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Transcript: Mayor Adams, DSNY Commissioner Tisch Open New Front In War On Rats, Unveil Strategy To Containerize Trash At Nearly All Residential Buildings In NYC

October 11, 2023

Chief Adviser to Mayor Adams Ingrid Lewis‑Martin: Good morning. I'm Chief Adviser to the mayor, Ingrid P. Lewis‑Martin, and today is another glorious day in the annals of history in New York City. I'm happy to introduce to you a woman who's a maverick in the Sanitation Department. She has tremendous ideas, and she's a great thought leader and a wonderful partner, our Commissioner Jessica Tisch.

Commissioner Jessica Tisch, Department of Sanitation: Good morning everyone.

Mayor Eric Adams: Good morning.

Commissioner Tisch: Less than one year ago, Mayor Adams stood in front of City Hall and declared war on the rats, war on the bags and war on the idea that other cities could get their trash off of the streets but that New York City could not. Since then, we have made sweeping progress in ending the primacy of the black trash bags. This is one of the most noticeable changes to our city streetscape in a generation, and it is literally happening before our eyes.

We changed the times and waste goes out on the curb and the way that we pick it, shortening by hours the amount of time that New Yorkers are forced to interact with the disgusting bags of trash and heavily incentivizing the use of containers. We published the first ever block by block study of the feasibility of containerization in the city, finding the long‑buried truth that it can work if we just have the political will to get it done.

We put in place a plan to move all 20 million pounds of commercial trash each day into containers, freeing up our sidewalks. We began a pilot of on street containers in West Harlem, a pilot that I am proud to report is working with clean streets replacing the old status quo. And today, the Adams Administration is announcing the path forward on containerization for 95 percent of New York City's residential buildings, and every residence that has nine or fewer units which are found in every neighborhood in the city.

Effective fall of 2024, all residential buildings with nine or fewer units will be required to do what the rest of the world has done and place their waste not straight on the sidewalk but into a secure Wheelie‑Bin. And this won't be just any Wheelie‑Bin, it will be the first ever official New York City Wheelie‑Bin, which will be designed as part of a concession procurement.

The Department of Sanitation is beginning this process now. Today we released a concession RFP to start the competitive process of selecting a single vendor to design, to build and to sell these bins. This vendor will be required to meet a number of specifications: rat resistance, aesthetic requirements, ease of use for sanitation workers and compatibility with mechanized collection.

The last point represents a major change to the way that the Department of Sanitation will collect the trash in New York City in the future. The uniform design of the new bins means that they can be tipped mechanically into the back of collection trucks, and DSNY will retrofit or replace hundreds of trucks to move past the days of throwing the bags by hand.

The procurement process beginning today means that these bins– which are designed to last 10 years– will be offered for sale at far, far less than anything available in retail stores, no more than $50 for the most common size. In many neighborhoods, use of bins for residential trash is already the norm. We don't want those New Yorkers to need to throw out the bins that they already have, and the timeline of this plan is designed to reflect that.

So, in the fall of 2024, all residential trash for one to nine unit buildings must go in a bin; and in summer of 2026, the trash from those buildings must go in the official New York City Wheelie‑Bin. Before the mandate starts, the official bins will be available for sale at clearly defined low prices to anyone who wants them, in all colors and several sizes for all types of material, although only trash will be mandatory.

New Yorkers will hear a lot more from us soon about the exact timing, but this announcement means a plan is in place to containerize all commercial trash and the trash from 95 percent of all residential buildings in New York City. And the last five percent, we are coming for that, too, and we will have more to say soon. Thank you.

Lewis‑Martin: So, New York City is very serious about becoming a clean, healthy environment and a rat‑free environment. And without any further ado, the person in New York City who hates rats the absolute most, our 110th mayor of New York City, Eric Adams.

Mayor Adams: Thank you, Ingrid, and I want to bring in our deputy mayor who has been looking over all of these various agencies that deal with the many operational aspects. So, Deputy Mayor Joshi, can you come up?

Deputy Mayor Joshi, Operations: Sure. I can speak a little bit about how this is much more than getting trash off our streets, this is about how New Yorkers view our streets, how we view our public space and how we value it. Post Covid, it's even more important than ever before. Our sidewalks are our backyards. We don't live in palatial ranch houses here in New York City. When you walk out of your house in the morning, you're met with our public realm, ours plazas, our parks, where we play, where we gather, where we commute, where there's art on the street.

But our public space is only as good as how we use it, and that's why Mayor Adams has appointed the first‑ever Chief Public Realm Officer and made historic investments to create new beautiful public spaces, improving our existing public spaces and making it more and easier for New Yorkers to enjoy the city we live in. 

We've included $375 million in investment in new public safe improvements. We've codified the largest in the nation outdoor dining, which is going to be complemented by the containerization efforts that the Department of Sanitation has done around food businesses. We're rethinking how we use our sidewalk space and how we use our curb space. And we've expanded cleaning city wide including all of those forgotten places throughout the city that now can be turned into the actual public spaces they were meant to be.

So, for far too long we've used our precious sidewalk space for trash, and today marks an important step in containing that sprawl and bringing that real estate back to New Yorkers.

Mayor Adams: Thank you. Thank you. And you know, you need real partners to make this happen, and I just want to bring on our councilman who has really...I think you hate rats more than me. You know, has really led this conversation in the upper Manhattan areas of the city and he has been a real partner of several initiatives that we have put in place, Councilmember [Oswald] Feliz. 

