practice we do citywide and it has proven to be effective and beneficial in reducing drop offs and improper trash disposal.”

Circharo says the basket reductions, “Are not a money-saving thing, but a cleanliness-increasing thing,” noting that DSNY crews empty baskets on West End Avenue every day, twice a day, except for Sundays when there is no pickup.

Aaron Biller, head of community group Neighborhood in the Nineties, called the DSNY move “a crude, boneheaded mistake.”

In deciding it could treat West End Avenue and Riverside Drive as residential areas that need less service, Sanitation does not consider that these so-called residential streets have a fair number of commercial facilities like SRO and commercial hotels, shelters, facilities for the elderly and a major park that attract large numbers of visitors, on top of our residents, who need a place for their refuse. WEA and Riverside are also densely packed with apartment buildings, some as high as 20 stories. The geography of the community, with its long avenue blocks also makes a compelling argument for a can on all four corners.

Melissa isn’t buying the DSNY explanation either. “When the trash cans overflow, it’s vile. I want a can back on every corner,” she says. “It was one of those great New York things not to have to walk a mile with a bag of poop.”

Could this be the spark of a new poop-bag rebellion, incited when Central Park similarly removed trash cans a few years back?

Hopefully not (that was gross). But for now, DSNY’s Circharo says that if residents want their trash baskets restored – no promises that they will be – they may make requests at: dsny@customerservice.nyc.gov

NEWS | 72 comments | permalink
    1. Carlos says:

      Thanks WSR – this is incredibly timely! I was walking up WEA in the 80s this morning and hoping to throw out the wrapper of the breakfast my daughter was eating on the way out the door. I noticed that there now only seemed to be one trash can per intersection. And those trash cans were overflowing, creating a big mess around them.

      This is a clear case of overthinking things. Leave the trash cans alone – they were doing fine. At a bare minimum, have two per intersection, with one on each side of the avenue. Otherwise there will be a lot more litter.

      I have been repeatedly commenting that quality of life has been going down over the past few years, and this will be another step in that direction.

      • Matt says:

        Really a non issue. God forbid you just hold onto your trash until you get to where you’re going.

        • Molly Gordy says:

          Obviously you don’t walk a dog, or you’d know that carrying dog poop for several blocks is not only unpleasant for the owner, but to everyone in the vicinity.

      • geoff says:

        common sense tells everyone that there will be litter only if people throw it anywhere other than into a basket. who would throw their litter into the street, anyway?

        • Carlos says:

          When there are not enough bins, the existing ones become overfilled as people try to jam their items into them. As a result, there is trash on the ground everywhere around the bin. Ideally, people would not do this, but if there were sufficient bins, we would not have to worry about re-conditioning people’s behavior.

      • Nancy says:

        So sad that your daughter has to eat her breakfast on the way out the door. Wake up a few minutes earlier, put your phone down, have her SIT AT A TABLE, and eat properly. For goodness sakes, this has become the norm and you blame the city. Pathetic.

        • Carlos says:

          99 days out of 100, my daughter eats a healthy breakfast while sitting at the table and talking to me about the day ahead. Once in a while, it doesn’t work out like that. Clearly you have never been a parent – compared to most of my peers, I actually think I am doing very well. And I also have bigger and better things to do than poorly attempting to belittle another parent on a message board.

      • Marilyn Jo Harper says:

        Wut? Leaving your own domicile where you are feeding your child — and you expect to take some trash with you to pitch in a street-side trash can? Don’t you have waste baskets in your home?

    2. dannyboy says:

      “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”
      ― George Orwell, 1984

      • EricaC says:

        The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.
        -F. Scott Fitzgerald

        • dannyboy says:

          Erica,

          This is the second reply that you have made to quotes from 1984.
          Read the book; not only will you enjoy it, but you’ll grok what these quotes really mean.

    3. Rob G. says:

      Hah! I love it when West Side Rag prints stories from The Onion!

      Oh wait, this is real?

    4. MQue says:

      What type of backwards thinking is this!

    5. Tom Lee says:

      I had high hopes for DeBlasio but he has failed miserably. The city is falling apart in front of our very eyes. What a shame, to say the least. It seems the swamp has only grown with him as mayor as he has only looked after those who voted for him (construction, nyc public employees).
      72nd street is absolutely gross.

    6. Brenda says:

      Where exactly do they think the trash is going?

    7. Gee says:

      the park keeps putting up areas surrounded by wire fence (which is essentially what the trash cans are as well). I suggest they want us to put our refuse in these new ‘fenced’ areas. let’s dump our trash in the park. let the bikers pick it up.

