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The rats are going to hate this announcement — in conjunction with the city’s initiative to remove rodents and refuse from the streets, the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) has launched new, steel-enclosed containerized trash cans on one Hell’s Kitchen block in a test run for further implementation. On Tuesday, residents of W45th Street between 9th and 10th Avenue became the first in the city to put their trash in locked garbage cans instead of on the sidewalk.

Steel containers line W45th Street. Photo: Naty Caez

As reported by Streetsblog NYC, DSNY has expanded its previous commercial-only pilot pickup spots in Times Square, Staten Island and Brooklyn. On Tuesday, workers picked up the first round of newly enclosed garbage and recycling from the locked bins. In addition to DSNY workers, supers and building managers will have access to the bins if needed. Streetsblog reported that in its maiden voyage, the pick-up took twice as long to cover the block. 

But despite the extra time, some Hell’s Kitchen residents were happy to see this latest move in the battle against rampant rat sightings and unsightly piles of loose trash on sidewalks. “It’s the beginning of a new era,” CHEKPEDS founder and Community Board 4 member Christine Berthet told Streetsblog. She has long been fighting the tidal wave of trash, even creating her own gonzo parking space pile to alleviate sidewalk creep (though it was eventually vetoed by the city), and told W42ST: “CHEKPEDS is delighted that after four years of pushing, pulling and working with DSNY and DOT, the sidewalks of West 45th Street between 9th and 10th Avenue are now 100% clear of garbage. The residential clear curb pilot is reclaiming 30 to 75% of sidewalk space. Not only does this pilot test containerization, It also involves social change: for the first time in New York City, multiple buildings and their super must share containers.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Sanitation Commissioner Jessica S. Tisch unveil the city’s first containerized waste bins in Times Square, as part of efforts to clean up city streets, on Wednesday. April 20, 2022. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

The containers, part of the DSNY’s Clean Curbs Pilot Program, could continue to crop up around Hell’s Kitchen after a successful commercial implementation in Times Square this April, where Mayor Eric Adams announced the launch of the trash-reduction initiative. 

“Environmental justice begins at the street level, and it starts now,” said Adams at a press conference announcing the program. “Clean streets are vital to vibrant neighborhoods and to New York City’s economic comeback. We need to stop dodging black garbage bags and instead fund and test container models throughout the city that will make our streets cleaner and more inviting for both New Yorkers and visitors.”

Curbside trash could become a thing of the past in Hell’s Kitchen. Photo: Phil O’Brien

City Council Member Erik Bottcher, who has been vocal in his support of the mayor’s Midtown pilot, has also taken up the fight, allocating $54,100 in this year’s District 3 discretionary funding to the DSNY for extra pickup routes. As a result 311 complaints throughout Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea decreased by 88 percent. 

Bottcher told Gothamist, “Most of the time when we have an overflowing corner basket, it’s a result of illegal dumping when someone takes a bag of their residential trash and puts it into the corner basket. It causes that basket to overflow very quickly.”

Bottcher and fellow council members have also passed the Rat Action Plan, shortening the time that trash sits on the street before pickup, and monitoring rodent mitigation strategies at construction sites as well as the continued implementation of rat-proof trash containers. 

Litter Legion founder Catie Savage told us: “The Clean Curbs residential pilot is a great first step towards modernizing how our waste is stored for collection however it is not a one size fits all solution and we must continue to reduce the amount of waste we produce.”

But even when they’re barred from the Big Apple’s most popular buffet, will the rats really run away? The jury’s still out, though DSNY spokesperson Vincent Gragnani told Streetsblog: “We look forward to reviewing data from the various containerization initiatives once complete.” CITIBIN, who manufactures the containers, say they are open to adjusting the build based on DSNY feedback to make it a smoother, faster pickup.

There were no rats to be seen near W45th’s shiny new trash containers. Photo: Naty Caez

Back in Hell’s Kitchen, W42ST reporters stopped by to survey the situation — and at least for now, found a rat-free block.

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5 Comments

  1. Verrrrrrry interesting! I like the experiment, but I have to wonder… are these bins going to be on the streets and taking up parking spaces?

    1. So VI, let’s refrain from generalizations here please, they are inappropriate and accomplish nothing. I’m lib, own a vehicle, and like many others both conservative, liberal, and in between support a nuanced approach to congestion alleviation. Perhaps you may find a look at the initiatives to be illuminating.

  2. Put them in the bike lanes, no one uses them. Seriously those might work with smaller buildings, but the big highrisers they have a lot of garbage, they would need a lot of those containers, no way they would take up the entire block!

  3. Excited to see this happen! Glad public streets are being used in a more diversified way than just for storing cars.

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