This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Docudrama explaining the scale of the work of the Department of Sanitation, including trash collection, alternate side parking, and litter baskets. A father goes to speak with the Sanitation Commissioner to discuss cleaning up an empty lot in his neighborhood after his son gets hit by a truck while playing in the street. In doing so, he learns about the Herald Tribune's Cleanup Contest and WNYC's Block of the Week.
Commissioner of the Department of Sanitation of New York City (Andrew W. Mulrain), Assistant to the editor of the New York Herald Tribune (Luke P. Carroll), and Seymour N. Siegel (director of the Municipal Broadcasting Service) play themselves.
Jack Curtis - Joe Henricks
Ellen McHue - Marie
Bobby Golly - Phil
Jack Tureen - the Sanitation Worker
Arthur Lee - Music and Sound Technician
Virginia Leighton - Production Assistant
Alvin Utkoff - Writer
Alan Carter - Director
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 31949
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
Your study station all presents an important front scrod documentary drama on New York City nineteen fifty this is my block forward. Your city station all presents an important run scrod documentary drama on New York City nineteen. This is my block you're. You know that's a truck Well I think of it no that's why it all started Yeah when I was trying to pin down just when the gun thing all began and I first got hipped on the subject I figure it all started with that truck a big Sable almost two ton of that come rolling down my block and roughed up my lazy bone so much. I see my wife raise given maybe I know what that means I'm lost in up the story like she claims I always do get on with it my wife don't understand you can't save up a story like a sandwich at the automatic meads color background it's me so OK OK Marie here I go then nice and neat and simple right from the beginning. Oh well my wife also says I should be polite and introduce myself which is alright with me as I've got nothing to hide Joe Henricks is my name H. I C H S You know I like the baseball player except when this. I work for the subway system and one of those guys who sits in the station both doling out the change you know just a stationary March of Dimes and OK I promise you that's my last gag for this evening anyway I work a night ship date to four am which means I usually sleep most of the day but this particular day about which I was speaking it was going to be different my wife wakes me up in the middle of the morning and she insists I go up on the roll for a sunbed So I looked at crummy she said she come up that rope with me and was sewing up some holes in my socks Well that's that's a picture that just before this truck comes barreling into it better put some of this on your face Joe I want to just come to an oil I want you to get a burn all it's kind of dragging me out of the bank you've been looking so white and pale I've been worrying about you lately Look I worked nights remember you shouldn't expect me to look like a lifeguard my little son can hurt so I stop worrying and I were still playing with the other kids in front of the house straight how many times I told like it myself going to go be reasonable OK OK I was tied up for once in your life look cranky if you're still tired why don't you take a nap right here that's a good idea but all of this light makes it very high How about a lullaby to put me to sleep I don't the way I mean it. But somebody else. That's think we're crazy back go on my RE silly car go ahead all right. But. Three times. When. The crew. Get the dream picture you're lying on your back in the sands just all in all be like heavy cream over coffee. Somewhere in the back. Anybody. Can explain it but I just. Finally we got started down the road again. But it still seemed like hours to make those four flights or it was right behind me as I came out the front. That's a lot of people around the front of that truck I drive a talk at the top with my wife what a crowd. Place coming. Off my point. To get some information from the accident report the stories all right oh. Mother. Just give All right let's take them up. With this accident report leave her and I know come on pull yourself together honey the cop says he's OK You're OK It's not the first. Hour. So let's get. Makes me want to make a lot of. Time the doctor. Was trying to set up the Doc checked him and said we could take him home which. Brother said my wife make a fuss. Down on the couch I'll take off your shoes and you can. Affix just suffering to Tracy you want you're almost like my boy it's one of the English Channel where my wife kind of. Didn't realize that it was a reaction from nervous. Take the dishes away. How about some lemonade say oh. OK I guess Look I don't see why a pap on the camera you act is always a hero instead of a crazy kiddo played touch tag with a truck that's dead. And I was kind of a corny excuse is that maybe there's been a few lines here in the streets and that's just what. Joe The least you could do is be thankful I am your bankroll but I'd be even