    8. oldschooler says:

      Mr. Biller, Might I suggest that SROs, shelters and senior facilities do house “residents”, albeit perhaps of a sort that you might prefer be banished from the UWS?
      All sorts of residents need a place for their refuse…within their buildings. Certainly encouraging your neighbors to use the sidewalk bins for their household trash is crude and boneheaded, as it is illegal.
      Melissa G. – it’s not a mile. WEA has trash cans on every block, on diagonal corners. Designed so that, at most, one merely has to cross the street with one’s Beloved’s poo. No need to even cross an Avenue, much less trek a mile so burdened.
      WSR – why would you refer to (if not backhandedly promote) a new “poop-bag rebellion”? How is encouraging such entitled, selfish and anti-civic minded thinking and behavior an act of journalism?
      Twice the number of trash cans means twice the number of Rodent feeding stations.
      Be careful, WEA, what you wish for.

      • Marilyn says:

        That is untrue. There is only one per 4 corners.
        If trash cans are so offensive to you, move to the suburbs.

    9. kitty H says:

      Another downside of this misguided plan is that dog owners may be less likely to pick up after their animal, especially in bad weather, if they need to go out of their way to find a trash bin.

    10. Shawn says:

      I live on 75th and West End. There used to be a can on every corner of that intersection. Now there’s only one, and its across the street from me. There is no God.

    11. CAM says:

      While I’ve also been finding this inconvenient, the entire city of Tokyo is garbage can free on the streets. Everyone just takes their garbage with them and gets rid of it at home. It takes some getting used to, but it is sort of nice to not have overflowing garbage on every corner. So maybe there’s something to it!

    12. West88 says:

      Japan eliminated public trash cans awhile ago and it has done wonders. It forces people to consume less trash and hold onto it until they return home or office. There’s data and reasoning to this apparent insanity.

      • Dissident says:

        Any extrapolation here from Japan’s experience would be highly limited at best. The culture and demography of that country (as well as the City of Tokyo in particular) are wildly different from ours.

      • TN says:

        I’m from Japan. This is true. Streets in Tokyo are very clean.

    13. Wendy says:

      N.Y.C. deserves excellent Litter Baskets. Central Harlem, allegedly had the recycle baskets removed @ 2016. Those green litter baskets with the tub inside; oft that tub has been put outside –with overflowing messes. Few folk recycle enough. n.b.the underground economy of : canning. That contest for a new style litterbasket,m eh !

    14. robert says:

      Actually the main reason behind this is your neighbors in small building on side streets. Every morning people head up to Broadway to head to work. Many of them are carrying a tied up Fairway/Westside market bag with their days trash in it. They drop it in the bin and carry on. This is why the bins are always full even when there were 4 per intersection. The removal of baskets was tried a while back to curb this illegal depositing of household waste but people bitched and the baskets came back.
      Is it to much to ask that you put your trash in your OWN building????? Many buildings, such as my own, are almost weekly getting tickets for thrash on the sidewalk. This has only increased with fewer bins. Even if the do not see you do it they can still mail you a ticket for putting household trash in these bins, the tickets (with the city surcharge) go into the hundreds quickly after the first. And no, I’m not going to say how they catch you because then it will stop them from catching you.

      • Laura says:

        Robert, you hit the nail on the head! The problem is the persons in small side buildings who dispose of their household garbage in the pedestrian trash cans. My husband and I, who live on WEA, have caught numerous people over the years and have literally either confronted them or returned the delivery box to them (if they were stupid enough to leave their address on it), or called 311. So good riddance to the overflowing trash.

      • dannyboy says:

        This is why we just can’t have nice things. I do not consider these my “neighbors” because that is not “neighborly”.

        Just ask Mr Rogers

        Or Sesame Street

        (or real neighbors).

    15. Sarah says:

      There’s an entrance to Riverside Park just one avenue over from where the top picture was taken. Of course there’s heavier pedestrian traffic there.

      Additionally, what the heck kind of toddler argument is this “abuse” theory? Somebody dumps household garbage in a can, so the entire block has to suffer? Garbage cans aren’t a privilege!

    16. Bill says:

      Thx WSR. This is silly, we need the cans. Use the link above and voice your concerns.

    17. manhattan mark says:

      three of the four trash cans at 75th & WEA have been missing for a few days. On the southeast corner someone put postman’s delivery box next to the mail box and it has been filed with garbage every day. PLEASE PUT THOSE OTHER 3 TRASHCANS BACK!

