Storm Clean-Up Will Slow Trash Pick-Up For a Week

New Yorkers will have to wait another week for normal garbage service to resume, but all neighborhoods will get at least one trash pick-up by Friday, the city's sanitation commissioner said today.

Recycling pick-ups will not start until next week or this weekend at the earliest, City Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty said Monday.

Roughly 50,000 tons of garbage have been sitting around the city since the blizzard dumped 20 or more inches on the five boroughs last week and froze pick-ups. 

On Monday, 1,100 garbage trucks were assigned to collect trash, a number slightly higher than the average fleet. Workers were expected to work 10-hour shifts, but Doherty said progress may be slow.

"There are slippery conditions," he said Monday. "They have to watch themselves, and sometimes they have to walk a little further to get that bag of garbage. So that slows them down.  They're not as productive as they normally are."

The commissioner also shot down claims that members of the department deliberately caused a work slow-down during the blizzard to protest budget cuts. There was a slight uptick in the number of workers who called in sick the morning of Dec. 27, he said, but Doherty attributed the increase to worker fatigue.

"I never got the sense that there was any type of slow-downs," he said. "In fact, many of the men complained to me that they were insulted that people were insinuating they had a slow-down.  They told me, 'We worked hard.  We're dedicated.' It was a tough storm, and maybe people weren't satisfied with some things."

After the blizzard of 1996 hit -- when 20.2 inches of snow fell on the city -- garbage collection was also halted for about one week.  It took the sanitation department weeks to pick up all the excess pile-up. The city did not declare a snow emergency this time, as it had in 1996. 

Doherty also dismissed suggestions the blizzard showed the city needs a larger sanitation workforce.  He said the current staff of 6000 workers was "reasonable," and blamed the glacial pace of the snow clean-up on large numbers of cars blocking snow plow crews.

"People had been out shopping," he said. "We found that cars were abandoned, people were having accidents, and people were just stopping to free ice off their windshield-wipers."

The sanitation department projects that clean-up from this blizzard will cost more than $20 million -- more than half of its snow recovery budget.