City Council Candidate Proposes Ways to Stem Rising Tide of Refuse Engulfing Downtown
Before the health crisis, Lower Manhattan experienced chronic problems with trash accumulating on local curbs, as seen here on Cliff Street, in the Financial District.
With more than 60,000 residents crammed into one square mile, Lower Manhattan has an endless supply of one commodity: garbage, which accumulates by the hundreds of tons every 24 hours. Add to this mix thousands of new apartments planned for the neighborhood in coming years (many of them in “super-tall” high rises), narrow streets laid out in the 1600s, and an ever-more constricted gridlock that limits the ability of trucks to collect trash. The result could be a community that is subsumed in its own debris.
City Council candidate Christopher Marte is proposing five policy initiatives that would have a local impact in Lower Manhattan, but could also be applied City-wide. “New York City’s current waste management is a crisis of mega proportions,” he says, “affecting the budget, labor standards, pollution, and environmental racism.”
“The challenges to waste management are greater than ever due to COVID-19,” Mr. Marte adds. “For instance, the fiscal year 2021 budget has cut over $100 million from the Department of Sanitation, and thus decimated waste reduction and recycling efforts across the City. But New Yorkers have reason to hope, because there are other big cities that have led the way. Seattle and San Francisco have triple the recycling rate of New York while, on an individual level, New Yorkersʼ residential recycling rate stands at 18 percent and commercial at 24 percent. However, if the Cityʼs waste was properly sorted and recycled, 68 percent of residential and 75 percent of commercial trash would be diverted from landfills and incinerators.”
The first step he advocates is to, “legislate private entities in District 1 to adopt new programs that will prioritize sustainability over waste.” Mr. Marte argues that, “the City needs to shift from incentivizing individualsʼ habits to punishing corporations who profit from pollution.”
“Businesses and restaurants must be financially incentivized to reduce, recycle, and compost their waste,” he says. “And private waste hauling companies should be mandated to implement a multi-tiered pricing model, in which trash pickup is set at a high price, while recycling and compost pickup is priced significantly lower. This will motivate storefronts to separate recyclables and compostables from landfill-bound garbage, as well as reduce their waste output overall. These pricing models are the norm in cities such as Seattle for residents and businesses alike, and would be essential in beginning to establish a new standard for recycling and composting in New York City.”
The second initiative Mr. Marte proposes is to partner with local organizations, such as GrowNYC and the Lower East Side Ecology Center, to support community composting efforts. (There is also a neighborhood-level composting program underway in Battery Park City, where more than 1,500 pounds of dogs waste, and more than 20,000 pounds of food waste have been diverted from landfills since April, 2019.)
“If the City is to address the waste problems effectively it must, at the very minimum, be able to live up to the promises it made residents,” Mr. Marte says. “Mayor de Blasio has broken his promise to create a mandatory City-wide composting system, and more recently suspended the curbside compost pickup program. I believe it is paramount that we bring back funding for curbside pickup and make its services known to all residents of District 1.”
City Council candidate Christopher Marte (shown here, second from left, during a volunteer street clean-up event in the Financial District) is proposing a series of initiatives to combat Downtown’s swelling tonnage of trash production.
His third proposal is to reverse the City’s policy decision that exempts public housing from the Zero-Waste by 2030 Plan. “Our district is home to eight New York City Housing Authority [NYCHA] complexes,” he says, “and as we continue to fight to fully fund NYCHA, I will use discretionary funds to begin to tackle the waste issues that affect the daily lives of residents.”
“NYCHAʼs involvement in waste and recycling efforts can also be increased through the expansion of in-sink food waste disposals, which divert food waste from landfill-bound trash,” he says. “And we need to expand the types of materials recycled at NYCHA sites, separating packing materials such as cardboard boxes from bulk-waste items such as furniture.”
Fourth, Mr. Marte wants to strengthen existing commercial and construction waste initiatives, while also developing new ones. “Every New Yorker is familiar with the scourge of garbage bags on our public sidewalks,” he says, pushing for City-wide adoption of the Clean Curbs pilot program, which gives commercial spaces the opportunity to receive on-street containers for trash and recycling storage. “This will remove unsightly garbage bags from piling up on our sidewalks,” he says. “Additionally, in a district with almost constant construction, we must require that bulky construction materials, which are a massive waste stream, are broken down and recycled.”