more thankful if I had a son who had enough brains to play in a playground instead of where car is a weapon by every minute the playground any blocks away the same age the crowd OK then what about that empty lot on this block Why can't your kids play there. What says high stuff right. Not so if you're getting frightened I'm going to lessen mean anything you have to take a look at that lot on the floor of cos I go buy it on the way to why yes at night when you can see the things like that like a broken glass in the tin cans and God Now wait a minute it's not that oh no Probably if you work nights sleep during the day and even know the score well you need belief so flipped on a banana peel you probably think our streets are too clean for that sort of thing OK OK None of this OK OK you don't believe what I'm saying Go on take a look look thought don't tell anybody but this just happens to be my day off you don't expect me to go down you know write up a big talk I don't expect you to do anything I just expect you to shoot your mouth all right all right it'll make you any happier Ross take a look at those slots and I'll take a look at this anything to make my wife happy. Or are all or whatever I was my my day off mind you and I go out into the hot sun on the streets of the vacant lot of my life. And I sure it's no surprise to you or what I say it didn't take me long to see that the great sidewalks were pretty bad shape your only surprise might be how come I didn't notice it before well like I said I'm a night worker in the city looks cold and clean like I am but now in the bright light of that day I could see the old newspapers the dirty rags the oil slick the Apple cause a cigarette butts I saw wood and it was just then I realized how crummy and down at the heels my block looked and when I come to life I knew right away to be impossible for anybody to play except maybe a bug up next I walked out through the mounds and mounds of junk I was it was hard to tell it was almost impossible to classify but. Not to smell of course there was a lot of garbage stinking in the sun and broken glass and rusted pieces of mine wrecked baby carriages old newspapers it all sort of made me mad but I walked through the stuff taking out. A spraycan and those papers I was too but I left papers lying around that a lot of the Presidential I daily knows. I thought a splitter a baseball Bill Perry model which gives you an idea all along and most about line and lots of broken crates rotten from I Love right everybody on our block at us this place for a garbage dump I'm found some old in a Toby's and the insides of an old P.L.O.. And Jagged Edge bottles hold bottles and all cans in a supermarket patronized by working wives my empty cans and I kind of went crazy kicking away at them till I can't walk a chance came. And I decided I'd seen. I was mad. At the same time I was crushed I never realized things where this bad. I started walking home the memory of what Philip said Japp me just just just one way. What was I supposed to do about thirty straight some lots piled high with filth and litter mores words when I was back numb I see that they popped up at me like cock strong I want to know Mr Big talk I don't expect you to do anything I just expect you to shoot your mouth off while the whites of my sweet wife bless her went yeah yeah my head who do I see walking down the street but a sanitation man oh he was my chance I figured for a firsthand look see and situation maybe was a little nosy at me but after all I am a taxpayer. I walked over to him. I say. Hello what's up would you mind answering a few questions I've got I was going to the store it's too hot what's the address you're looking for I don't want directions I live around here this. Is my block I would be proud of it no I'm not that's what I want to talk to you. Tell me but that that line over there just. Why is it so dainty you're asking me I'm asking you a lot how come it's off Elfie Well there's a lot of ways I can add so that. Excuse a joke you always say. Well we put pressure on the owners to do a cleanup job but more often than not these lot tax lien property is the owners have fallen behind in their tax payments and thrown in the towel don't want anything to do with the property anymore many of these vacant lots in the city don't quote me I'm no walking encyclopedia minor but I'm taller about well over one hundred eighty eight thousand vacant lots in the five boroughs and most of them could be cleaned up to make some sort of playground a small park well why isn't it done I'll tell you because it's nobody's job the sanitation department can't do anything about it except send a team in once in a while to clean the mess up but if those lights are be really used for something worthwhile it's up to the people of the neighborhood to do something about it well look like I kept disagree with you Mike but you guys still come off so good you know I think the straight this one here look how filthy it was Paul is that I was a point to blame and anybody I know I work every guy in a department does an honest job I suppose I could point out how the cars