Manhattan Community Board 4 (MCB4) has begun the battle against untoward turds on Hell’s Kitchen sidewalks — calling on Department of Sanitation Commissioner Edward Grayson and City Council Member Erik Bottcher to join them in enforcing Law 1310 (known colloquially as the “pooper scooper” law) and encouraging residents to “curb your dog!”
“Our streets and sidewalks have been overrun with trash, and the dog feces landmines that pedestrians have to navigate are an added element having deleterious effects on our health and well-being,” reads the letter approved unanimously by MCB4 last night. “We request enforcement of New York State Public Health Law 1310, requiring anyone in custody or control of a dog to remove any feces left by his or her dog on any sidewalk, gutter, street or other public area.” The letter goes on to ask Council Member Bottcher and the DSNY to enact a “meaningful public ad campaign” utilizing local artists and advocacy groups to emphasize the importance of community buy-in.
Many locals attested to W42ST the dire conditions. Hell’s Kitchen resident Matt Fox told us: “Dog poop is out of control in the neighborhood! The best I can guess is that *some* dog owners became lazy in the early days of the pandemic. No one was around to share their disapproval when they failed to pick up after their dogs and now it’s just habit. But ewww, come on people!”
“While navigating the minefield, one must also be aware of the equally heinous smear….this generally occurs after a lackluster attempt to half heartedly swipe to pick up the excrement or the remnant of someone previously stepping on the poo mine, and dragging it on,” added Rick Rodriguez.
If you’ve ever wondered how we got into this mess, a quick primer: Post WWII-era NYC saw a steep rise in pet ownership without significant infrastructure to support the increase in furry friends and their unwanted sidewalk surprises. In his 2006 book New York’s Poop Scoop Law: Dogs, the Dirt, and Due Process Michael Brandow writes that for decades, city officials relied on an antiquated setup from the horse and buggy-era where sanitation workers were required to sweep animal feces from city gutters. As waste and the years piled up, municipal leaders tried several failed removal tactics, including installing “doggie toilets” around town (a short-lived phenomenon) and requiring pet owners to direct their pets to the gutters for sanitation workers to pick up later.
But this did little to quell the cries of public health advocates, including Fran Lee, vociferous anti-dog-poop protester and founder of organization Children Before Dogs, an advocacy group dedicated to clearing public spaces of organic waste. Lee argued that the effects of rampant dog poop around town were more than unsightly — the tiny roundworm found in feces, known as toxocara canis, could adversely affect children exposed to it (the most significant side effect being blindness). Lee contended that dogs should be banned from city streets, to which dog owners reacted by flinging insults and actual feces at her during public appearances.
In an effort to halt the literal sh*t-slinging, city officials proposed Law 1310, in which dog owners would be required to remove pet waste from city streets or pay a fine (currently $250). It was passed in 1978. The law not only ushered in a new era of dog ownership and civic responsibility to the city, but also launched the cottage pooper scooper market.
Today’s pooper scooper law has drawn some detractors. The city’s recommendation that “The person may remove the feces and carry them away with him/her for disposal in a toilet or their own trash container or trash bag” rankled quite a few NYC dog owners who felt that it was a little, er, much. Luckily, the city also allows pet owners to dispose of dog waste in DSNY litter baskets, as long as everything is sealed up. Even this solution has come under fire, however, as cuts to the city’s sanitation budget led to overflowing bins and infrequent pickups (Fran Lee would not be pleased). The Adams administration has promised to restore funds and prioritize expanding the citywide street-level containerization, (though they continue to suspend the city’s composting pickup program).
For now, the Community Board hopes to encourage the many Hell’s Kitcheners who acquired dogs throughout the pandemic to pick up their poop from city streets. “This is not just an unsightly problem but a health one, as well. Pet waste carries bacteria and viruses which contribute pollutants to both urban waterways and our air, which, quite frankly, stinks. Knowing Councilmember Bottcher’s interest in advocating for a healthier sanitation program, we recommend a ‘scoop the poop’ campaign be included,” said MCB4 in the letter presented by Leslie Boghosian Murphy, Co-Chair of the Waterfront, Parks & Environment Committee.
“I would note that Harvey Milk, the esteemed San Francisco supervisor won his first election for public office on a campaign about picking up after your dog,” said Community Board 4 Chair Jeffrey LeFrancois.
Bottcher, a noted neighborhood animal advocate, agreed and told us: “Dogs are beloved members of our families and communities. Dog owners must respect their neighbors and clean up their pup’s poop. I support Community Board 4’s efforts on this issue and look forward to working with the Department of Sanitation to improve the cleanliness of our sidewalks.”
In the end, Bottcher, the board, and the denizens of Hell’s Kitchen hope the campaign will inspire more neighborly decency. Said Mirjana Vicari of Tilly’s Walks, “Please do not let your dogs pee right in front of the buildings — have some respect for your neighbors. I have never in my 13-plus years as a dog owner and 9-plus years as a dog walker left poop on the street! Don’t be a douche-human, pick up after your damn dogs!”