Finally, he wants to, “change the priorities of private waste haulers,” which are currently paid for the amount of waste they collect—with the result that more waste means more revenue. “This scheme is not working for District 1, or the people of New York,” Mr. Marte says. “Waste haulers should be incentivized to reduce the tons they dispose of.” He wants to implement a plan to penalize haulers that do not meet waste-reduction targets, while rewarding those who exceed meet or exceed such benchmarks.
“Trucks from private waste-hauling companies travel 23 million miles per year picking up trash throughout the City,” he says, “often in uncoordinated and overlapping routes. This contributes to traffic clogs, burning 3.5 million gallons of diesel fuel, and polluting the air in our neighborhoods. The next City Council and Mayor should continue the implementation of the landmark Commercial Waste Zones bill, which limits the number of private hauling companies to service each zone, potentially reducing total miles traveled by 49 to 68 percent. This creates a safer, more fuel-efficient waste collection system in line with the Cityʼs Green New Deal goals.”
“The world is dealing with a climate crisis that poses an existential threat to life as weʼve known it,” he concludes, “and New York is at the center of this crisis. The City needs to realize that it canʼt afford to ignore the problem any longer, nor can it simply export our problem to our neighbors. We need solutions that will allow for a future of waste responsibility.”
Separately, a 2019 study by the Downtown Alliance found that there is considerable room for improvement in waste management practices among Lower Manhattan residential buildings: Fewer than 20 percent of Downtown properties have enrolled in one or more of the voluntary waste-diversion services (for specialized categories of trash such as compostable organics, clothing, and electronic waste) provided free of charge by City’s Department of Sanitation (DSNY).
Even where participation is mandatory, as is the case with recycling, most residential buildings take a low-tech approach, simply piling up this category of waste on sidewalks on the mandated days of the week. For example, the Alliance report notes that in an apartment building with 500 dwellings, a typical yield of recyclables (52 bags and hand-tied bundles containing items such as glass, plastics, and cans) takes up 130 square feet of sidewalk space. But the same amount of material can be compressed into just 16 square feet using inexpensive mechanical baling equipment.
Similar equipment can also be used to crush and store the non-recyclable waste that comprises the vast majority of a building’s trash output, and such facilities can be shared between multiple buildings. This is the case in Battery Park City, where four shared compactors handle the combined garbage produced by more than two dozen residential buildings. In a program managed by the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA), staff from each of these buildings bring trash to one of the compactors, where is it crushed and stored temporarily, to await pickup by DSNY trucks later that day. In the aggregate, this amounts to several hundred tons of trash each month that is never deposited on local streets. Another effect is that fewer garbage trucks are needed to service the community, and those that are deployed to Battery Park City spend less time on its streets.
No similar program exists in the other communities of Lower Manhattan, such as the Financial District. The Alliance report notes that, “while this is an attractive solution that could dramatically reduce the number of trucks on our streets, it is challenging to implement. Individual properties would have to work together to identify a suitable location and determine how to equitably share the costs (both upfront and ongoing) of this solution. Additionally, a building would need sufficient loading dock space to house the compactor and allow for a DSNY collection vehicle to enter and pick up the compacted waste.”
The Alliance has hands-on experience in keeping the community clean: for nearly 25 years, the group has been picking up litter, removing graffiti and shoveling snow in public areas across Lower Manhattan. Every 12 months, the Alliance bags nearly 1,500 tons of public trash and collects 250 tons of public recyclables.
The Tale of the Ticker Tape, or How Adversity and SpontaneityHatched a New York Tradition
What was Planned as a Grand Affair became a Comedy of Errors
New York’s first ticker-tape parade erupted spontaneously from bad weather and an over-zealous stockbroker.
While the festivities in New York Harbor didn’t go as scripted that afternoon, the spontaneous gesture it generated from the brokerage houses lining Broadway famously lives on more than a century later.
On October 28, 1886, Liberty Enlightening the World was to be unveiled to New York City and the world as it stood atop its tall base on Bedloe’s Island. But the morning mist had turned to afternoon fog, blurring the view of the statue from revelers on the Manhattan shore and the long parade of three hundred ships on the Hudson River.