are lined up along the curb bumper to bumper so I can't get out and I but I don't have to talk or I can just stand here on the corner and show you what's really the matter and I looked to see that boy walking along the sidewalk was this one the getting the candy but now watching just crumpling up the wrapper there's a trash basket right here but watch watch what he does with the rap. I don't. See what you mean like some comedian used to say got a million a look at this is a woman coming down the street Nice work if you like for a minute not me of course but it seems to me that you were saying yeah. That's a lot of my mail question already get to work for lunch so she reads it on the run the envelope of. The envelope the sidewalk. And look at the. Big wheels doesn't me what I said that's right but your success a lot of the community probably nice to give to charities every election very conscientious about it so they. Watch you trying to get a cat. Like it's got one and Iraq takes a few drags on a cigar. Twenty four hours. Talking Why can't you do anything about it. I don't mean. I got a good mind to. Go down to the the. Well it wasn't City Hall I went to exactly. Not very much that's where the problem is that it takes and has offices. I was directed to a receptionist secretary and before I know what I was sitting in front of a big earnest looking man looked like sort of a guy who maybe went his way up the ranks like they say it's lame small rain sanitation commish that adult W A moderate and although I knew it was very. Very pleased I had the effort to come to see him I'm glad you've taken the trouble to come up to him at the Hendricks What can I do for you Well Commissioner this is think kind of a funny day but I guess there's no point in me describing just why I suddenly got interested in this whole Don problem of keeping the city clean but well I wish you'd give me a quick fill in just how you want apartment panels a problem I'll try to but you must understand it's a bit hard to be brief about a problem that is so complicated in the first place suppose I gave you an idea of the size of the job the New York City sanitation the PA man has to do in effect we are the municipal housekeepers to eight million New Yorkers and two and a half million others who commute into our visit the city daily each year we pick up four and I have million tons of refuse for a half million to give you a better idea that would cram every inch of space in the Empire State Building fifteen times all filled the Yankee Stadium nearly a mile high not to do this job we have all the twelve thousand Department of Sanitation employees organized into an army that is constantly come batting the how to manage that on attended gone by Gen refuse represents I could give used to test takes planning out them and they are available to every citizen. What I'd like to do now is describe a few of the ways we're making an extra effort these days to meet the problem well I wish you would commissioner that's why I came down here for well first of all we're really going to town on this popping up cause problem that's been one of our biggest bottlenecks to a fish and street cleaning Yeah I've heard about these talk of restrictions on the lower east side parking on the other side of the street just one side but how does that help you see Mr Hendrix the old time Street kind of a single fellow with his broom is on the way out there will always be some need for him but more and more the department is being mechanized and the work is being done by mechanical broom equipment if these mechanical brooms are on handed by parked cars they can cover from our current miles than the old time hand sweeper and do a much better job I can see what a set of station Department man I talked to complained about those Yeah it's a devil of a job to get all the refuse out when a car has been parked in the same spot for days and many of them are frankly I think there's parking on one side of the street and elevation is the most helpful idea in my thirty years with at the Palm and mainly because to repeat it allows us to use the mechanical equipment which can do the job that I imagine that you always experimenting with new equipment to I'll say we are we have an engineering the palm of that is constantly testing new machines and adapting them to the city it's quite a problem you know each sector of the city requires a different approach. A semi rural residential area for example where leaf drop edges a fact that is considerably different in its refuse pickup problem from a busy River Market area or a crowded tenement section we adopt our operations the best we can notice little baskets everywhere I go he says yes we've undertaken a saturation campaign of placing all the twenty one thousand little baskets throughout the city we want to have a little baskets at frequent intervals along every main traveled street and they have a new so they should be absolutely no need for anyone to toss papers all that onto the streets and that's the core of the problem Mr Hendrix public cooperation and that's all there is taught now I understand that you're