    18. Thompson says:

      No one wants to handle other people’s dog waste, and public trash cans should not be the place to dispose of it. Manhattan should be renamed dogtown, it smells of dog urine. Maybe owners should take their dog’s waste back home and flush it.

    19. Viana Cangelosi Wenzel says:

      I just emailed you guys about this yesterday. I couldn’t agree more with Melissa. This is a HUGE problem. Hoping the city will restore the garbage cans but I won’t hold my breath -_-

    20. Mary says:

      Well, I just spotted a pile of trash on the curb on Riverside Drive, so some people are apparently dealing with the dearth of containers by just dumping their trash anywhere.

      Having said that, I do think th design of NYC trash containers needs to be rethought. The containers are invariably rusted and banged out of shape and don’t effectively contain trash. In Paris, for example, the public trash containers are a simple stand fitted with a metal ring at the top where a plastic bag is attached. This seems to make a lot more sense and allows for easy removal and replacement. (Not sure if it’s possible to post a photo of these, but do a google images search public trash container in Paris and you’ll find plenty of photos.)

    21. Glen says:

      I have noticed piles of loaded doggie bags on corners of WEA where the trash cans used to be. Apparently the dog owners can still see them there.

      • Cato says:

        Or perhaps the dog owners are trying to remind the bureaucrats sitting in City offices of the real need to have trash cans on the corners?

    22. NYWoman says:

      In the top heavy restaurant area of the 70’s and 80’s on the UWS, at least 2 trash cans per intersection – has to be. And frequent pick ups by sanitation. We have a rat problem? Imagine the rat problem when there are no cans for all the take out – it’s a violation of health and sanitation 101

    23. Lauren says:

      If there’s reincarnation. I. Definitely coming back as a city employee……what fun they must have all day drinking, getting high, running stupid ideas around and laughing

      • js says:

        Continually incredible and depressing that folks pile up their garbage.
        These are not ignorant people – but largely affluent and educated people. But they could not be bothered to carry their Starbucks and other “convenience “ garbage a few blocks…

        The trash problem has worsened over the past 10 years as more development and people, destination stores like Trader Joe’s and more fast food like Chipotle Sweetgreen etc. Also street vendors improperly using trash cans for their garbage.

        Unbelievable.

      • pqdubya says:

        and with a nice fat pension at the end

    24. Psalta says:

      Bonehead idea for sure!! With vanishing garbage cans , people toss dog crap baggies in the tree wells. I find food, cups booze bottles. In the treewells& on windowsills in the west 70’s!! DUMB DUMB IDEA!!

    25. Gretchen says:

      They also removed 3 more trash bins on the east side of WEA on W. 74th and 75th St. Why??? So now people are dumping trash on the sidewalks, by the curbs and also in the little white USPS crates that mail carriers leave next to the mail boxes. This is a really stupid idea.

    26. IH says:

      A mere 18 months ago: “Removing subway trash cans has resulted in more track fires, litter: DiNapoli”

      https://nypost.com/2017/02/14/removing-subway-trash-cans-has-resulted-in-more-track-fires-litter-dinapoli/

    27. EricaC says:

      I think that a lot of the recycling trash cans have also been removed. I keep looking for a place to throw away plastic or paper on corners where I swear there was a recycling bin and can’t find one. Did they really remove them (or is it just my memory)? If so, why?

    28. Rita says:

      This is a city of pedestrians. We are not in cars all the time as people living in suburbia. Those trash cans keep our city clean. So ridiculous to remove them and then have overflow which will then fall into the sidewalk!! Who came up with the stupid idea of removing them?? Very bad idea!!

    29. So, I walk my two big dogs and they poop. And I pick up the poop. And then I have two big dogs and two poop bags and no trash can? Hmmm? What to do. I can walk the 8 blocks home and then put it in my trash. Or I can just leave the damn thing on the street. What idiot decided to get rid of trash cans? They tried the same thing a few years ago in the Subway. How did that work out? More Rats? More garbage on the platform. Who the hell hires these morons that make decisions like this?

    30. Cheryl Fusco says:

      This is beyond stupid. Here’s to garbage on the sidewalks and more rats, which don’t care about less or more commercial traffic. West End may be residential, but we still have garbage that we don’t want to carry around with us until we get home or to Broadway.

    31. Harriet says:

      I have written several times about putting baskets back in the center aisles of Broadway in the 90’s, but nothing has been done about it.

      The had been there for years and suddenly disappeared.

    32. Judith M Kass says:

      my email to dsny@customerservice.nyc.gov

      Please put back he West End Avenue (and those in other areas) trash cans the department removed.