What was planned as a grand affair-with President Grover Cleveland as the main speaker-became a comedy of errors. The fog prevented efficient communication between the dignitaries on the island and the ships awaiting orders to fire their salutes and blast their horns at the given signal.
Even the dramatic unveiling moment itself went awry. Frederic Bartholdi, perched high up on his sculpture, waited for the signal to pull the rope that would release the huge canvas that had covered Lady Liberty’s face for the past week. It came too early, prematurely touching off a noise-filled celebration that abruptly ended Mayor William Grace’s speech.
Undeterred, the celebration on Manhattan continued as the huge crowd-estimated at three hundred thousand-paraded up Broadway, passing brokerage houses along the way.
By the 1860s, ticker-tape machines had replaced human “runners.”
Brokers had traditionally received stock updates by “runners”-men who delivered news by word of mouth. But after the Civil War, these runners had been replaced by telegraph lines, which instantly transmitted updates to stock tickers. These machines printed out the names of the companies-abbreviated to a few initials-followed by trading prices and volume information. “Ticker” referred to the sound the machines made as they transferred the electronic information onto lengthy strips of inch-wide paper.
Why the first broker chose to toss some long ribbons of ticker tape out his window above the thousands walking below is anyone’s guess, but in that moment-as other brokers followed his lead and streams of paper floated down over the crowds-New York’s unique ticker-tape parade was born.
Had that spontaneous parade stayed along the river or marched up another avenue, or had stockbrokers been conducting their business in a different neighborhood, New Yorkers today would likely be tossing flowers or waving handkerchiefs at their heroes.
Since 1886, New York’s ticker-tape parades have overwhelmingly paid tribute to world leaders or military veterans, or have celebrated important achievements in exploration, aviation, or science. One hundred and sixty parades have recognized men exclusively, while twelve have specifically honored women.
While that first one acclaimed Lady Liberty, it would be forty years before a real-life flesh-and-blood woman was singled out for her achievements. In 1926, New York City’s own Gertrude Ederle was celebrated as the first woman to swim the English Channel.
Only nine sports teams were honored in the nearly two hundred parades held between 1886 and 1991. It speaks volumes about whom our heroes are today that ten of the last eleven parades have paid tribute to the achievements of athletes.
TODAY IN HISTORY
1956 – Elvis Presley receives a polio vaccination on national TV.
312 – Constantine I defeats Maxentius, becoming the sole Roman emperor in the West.
969 – The Byzantine Empire recovers Antioch from Arab rule.
1492 – Christopher Columbus lands in Cuba on his first voyage to the New World.
1726 – The novel Gulliver’s Travels is published.
1864 – American Civil War: A Union attack on the Confederate capital is repulsed.
1886 – President Cleveland dedicates the Statue of Liberty.
1893 – Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Pathétique receives its première performance only nine days before the composer’s death.
1922 – Italian fascists led by Benito Mussolini march on Rome and take over the Italian government.
1942 – The Alaska Highway first connects Alaska to the North American railway network at Dawson Creek in Canada.
1956 – Elvis Presley receives a polio vaccination on national TV.
1962 – Cuban Missile Crisis: Premier Nikita Khrushchev orders the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba.
1017 – Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor (d. 1056)
1793 – Eliphalet Remington, American businessman, founded Remington Arms (d. 1861)
1794 – Robert Liston, Scottish surgeon (d. 1847)
1903 – Evelyn Waugh, English journalist, author, and critic (d. 1966)
1909 – Francis Bacon, Irish painter and illustrator (d. 1992)
1914 – Jonas Salk, American biologist and physician (d. 1995)
312 – Maxentius, Roman emperor (b. 278)
1646 – William Dobson, English painter (b. 1610)
1818 – Abigail Adams, second First Lady of the United States (b. 1744)
1929 – Bernhard von Bülow, German soldier and politician, Chancellor of Germany (b. 1849)
Credits include wikipedia and other internet sources
Howard Hughes Corporation Proposes Scaled-Back Towers for Seaport Site, Along with Package of Amenities
The Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC) has unveiled its plans for 250 Water Street (a 1.1-acre parking lot in the Seaport District), including high-rise towers, more than 100 units of affordable housing, and a plan to build a new headquarters for the South Street Seaport Museum. This announcement has inspired both enthusiastic support and fierce criticism.
