Trash piles up amid New York's pandemic budget crunch

The sight of trash cans so full that nothing else will fit is becoming all too common on the streets of New York. If it feels like there's more trash on streets and sidewalks in recent weeks, you're not wrong.

The biggest reason? The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic resulted in a $25 million cut from the Sanitation Department's budget in July. That meant a 60% reduction in pickups of public trash baskets. So if the baskets were being emptied every day pre-pandemic, now that may happen only three times a week.

"This is a point in time where the Sanitation Department doesn’t have the resources that it once did," Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said. "So we are trying to leverage whatever we can to make sure we are keeping the city as clean as we can. 

Garcia is appealing for more funding but also asking all New Yorkers to do our part. 

"We have to all remember that it is our responsibility not to litter," Garcia said, "and businesses and residents are actually responsible for the first 18 inches into the street."

Community groups are also taking matters into their own hands. The 125th Street Business Improvement District in Harlem holds a weekly cleanup effort they began in early August.

But to anyone who says things have gotten so bad that the city can't rebound, the sanitation commissioner had one thing to say.

"I know that it’s a really bad time right now, but I've been a New Yorker all of my life and we will get past this and we will do it together," Garcia said.

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