      Trash is trash, garbage is garbage, dog poop is dog poop

      NO MATTER WHERE IT IS !!!

      Thanks

      disgruntled taxpayer

      JM Kass

    33. Elizabeth Kellner says:

      Half the baskets were removed along Manhattan Ave. between 104th and 106th on May 29. I mmediately reported it to CB #7 and was told they would be returned. This is an historic district. Most of the apartments are small walk ups with no live in supers and all the trash is kept in bins in front of the buildings. I sweep up litter around my neighborhood at least once a day. Things have gotten much worse because the bins are overflowing with bags of trash being left on the sidewalk. I have brought large black trash bags from my house to consolidate the overflow. It is disgusting. Sanitation empties one of the corner bins and four hours later it’s again overflowing. This is the stupidest decision. I’ve lived on my block for 41 years. We always had four trash cans at each intersection. Things are much worse. I email Sanitation weeks ago and have not received a response.

    34. Sasha Charnin says:

      The Upper West Side has become a trash can. They must return these things because people who live here are just dumping their shit on or in the “malls” expecting us all to come pick it up. Or someone to come. They must live this way as it’s clearly not a concern. And that’s not acceptable. It’s disgusting. Plus there’s a rat problem.
      I have lived here my entire life. Never left. And it feels like it’s the dirtiest it’s ever been. Every other city has this down. I don’t understand the nimrods who are making these decisions. It’s such a simple problem to fix. What’s wrong with everyone?

    35. UWS40 says:

      Department of Sanitation took them away because they don’t want to empty them.

    36. Pedestrian says:

      How do you deal with a problem in the DeBlasio Administration? You redefine it or you pretend there is no problem. Removing trash baskets into which people throw trash isn’t going to make the UWS cleanse. People will just drop trash on the ground. Trash baskets work. The City needs to pick them up and empty them occasionally.

    37. Carmen Laube says:

      I wrote to NYC.gov about this. Someone called two hours later and gave me this basic info. He suggested I bring up the issue at community board meetings. I walk my elderly dogs several times a day and have to drag them further to reach a trash can with their pooh bags. Harder for those of us trying to do the right thing!

    38. Carmen Laube says:

      I walk my two senior dogs several times a day and the removal of the trash can on my corner steals time from my days. I reached out to nyc.gov and got a call back two hours later. The guy said basically the same thing as what’s written in this article. He suggested taking my complaint to the local community board. Not great for people just trying to do the right thing.

    39. UES says:

      This is done so that the neighborhood will get fed up and privatize garbage collection as they have done on the east side. Local businesses and residents are forced to pay for volunteer committees to pick up the trash across town because DSNY did such a poor job of it. Local politicians and neighborhood associations were involved and the best solution was to do it ourselves as DSNY provided no help or solutions. This is by design and absolutely is a cost-cutting measure.

    40. Stef Lev says:

      A big issue is the lack of garbage cans in the Park, resulting in people bringing their garbage out of the Park. The TA tried eliminating garbage cans on subway platforms, to reduce garbage overflow, which was a failure. The logic here follows the same misguided path. The answer is putting the resources in the Park, where it is needed, and put back the garbage cans on the street!

    41. Molly Gordy says:

      Perhaps we could split the difference by having two baskets at each intersection, instead of going from four to one? It’s ridiculous to have to hunt for a place to dump your dog poop.

    42. Cintra says:

      There should be at least 3 garbage can at each intersection, but 4 is best. These 1 or 2 at each intersection is not enough. 2 garbage cans gets overfilled fast.
      Last week, I almost got hit by a speeding car making a fast turn when I had to cross the street to the garbage can to throw out the dog poops from my 2 dogs. Then I had to cross back that same street again to return to my apartment.

    43. Marilyn says:

      First they removed cans in RiversudecOarjk They also removed cans on RSD. On WEA it’s now one can instead of 4. It’s an outrage. And there is no way they won’t be reducing sanitation workers soon. Of course they will. Tell these suburban decision-makers to give us back our trash cans. Yes, one on EVERY corner. Btw, not that much “other” trash is in there.

      If you care about trash why allow the buildings to leave trash out the afternoon before the next day’s pick up. It’s hard to walk down the side streets with all that trash waiting 16 hours for pick-up.

      Life is hard enough, just put back the trash cans.