The full-block site, bounded by Beekman, Pearl, and Water Streets, as well as Peck Slip, has been the focus of debate and speculation ever since HHC purchased it from the Milstein family of real estate developers, for $180 million in 2018. Planning for the parcel was complicated the following year, when HHC disclosed after purchasing the site that environmental tests indicated contamination with mercury, lead, and other toxins—remnants from its historical use as the location for a thermometer factory in the 1800s. This led to the parcel becoming part of the State’s Brownfield Cleanup Program. The cleanup’s primary investigation phase wrapped up in early September.
I was sad to read in the Broadsheet that Pier A closed down. I hope the New York City government will help the owners of the restaurants reopen as soon as possible.
I believe I had the last large event at Pier A before it had to close because of COVID-19. On March 7, I had my Bar Mitzvah ceremony and dinner reception and party there. It is a beautiful setting, with views of the Statue of Liberty. The staff was very friendly and organized. Everyone told me that Pier A made my day even more special.
Unlike most restaurant closings, this one is a matter for the public and for the city government. Pier A was built in the 1800s for the officials who ran the docks until developers worked with the city to convert the historic building into a restaurant complex. As you reported, COVID-19 meant that the restaurant owners could not afford the rent or to keep the great staff employed.
When COVID-19 is finally over, I hope the city will do everything it can to help them open again, including making the rent lower. It would be terrible if Pier A were vacant again for decades.
To the editor:
There are thousands of homeless living on the streets of this city. Some of the encampments they have created for themselves on our sidewalks are extensive. Cold weather is approaching, they need safe places to stay but no neighborhoods welcome them. Certainly giving them shelter in a mainly business district is preferable to housing in a residential area among children.
Wagner Park, with its amazing gardens and views of the Hudson River and New York Bay, is the perfect setting to practice your art. Participants are expected to bring their own drawing and painting supplies, including drawing boards and containers of water if they are planning to paint. BPCA will supply drawing paper and watercolor paper only. Program is first come, first served for up to 20 participants. Masks and contact information required upon arrival. Art-making is self-guided. Participants must remain 6 ft apart for the duration of the program. All programs will be held in accordance with New York State reopening guidance. Free
A weekly bagpipe tribute honors those who died on 9/11 as well as those who are sick or who have died from exposure to hazards and toxins in the aftermath of 9/11. Bagpipers play near the 9/11 Memorial Glade. Free
Urban historians A.K. Sandoval-Strausz and Andrew Dolkart examine two lesser-studied types of tall buildings by use: hotels and lofts. Drawing on their detailed studies of these distinctive development types – Sandoval-Strausz in his book Hotel: An American History, and Dolkart in his study of skyscraper lofts in New York’s Garment District – their talks will analyze the design and function of these characteristically urban commercial high-rises and how they relate to the social and economic construction of the industries and populations they accommodate. Free
For more than 500 years, the Chinese Empire was ruled from behind the deep crimson walls of Beijing’s Forbidden City, which was the home of the Emperor and his imperial court. The design of this city-within-a-city reflects China’s philosophical and religious traditions, as well as deep beliefs about man and nature. This year marks the 600th anniversary of its completion in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty. Join us on October 28 for a discussion of the meaning behind its architecture, and its impact on Chinese architecture today. This event is part of Archtober, the AIA Center for Architecture’s tenth-annual festival of architecture activities, programs and exhibitions taking place during the month of October. Free
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
While hundreds of Lower Manhattan restaurants have shuttered as a result of the pandemic coronavirus (and dozens of these have announced that they will never reopen), one operator has gamely chosen to open his doors for the first time, instead. Last week, City Winery debuted its new flagship location, on Pier 57, within the Hudson River Park (near the intersection of West 15th Street and the waterfront). To read more…
A Guide for the Perplexed
A Veteran Poll Worker and Community Leader Reflects on a Moment When the Franchise Is More Confounding Than Usual
Longtime Battery Park City resident Bob Schneck has always looked for ways to serve—whether as a member of Community Board 1, or a poll worker or an activist for more than a decade. To read more…
Contract One, Station One
The Jewel in
Just below the surface of City Hall Park sits one of New York’s architectural gems. Built during the City Beautiful movement, its design sought to uplift the spirits of New Yorkers on their daily commute.