particularly consigned to the cleanup of the lots so that some of them can be much needed playgrounds and recreational areas right there is a good example of how public cooperation when combined with our sanitation the palm and can do a fine job we are getting this cooperation from many people and organizations to settlement houses real estate groups women's clubs newspapers as a matter of fact one of the newspapers in this city the Herald Tribune own is sponsoring a contest awarding prizes to the P.G.A. clubs who do the best job of cleaning up vacant lots on their bottle yeah. Kids on my block could be interesting I'll tell you what I'll do I'll set up an appointment for you. System to the editor of The Tribune since you're so interested in cleaning up the empty lots and your neighbor he's a man for you to talk to then he's the man I'll see. Commissioner. And I was sitting across the desk from Luke Carroll assistant to the editor. Here's what he told me. About encouraging the clean up of vacant lots just like the one like Mr Hendricks. Told me on your way while you were coming I know he gave you enough figures to make. You say I've talked to him about this many times in the past as a matter of fact the nation of Iran is a member of the panel of names affect the way to clean up compensation which is now under way the reasons behind this contest the sample to be. A part of a community and as such has an obligation over and above carrying news reports it must take the lead in supporting and sometimes inaugurating worthwhile campaigns that are designed to benefit the entire city and make it a better place for all of us to live we've looked into this cleanup problem and we found that the sanitation is doing a pretty good job but the people who are not doing such a good and we hear it there and you too I suppose Mr Hendricks we think that now you really want to do a good job and everything so we printed some stories about dirty streets and lots and then to create even more interest in the civic problem because that's what it is we decided to offer one thousand dollars to the two groups that could be most helpful we are giving five hundred dollars to reward those members of the sanitation department who do the best job day in and day out the second group of prizes to be distributed by the hero to be another five hundred dollars that makes one thousand dollars total will go to. A place that's logically. One of the best ways to get benefits. Given to the best. Such as. General St. To be. Doing it. It's to get folks. Into the. Box up like some good publicity and I've heard that the city station. Been spearheading the. Cleanup of the city Dr. Pretty good. There I spoke to Seymour. Director. What is all this I've been reading in the papers about. Blocking a week. Block of. Blocks in New York. Maintaining clean streets. I mean how does it work well around the money people realize the sanitation the. Cleanup. These people are determined to help and we have reports of money settlement house. Clubs stimuli. Put together and cleaning up vacant lot on the blogs and making the neighborhood clean to live in to look out. We want to pay tribute to the people. In adults and that's why every side the morning at ten thirty we're going to honor the one block among the five. By shown the American tradition of working together to clean up a life and that much to hundreds is the story of the block of the week. But you know something good came out of it I left the municipal. Subway Station. The sanitation. Job. What was also clear was a problem just like every other problem you could think of was in the hands of the people. A little thing I'm not saying. But I feel this way if we can't pitch together on a simple cleanup. Can we expect to pull together on a bigger problem. BLOCK project it's a way to start it's just everybody. Everybody. Blocky lives. On a clean place to live. You'll be surprised how we'll all feel better you know the way I see it it's a matter of pride I want to be able to meet somebody on the street and say hang in my head this is my block Look here. Look around you this is where I live. This is my blood. You have just heard this is my blog participating in this evening's transcribed drama documentary Andrew W. mole reign commissioner of the Department of Sanitation of New York City look big Carol assistant to the editor of The New York Herald Tribune and Seymour and SIEGEL director of the municipal broadcasting system are cast included Jack Curtis Joe Henricks Ellen McHugh as Marie Bobby Gali as Phil and Jack tureen as the sanitation worker Arthur Levy was sound and music technician and the production assistant was Virginia Layton this is my block was written by Alvin you'd cough and directed by Alan Carter Doonan a Saturday morning at ten thirty. Block of the week when your city station in the first of an important series honors the inhabitants of the block which was shown the most improvement in the city's current self-help clean up campaign that Saturday morning at ten thirty four New York's block of the week your announcer is deemed to be this is the municipal Broadcasting System.