Councilmember Oswald Feliz: Sorry, Oswell is my good brother, too. So, thank you, Mr. Mayor. I want to welcome everybody to this meeting of the raiders of...of the rat haters club. No one hates rats like this mayor, and it's incredible to see.

About a month ago, we started talking about containerization and we took containerization very seriously. If you go to West Harlem– I invite everybody to go to West Harlem, in fact– you see our trash bags at our schools, they're in containers. Trash bags are in containers on 10 residential blocks as well. And now we know with the restaurants we're seeing trash bags and containers, too. But now I want you to know that what's happening in West Harlem, it's working, and I want to take my hat off to Commissioner Tisch who's really doing an amazing job containerizing our trash everywhere in the city. Be it outside or be it anywhere, we're coming for those [inaudible] trash bags.

And so I just want to thank this administration for really taking trash very seriously. We haven't been up to the times when it comes to modern waste management, and it's about time that this city is doing what it needs to do under this mayor. And I have to say that it's been about time that Harlem gets the investment that it needs. It's been so underinvested in for so many years, but investment has come and has made a real big difference. You know how this mob handles rats, thank you.

Mayor Adams: [Inaudible.] And so this is really part of our ongoing initiative to continue to have our city as being the cleanest big city in America. We look at these garbage bins that are here and it shows that it's going to be a level of uniformity. As I travel across the entire globe, we're probably one of the last modern cities where you see trash bags sitting on its roads.

When we were in South America the last few days, it was unbelievable how organized the trash was in each city. And it was not in garbage bags. I did not see one garbage bag. We saw bins, well organized. And when you go across this entire globe, this is what you see.

We are actually catching up. And the commissioner made it clear, instead of a four‑year plan we have expedited that plan from dealing with food service businesses to now going into residential locations, and we're going to continue to evolve until you will see a city where the garbage is containerized.

It's good for aesthetics on how your city looks, it's good for cleanliness, it's good to fight rodents. It's a real combination of how you add that with our outdoor dining, how you add it with our new use of open space. It's just really reshaping our city. You're going to see one of the most dramatic reshaping of our city in probably the history of the city in the next couple of years under Commissioner Tisch, our rat czar and Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi and how's she's reshaping how do we look at the landscape in the city.

We're excited about this rollout. I know there are those who are saying, okay, is this a new cost? No, we're going to put out a product where the cost of these containers are going to be below market value to make sure that this is not going to be an additional burden on taxpayers, but to the contrary. We're going to give them a clean way to containerize their garbage at an affordable price.

So, again, a job well done. Commissioner, job well done. Team, and thank you so much, [inaudible], for your partnership on dealing with these important issues. Open it up to a few questions?

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. [inaudible] about the second part of containerization for larger buildings which DSNY has found will probably require repurposing about 150,000 parking spaces to put stationary large containers in the parking lane. And as I'm sure you know, repurposing any parking space is a huge political battle in the city. Are you going to get that done and how are you going to get that done?

Mayor Adams: Yes. No, it does.You know, New Yorkers are sensitive about their parking spaces. They're sensitive about everything, trust me [laughter] you know, no matter what you do, New Yorkers are going to give you their opinion. They're very opinionated.

But when you do an analysis of a few parking spaces over the cleanliness, you are clearly hearing from everyday New Yorkers they're tired of the rodents, they're tired of the trash. And this is a small price to pay on ensuring that you can have cleaner streets. And I hear that more than anything. I hear cleanliness of our streets is at the top of the list with the public safety of our streets.

And so we know it's going to be a conversation with the local community boards, civic groups, block associations. But this is a transformation that is ready in this city of how do we clean our streets. And you know, as the councilman stated, Upper Manhattan who has dealt with rodent problems for years, those garbage bins we have by the schools and on the streets area, this is just a real win. You see a noticeable difference when you carry this out.

Question: Good morning, Mayor Adams.

Mayor Adams: How are you?

Question: I'm great. I know it might be hard to quantify, but do you have any data at all on what the containers have done to reduce your least favorite [inaudible].

Mayor Adams: Well, I think that one data that shows it is that of the decrease in rat complaints in the rat mitigation zones, we have a decrease and overall in the city we have a decrease. You know, these bins, rats cannot get in these bins. And you see a decrease in complaints. We're clearly moving in the right direction. 

I think under the leadership of Commissioner Tisch, what the rat czar is doing, really targeted enforcement and being serious about going after these rodents. Later set out times, all of these scientific ways that have proven to deal with the rodent issue we have in the city.

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. So, why charge anything for these bins? It seems like uptake would be better if they were free to start. And instead of possibly having landlords pass the cost on or raising rents on tenants for yet another city requirement.

Mayor Adams: Well, these are abilities under nine units, and so, it's, you know, you [say] not everything has a landlord. And if we bring down the cost substantially below market it is a way not to overburden taxpayers but at the same time is allowing everyday New Yorkers playing their role of keeping the streets clean.

And you have to purchase your garbage pails anyway. And when you start adding up to cost of garbage bags over and over again, you'll see that this is a substantial investment in how do you keep your city clean, how do you keep outside your units clean, and how do you really get these plastic bags that are bad for our landfills, they're bad for our environment, and they're just unsightly in our city.

Anyone who passes by a restaurant, a home, and sees mountains of bags in front of our schools, it is just something that we should not be having as a City of New York. We want to be the cleanest big city in America, and that's what we're moving towards. Thank you. 

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