NY Department of Sanitation On-Again, Off-Again Pickups On, Again

NEW YORK CITY MAYOR Michael Bloomberg says he will give the New York Department of Sanitation (NYDS) back the $11 million per year that he previously had decided to cut. The budget restoration is part of a $164.6 million package. City funds, some collected from sales tax, which the mayor recently raised, account for $90.2 million. The city's contribution will trigger $74.4 million in matching programs sponsored by state and federal funds for a total of $164.6 million.

On May 15, 2003, 515 sanitation workers were released from their jobs after the mayor had announced that eliminating one weekly garbage pickup in most boroughs would save $12 million per year. At press time, NYDS spokeswoman Kathy Dawkins says 191 workers were being reinstated, and the department plans to have employees back at their garages and on their old collection routes by June 16. She adds that the department is not sure if more workers will be called in. “The important thing here is a portion of the money was put back, we could rehire some of the people we laid off, and we can maintain our current household garbage collection schedule,” she says.

Critics say the plan is partial and that other city agencies, including libraries, senior centers and firehouses, still are not adequately funded. After the mayor's announcement, news agencies reported that the move was a Band-Aid for the mayor's publicity during an administration characterized by economic strife, higher taxes and layoffs. But Dawkins says NYDS has been supportive of the mayor throughout a difficult administration.

“The city was under a very, very serious financial constraint, and all city agencies had to make do with less,” she says. “The department was right to support the mayor and his plan. The money came in to maintain the program, so it was not a matter of false starts, it was a matter of the mayor helping us realize what a bad situation we were in.”