Talking Trash in New York, and Taking Photos of It

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Weather: Showers and thunderstorms could produce heavy rainfall. Expect a high in the low 80s.

Alternate-side parking: Suspended today for Eid al-Adha.

CreditShabazz Stuart

In addition to talking trash, New Yorkers are apparently not shy about shooting photos of it and then posting scenes of the garbage on Twitter.

Social media is replete with pictures of overflowing wastebaskets and piles of trash bags. They were chronicled by my colleague Winnie Hu in an article appropriately called “Your Tales of Trash Hell.”

Is there more trash on streets than in years past?

The city’s Sanitation Department says New York is getting cleaner, but social media has made photos of dumping more ubiquitous.

A department chief, Edward Grayson, said that most messes come from “a small population of people creating a giant eyesore” and that the city is cleaner than it was decades ago.

“We’re a victim of our own success, in regard to cleanliness,” he said. “We have an informed population that has raised its own standards” of what a clean street is.

How do these messes happen?

New York produces a lot of trash, partly because the city’s population has grown in the past decade to 8.4 million people. They produce some 12,000 tons of trash and recyclables each day.

Sanitation officials said many of the photos online do not stem from poor trash pickup, but rather from illegal dumping and littering, which they said can be difficult to prevent.

In 2018, sanitation officials issued the following number of summonses:

  • 284 for illegal dumping

  • 536 for improper garbage disposal

  • 367 for littering from a vehicle

  • 829 for pedestrian littering

Sanitation officials also pointed to the increase in garbage in recently gentrified neighborhoods, especially those where high-density residential buildings, businesses and restaurants moved into what used to be mostly industrial areas.

“When it was industrial, no one was calling to complain” about dumping, Chief Grayson said. “But with more people, more restaurants and more foot traffic, we’re getting more reports and more exposure.”

And don’t forget tourist trash. With a record high of 65.2 million visitors in 2018, the city has seen more trash in tourist areas.

The Sanitation Department uses social media to help locate problem spots, Chief Grayson said. It has addressed trash pileups by deploying more garbage trucks to chronic areas.

The department is the largest municipal waste operation in the country, with about 8,000 uniformed sanitation workers and a $1.7 billion annual operating budget.

The city’s trash is largely exported out of the five boroughs: About a quarter goes to waste-to-energy facilities, and the rest is sent to landfills in central New York State, Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina.

A main source of messes is the city’s system of picking up garbage curbside instead of allowing buildings to set their trash in larger bins off the sidewalk, said Benjamin Miller, a consultant and former planner for the New York City Sanitation Department.

“The problem stems from bags on the street and door-to-door collection,” Mr. Miller said. “Much of the civilized world doesn’t do that.”

What’s the solution?

Pneumatic tubes. In Barcelona, Stockholm, Paris and London, tons of trash are transported to collection points by these tubes, for more efficient collection that avoids bags being left on the street for pickup, Mr. Miller said.

New York already has an example of this. On Roosevelt Island, two dozen residential buildings use high-speed pneumatic tubes to carry trash to nearby compactors, which compress the garbage. City haulers then collect it.

Aggregated collection is used in Battery Park City in Manhattan. There, some buildings transport trash in bulk to nearby compactors, which compress it for pickup.

CreditYana Paskova for The New York Times

Jeffrey Epstein, the financier who was dogged by accusations of sexual abuse of girls, was found dead on Saturday after he had apparently hanged himself in a federal jail in Manhattan.

Mr. Epstein was being held in the jail, the Metropolitan Correctional Center, awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

Here’s what else we know:

  • Attorney General William P. Barr yesterday criticized the management of the jail.

    “We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation,” Mr. Barr said. He did not elaborate on what problems he was referring to.

  • Mr. Epstein’s death came just two weeks after he had been taken off suicide watch at the detention center, officials said.

    Senior law enforcement officials, members of Congress and Mr. Epstein’s accusers have all demanded answers about why Mr. Epstein was not being more closely monitored.

  • Mayor de Blasio yesterday joined a host of prominent figures in questioning how Mr. Epstein had died, insisting that he was not dabbling in conspiracy theories even as he helped to stoke them.

CreditMichelle V. Agins/The New York Times

For the first time, street cleaning is coming to a dozen streets in Astoria. [Astoria Post]

The Birdbath Green Bakery in SoHo has closed. A sign on its door says, “Our time in this magical place has come to an end.” [Gothamist]

John Singleton’s “Poetic Justice” screens at Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem. 6 p.m. [Free]

Want to learn how to write HTML code for a website? PowrPlnt in Brooklyn is hosting an introductory workshop. 7 p.m. [Free or donation]

At Rule of Thirds in Brooklyn, Groove Therapy is a beginner dance class that teaches you how to move. 7:30 p.m. [$15]

— Derek Norman

Events are subject to change, so double-check before heading out. For more events, see the going-out guides from The Times’s culture pages.

CreditRobert Caplin for The New York Times

The stone lion statues that guard the New York Public Library’s main branch at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street are named Patience (on the south side of the library entrance) and Fortitude (on the north).

They have become symbols for open access to knowledge and information, and have stood sentry since 1911.

But the 108-year-old lions are made of porous Tennessee pink marble, which can take only so much traffic exhaust, weather beatings and grime from people trying to climb them.

So, they’re due for a cleaning.

The $250,000 restoration of these stoic gatekeepers will take nine weeks, beginning the week of Sept. 2. During this time, the lions will be encased in plywood while workers give them a laser cleaning and patch minor cracks and chips.

The lions are cleaned every seven to 10 years, and as the library’s president, Anthony W. Marx, put it, “The lions have earned some time at the spa.”

It’s Tuesday — explore the concrete jungle.

Dear Diary:

On a warm, humid, drizzly Sunday afternoon I decided to see a matinee. The film was O.K. at first, but it got worse and worse as it continued. I left before the credits rolled.

I decided to walk home. The rain had stopped and a breeze was tempering the humidity. I headed north past Lincoln Towers, and then took a right on West 70th Street. I decided to stop at Cafe Luxembourg for a glass of wine.

To my left at the bar was a man by himself: bourbon and a glass of pilsner. It was Father’s Day, and his children had forgotten. To my right were two women in their 70s. They were getting together for the first time in 15 years. One was having champagne and Aperol; the other, vodka on the rocks with lime.

I sat for three glasses of Chablis, listening to him talk to the bartender, and to them talk and laugh with each other.

I didn’t want to leave.

— Sabina O’Reilly

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