    44. my-neighborbood? says:

      The City has abandoned any sense of responsibility for the disgusting way the streets are looking these days. This isn’t a third world country …yet. Though judging from the grime and filth all over the sidewalks it sure looks like we’ve hit rock bottom. With all the extra wealth pouring in from tourists etc., why does Manhattan look worse than a neglected town in India. The UWS never used to look like the dump it’s become with all the trash from the fast food restaurants; the chains; dog excrement in bags (hopefully),, gallons of urine everywhere. People have become the slaves of the City’s non-functioning agencies and they don’t say a word. Breathing in this stench… ……. Amazing!! Meanwhile in cities in Europe people have organized to reduce discarded trash. They take coffee containers and carry bags to reuse at stores. Dogs are scarce unless you live in an area where you have your own back yard. …… That picture of the filthy unwashed sidewalk after the bin has been removed says it all.
      Read ‘The Gentrification of New York’ by Jeremiah Moss to see the kind of evolution that we’ve been forced into. The developers make fortunes; the sheeple are made to feel grateful for being able to stay in their deteriorating neighborhoods… if they’re lucky. If you dont own, you’re on the way out.. !
      It’s not surprising that those moving from the suburbs into 80 story glass towers never go out. Use their buildings amenities: gyms, restaurants, etc and have Uber; or their own cars to get around the overcrowded streets. Those of us who enjoy being part of a community where we know our neighbors and loved the great little stores and restaurants that have all closed..and the vibe generated by the creatives, musicians/ actors .. all moved away, too expensive to rent here now.
      The 1% who moved in to the 80 story glass buildings with their kids and dogs? and have amenities like gyms and restaurants. They stay in. Use Uber and their cars to get around the overcrowded city. Why are they here? Are they happy? No they ain’t they’re bored shitless. Will they last?. Haha! Clean up the place. Lets make it a real town for everyone! The town it still could be.

      • dannyboy says:

        “Those of us who enjoy being part of a community where we know our neighbors and loved the great little stores and restaurants that have all closed..and the vibe generated by the creatives, musicians/ actors .. all moved away, too expensive to rent here now.”

        We are right here! Our children are here! Our friends are here! Our relations are here! Our neighbors are here! Our community is here!

        We will be here when “those moving from the suburbs into 80 story glass towers” and the developers are gone!

    45. Banjo2013 says:

      Thanks for sharing. I first noticed this a couple of months ago when there was no trash can on the east side of Riverside from 104th to 99th. I thought some trickster had tossed them into the park. I too am missing my favorite can at the corner of 99th. Now I need to cross the street to the park side to dump my poop bag and my dog is sorely disappointed when he realizes he does not get to play in the park! It’s such a tease!

    46. pqdubya says:

      You know, I wondered what happened to the trash cans. My closest one (now removed) was at the NW corner of 91 and WEA. Not a huge deal I guess but my ancient dachshund struggles to make it across the street during the duration of the cross light. I hadnt noticed abuse of the trash baskets.

    47. Jeff says:

      So you should remove garbage cans because they attract garbage. Does that mean that you should remove politicians because they attract corruption?

    48. michael stearns says:

      I have lived or have had family members who have lived in the lower 100s since 1952. During that period, until a few months ago, there were trash baskets on each corner. Only during street fairs and other high-trash-volume events have I seen the baskets filed to overflowing. Now it is a regular occurrence. Pedestrians, motorists, dog-walkers and the homeless need places to dispose of their trash. That need continues to this day. The removal of trash basket is just another diminution of city services in the de Blasio administration, along with the giveaways of public parking spaces to Citibike and construction companies and the continued construction of bike lanes.

    49. Gridlock says:

      NYC has gotten so persnickety about garbage and recycling, it is a major PITA to comply. But if you do not comply, they will look into you clear (mandatory) trash bags, deduce you identification from discarded paperwork, and fine the living daylights out of you.

      It is much simpler to just segregate all of your identifiable trash for disposal at your building and bag up everything else and pitch it on your way to work.

      I know that it is obnoxious and antisocial, but they started it! You can try to do everything right, and some little garbage Nazi will come along, find a misdirected bottle cap, and fine you hundreds of dollars. To heck with that.

      If NYC wants me to behave, they have to call off the dogs.

    50. Muriel says:

      Why not have sunk in garbage bins with steel covers that you lift and automatically close? A buried garbage can eliminates street spillage and does not attract rodents!

    51. Woody says:

      The dog owners seem to be the biggest group of complainers about having to walk a little further to dispose of their dog poop. Maybe they should pay more more for the privilege of having a dog to fund the increased costs of sanitation associated with their dogs. Dog licenses in NYC cost a mere $8.50 for spayed/neutered dogs or $34 for the others.