Garbage-Collection Map Gives Evidence That Many Upper West Siders Have Left the City

Many New Yorkers with a way to get out of the city — a second home, rental property, or relatives living elsewhere — have done so. And new data put together by The City investigative news site shows which neighborhoods appear to have the most evacuees.

The Upper West Side tossed 3.2% fewer tons of trash in March 2020 than it did in March 2019. The Lower East Side had an even more dramatic drop, at 5%. Other parts of the city — including much of Queens and the Bronx — had much higher levels of trash than normal as people have stayed at home instead of going to work and school.

The map below has the data from each neighborhood:

The Department of Sanitation’s resident anthropologist (yes they have one!) had some explanations:

To Robin Nagle, anthropologist in residence at the city Department of Sanitation, the trash trends may be telling the story of a city undergoing a seismic transformation.

“Garbage itself always, like a canary in a coal mine, is a key indicator of social change,” Nagle said.

“Manhattan is considerably wealthier than Queens, so I’m assuming more Manhattanites left the city, while more Queens residents have no choice but to shelter at home.”

NEWS | 32 comments | permalink
    1. KT says:

      Why is there so much more trash on the sidewalks? That’s been disgusting lately.

    2. Hugh Van Dusen says:

      Why are there s many available parking palaces on weekends?

      • robert says:

        Because a lot of people have left the UWS. Its more noticeable on the weekends as the biz folks that park in the area and take the train downtown during the week. The availability is aprox they same as it is after school lets out on a normal year and folks leave.

      • We also don’t have as many people coming into the city needing to park.

      • ST says:

        Besides the runners, no one is showing up from out of town to park because they work here during the week and to visit on the weekends. There are out of town folks who park and take an Uber to the airport because a couple of alt side tickets is cheaper than airport parking for the week. People with second homes garage their cars. The parking difference is the out-of-towners are gone. Will we still need Congestion Pricing in the age of the Virus? Doubt it, but it will be pushed through anyway as a money grab.

    3. John says:

      LES and UWS reduction was probably due to NYU and Columbia/Barnard dismissing students and them returning home…

      • Steviee says:

        It is empty up here in Morningside Heights. Columbia, Barnard, Manhattan School of Music, Union Theological Seminary, Jewish Theological Seminary. All closed.

      • Kay McFadden says:

        If you hover your cursor on the map, it breaks out smaller segments to show changes. For example, CD 9 / Morningside is up 1.1% in trash pickup while CD 7 / UWS is down 3.2%.

        The population in my (non-student) coop on West 103rd has fallen about 35%. As the story says, lots of folks hustled off early on.

    4. mkmuws says:

      More space for the rest of us!

    5. KB says:

      There are a lot of explanations. For instance, we’re mostly cooking at home, which creates far less trash than takeout with all those individual tins and containers. Restaurants are closed so there’s no restaurant garbage. Stores are closed so there’s no store garbage. Also, the plastic bag ban went into effect so there are far fewer bags. I’m sure there are many other explanations besides flight to country houses, though there’s certainly some of that.

    6. Mark Moore says:

      Pretty telling that it’s gone down by over 5 percent when the people who are still here are probably throwing away more household trash then ever being at home and cooking all the time.

    7. Leda says:

      I think it’s because those two neighborhoods actively participate in compost recycling. Our building manager announced at our last board meeting that there’s been a significant drop in garbage since we started collecting compostable materials. Even though the drop-off sites are temporarily closed, the city is still collecting compost from apartment buildings.

      • On Monday nights, the composting is the first trash collected. The next day recyclables are usually collected before the regular trash.

        My opinion is that the City of New York has determined that these materials are valuable and can be profitable. It can pay for the fuel used to transport the trash.

        The trend in the past year has been recycled materials are paying less at the dump than they used to. New York prices are probably following the same trend as this link shows for the Northwestern USA.

      • Christina says:

        Also more and more people are bringing their own shopping bags. So less plastic and paper bags.

    8. There is cash in the trash. The amount of trash collected is mitigated every week by the efforts evident in this picture.

      The image was taken today around 3:30 PM. The heaver glass bottles are usually left behind. There has been no decrease in the amount that is being collected. There has been a decrease in stores not taking the returned bottles. Stores have complained that there have been fewer pickups of deposit bottles in recent weeks. This has also affected those collecting.

      • At 5:45pm, an update to the last image.

        People are waiting for the truck to pick up their deposit bottles for cash. Someone has called the police to disperse the collectors.

        A correction to my previous wording. Fewer stores are taking bottles. They say they do not have space to store. Pickup of the bottles by the distributors has ceased. Upper West Siders are continuing to buy and not returning them to the stores.

    9. UWSmom says:

      So now it becomes clear that there are many second-homers on the UWS. If they can afford to “flee,” they can afford paid parking. Can we please charge for parking when this is over?

      • geoff says:

        agree. there has been some undermining of the pleas for free street parking. and ‘poverty’.

      • Nevets K says:

        And charge for dog owners using the sidewalks too – what a mess some of their dogs leave; plus, the dogs
        take up “valuable public sidewalk space” – and charge for bike riders on the streets; they take up “valuable public space” too — and charge for…

        • UWS Clean says:

          Here Here! Keep the public sidewalks clean of unsanitary dog feces and urine. How would it be if we all used them as toilets in these times or in anytime?

      • Scott says:

        I know one such person who fled. He’s staying with his sister in a modest home in CT. So, beware of stereotypes.

        But yes it would be a great time to reserve NYC parking for residents. Other states have declared war on us for the last month; why not return the favor?

      • whatever says:

        I’d rather they open-up the apartment for anyone with a rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartment who is sheltering in their second home…

    10. Carol says:

      The majority of my friends have fled for relative’s homes. Quarantining is hard when you have a) a ton of roommates in a small apartment, or the opposite — all your roommates leave and you’re left by yourself.

    11. Most people under 40 don’t know how to cook, it’s sad but it’s the truth. Older people know how to cook and are good in the kitchen, but the younger generation need to go in the internet to look up how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That’s why McDonald’s is considered a essential business during a world wide pandemic. If the world is ending you can still go there and get a Happy Meal.

      • If you can boil water you already know how to cook. The real problem is that many want it done for them and have had people do it for them. Spending three dollars to have tea made for them rather than use a fifteen cents teabag and boiled tap water was the norm. Those times are not coming back very soon.

      • Boris says:

        Maybe they have better uses for their time.

      • Nordy says:

        Cooking is time-consuming and not that important to many people.