City Hall Loop station—Contract One, Station One—was the flagship of New York’s first subway and the focus of the international press on October 27, 1904, when Mayor George McClellan connected the Tiffany-designed motorman’s handle to propel the first train north to its endpoint on 145th Street and Broadway.
The design of the other twenty-seven stations it stopped at that afternoon was dictated by the practical needs of subway efficiency—the architect’s only role was to choose the tile work that would cover the structural columns and walls. But the station below City Hall Park is different. Here, design and structure are one in the same.
Architects Heins and LaFarge were building the great Episcopal cathedral of St. John the Divine up on 112th Street when they got the subway gig, and they tapped into their best artisans to help design the unique station eight miles south.
Rafael Guastavino arrived in the United States from his native Spain in 1883 with a new way of building arches and vaults—glued-together layers of thin tiles instead of heavy granite blocks.
Guastavino arches and vaults are not only works of art (think Grand Central Terminal’s Oyster Bar), they are self-supporting. There are no columns in the City Hall station because the visually stunning arches also carry the heavy loads. There was no need to decorate a structure because here, the structure is the decoration.
Its unique platform is a tight curve—a necessity because the turnaround track had to complete its loop without hitting the foundations of City Hall to the north and the huge courthouse that sat at the south end of today’s park.
City Hall Loop is all about the arch, from the curved track and platform to Guastavino’s trademark herringbone-pattern vaults that cover the upper control room, where tickets—never tokens—were purchased from an ornate oak booth. Brass chandeliers combined with leaded-glass skylights, still visible along the cobblestone street that passes in front of City Hall, to light the underground space.
And while sitting on an oak bench waiting for the train, you could view decorative plaques designed by Gutzon Borglum—who not only contributed more than seventy sculptures to the cathedral uptown but would soon move on to carve those four faces on Mount Rushmore.
But all things change, and while this station was the place to be on opening day in 1904, it ultimately proved to be a little-used, inconvenient, out-of-the-way, single-track station, and on December 31, 1945, it was closed for good.
You can visit the station today through tours led by the New York Transit Museum, or catch a glimpse of it by boarding the southbound 6 train at the Brooklyn Bridge–City Hall station as it travels the same loop it has for well over a hundred years to begin its northbound journey.
City Hall subway station, was designed to be the showpiece of the new subway system with its elegant platform and mezzanine featured Guastavino tile, skylights, colored glass tilework and brass chandeliers.
CB1 Takes Aim at Illegal Parking and Seizure of Public Space by Government Employees
In a pair of resolutions enacted at its September meeting, Community Board 1 is voicing frustration at the rampant local abuse of parking privileges by government officials, especially police officers.
In the first measure, CB1 notes that there are more than 125,000 placards (credentials displayed in a windshield, identifying the vehicle as belonging to a City employee) in circulation, which public officials use not only for official business, but “for commutation or personal outings.”
These are precious days for monarch butterflies embarking on three-thousand-mile-trips in their annual migration to Mexico—and for humans privileged to see them. With Lower Manhattan on the monarch flyway, the gardeners of the Battery Park City Authority, Liberty Community Gardens, Hudson River Park and the Battery Conservancy have planted milkweed in recent years, an offering to these delicate yet amazingly hardy creatures, who rely on this plant’s nectar for strength and nourishment.
The Harbor House Restaurant on Pier A has shut down, with no definite plan to reopen. A spokesman for the Battery Park City Authority says that agency, “is working with all relevant parties to determine a path forward.”
This distress (which predates the restaurant-industry woes triggered by the pandemic coronavirus and the economic slowdown that followed) was highlighted in December, 2018. To read more…
A Lament for Local Luncheonettes
Losses and Closures Mount Among Downtown Dining Spots
A new report from State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli documents the impact of the ongoing pandemic coronavirus on the restaurant industry in Lower Manhattan.
In this report, Mr. DiNapoli finds, there were 1,981 operating restaurants and bars before the pandemic began, which places Lower Manhattan behind only the Chelsea/Clinton/Midtown Business District PUMA area, with 2,661 such establishments. (Together, these two areas account for nearly 40 percent of the City’s restaurant jobs.) To read more…