The mayor must not cut the City’s sanitation budget while our streets are getting more dirty and more rat-infested, Brooklyn politicians say.

On Thursday, dozens of advocates and politicians rallied at Brooklyn Borough Hall to call for the restoration and expansion of the City’s Sanitation budget for the 2023 fiscal year.

The rally came after Mayor Eric Adams’ revealed his preliminary budget last month, which cuts the NYC Department of Sanitation’s (DSNY) FY2023 budget by $47.8 million.

Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council Media Unit

“Our City is facing a sanitation crisis,” Councilmember and Sanitation Committee Chair Sandy Nurse said.

“Increasingly dirty streets and an exploding rat population have led to lower quality of life for residents across all neighborhoods.”

Pols fight for composting

Nurse, the founder of BK Rot, represents District 37 which includes much of Bushwick and Cypress Hills. She said the Mayor’s proposal to cut organic waste collection was especially concerning.

Organic waste makes up one-third of New York City’s waste stream and contributes to the millions of dollars DSNY spends annually on waste export costs, as well as contributing to climate change when burned.

New York City Comptroller Brad Lander said the city spends more than $100 million per year sending organic waste to landfills unnecessarily.

NYC Comptroller Brad Lander. Photo: Sandy Nurse / Twitter

Plus, when organic waste is put in trash bags, it attracts rat. This is contributing to New York City’s rat problem, which has only exploded during the pandemic causing an outcry in neighborhoods across the city, the leaders said.

In 2021, the city’s 311 line received more than 21,000 calls about rat sightings, compared with 15,000 in the same period in 2019. 

“There isn’t an issue that unites New Yorkers more than trash,” Lander said at the rally Thursday.

Affecting quality of life

The way that waste is collected and disposed of in New York City was not just a sanitation issue, but also an environmental justice issue, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso said.

He said, instead of cutting the budget, the City should be engineering innovative ways to handle waste, suggesting a citywide mandatory residential compost program.

Councilmember Alexa Avilés, whose district includes Red Hook and Sunset Park, said the sanitation crisis was most evident in the City’s public housing developments.

“From rodent infestations, to garbage fires, any public housing resident will tell you that cutting the sanitation budget will lead to more sickness and death, and that’s not something this City can stomach after a long and hard pandemic.”

CM Chi Ossé. Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council Media Unit

The budget featured cuts at nearly all municipal agencies, and is set to save city taxpayers some $2 billion over the next year, Jacques Jiha, Adams’ budget chief, said Wednesday in a Council budget hearing.

The budget is focused on “fiscal responsibility” in recovering from the pandemic, Jiha said.

Wednesday’s hearing marked the first step in the budget negotiation process between the Council and Adams’ team.

More hearings are expected in the coming months before the Council must pass a final version of the budget ahead of the July 1 start of the 2023 fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the City Council Sanitation Committee met Friday to further discuss the potential budget cuts.

Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

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  1. This is a fight worthy of attention. The streets are absolutely filthy, and the rats are out of control looking reminiscent of the 1970’s and 80’s!

    1. Thanks for your comment, and you’re so right about the reductions in scheduling. Let’s see if the opposition to the Sanitation budget cuts makes a difference in the final budget!

  2. Also the reductions and interruptions in the street sweeping schedule exacerbates the problem.

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