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  City Hall Library Notes, August 2012

SPOTLIGHT ON: Department of Sanitation

By Christine Bruzzese

The Department of Sanitation was established as the Department of Street Cleaning in 1881 and renamed in 1929. Besides keeping the streets clean, the Sanitation Department is responsible for snow removal, recycling programs and waste management. This article presents a selection of Sanitation Department publications available in the City Hall Library collection.

Sanitation Annual Reports are a great source for statistics as well as photographs of equipment and workers. See what a garbage truck looked like fifty years ago and compare the cost of snow removal at that time period to more recent years. The collection covers 1930 to 2011 though the report was not always published for each year. Reports of the Department of Street Cleaning are also available for the years 1882 to 1929.

The Digest of Codes summarizes current laws and Sanitation policy regarding such functions as street cleaning, recycling, and illegal dumping and refuse collection. This is a handy guide to answering quick questions on these issues.

Another item of historical interest is the Sanitation magazine Sweep, published quarterly from 1959 to 1970. This magazine is devoted to the accomplishments of employees, developments in the agency and even includes a DS crossword puzzle. The newsletter Sanitation News can be found at the Department of Records website in electronic format at: The last issue published was Spring 2010.

Sanitation has also published many booklets on recycling and waste prevention. One example is How to Recycle or Reuse Almost Anything from 1994. More recently in 2004, the Department of Sanitation presented its Golden Apple Awards to various New York City elementary and secondary schools who submitted portfolios in the “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Challenge” contest. These are collected as Trash Masters! Super Recyclers Campaign: Golden Apple Awards complete with photos and descriptions of accomplishments.

Vertical files include original pamphlets and flyers on recycling and snow removal as well as articles on the agency and its functions and officials.

Next time you see the Department of Sanitation at work, think of them as more than just the people who pick up the garbage. The City Hall Library collection offers some fascinating glimpses into the workings of this important city agency.

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