Parks Department Does Not Compost or Recycle (and I Have the Proof)

Many times during our conversations with my friends who have been gainfully employed at city agencies they suggest I should start a business to help the city become greener and more efficient. My response is no city agency would ever pay me money for that. The city’s unionized workforce is based on using antiquated procedures and I would find a way to do their jobs more efficiently, greener and probably for less money. I am reminded when I worked as a city contractor between 2006-2008. There used to be a staff of thirteen employees, plus three project managers when validation time came. We would print the validation reports and then manually compare last cycle’s differences to the current cycle. I give my project manager kudos for printing the report double sided to save paper. However there was one report that ran in memory and printed directly to paper which then my coworker would  individually flip through every single sided piece of paper to find what he was looking for. I suggested they rewrite the script to export it to a PDF and search for the relevant data by keyword in lieu of printing the report. This would be more efficient and not to mention save them reams and reams of paper not to mention a lot of cabinet space. So I started a survey at work to get feedback. A week before I was supposed to leave this job, my supervisor pulled me aside and told me management decided to release me a week early and I was not allowed to the holiday party.

But enough of the past. The Parks Department claims they are sustainable. It seems like not much has changed at parks since a New York Post reporter published this article in 2009 about recycling at New York City Parks.

Thank you for speaking to me on the phone the other day. The fact there is only a single estimated number for total tons of waste allows you to hide relevant data  and points to how broken your agency’s data collection is. This invites scrutiny and embarrassment on all fronts. In my travels this autumn I spent some time running by New York City Parks. I only saw one park (Union Square) where leaf composting was taking place. Here is a list of parks which I ran by where there was no leaf composting.

St. Catherine’s Park East 67th St. and First Ave.
Mary O’ Connor Playground East 42 St. and Tudor City Pl
Tudor Grove Playground East 42 St. and Tudor City Pl
Alfred E. Smith Playground Catherine Street
Washington Market on Chambers St. and Greenwich St.
Wagner Playground East 120th St. and Second Ave.

Before you work on expanding efforts you should fix the system you have already. As I said before, Parks Department should make it a mandatory policy that leaf compost and recycling is collected in clear bags and reprimand any employee or supervisor who tells them otherwise. I stopped and interviewed an employee who came with a parks owned green garbage truck. He said once there is an abundance of leaves the rest are sent to a transfer station. I am sure the agency could find a more environmentally friendly use for it. For example you could offer it for free to those who need browns to compost at home.

I’d open up some public space recycling bins around the city and show you black garbage bags and maybe some videos of Sanitation garbage trucks throwing the recyclables into a truck that is clearly for street litter baskets. In this case you should place recyclables out the same day as the Sanitation subsection gets picked up. It would be up to your agency to organize logistics on how to store recyclables until the collection day or work with Sanitation to increase the number of collections.

But that should be enough embarrassment for this week (after all it is only the second work day of the year)

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Filed under Gainfully Unemployed

3 responses to “Parks Department Does Not Compost or Recycle (and I Have the Proof)

  1. Grover Mannings

    Interesting post as usual.

    Tread lightly in the beginning until you have substantial public support. Otherwise, the labor unions and management will retaliate: they probably don’t feel like losing their jobs especially in this rough economy.

    I like the pictures as evidence.

    Word on the street is that Anderson Cooper (CNN Anchor, AC 360) works out at an Equinox Fitness facility in New York City.

    While you’re out training I suggest stopping by and demanding that he start “Keeping Them [NYC Parks Staff] Honest” about recycling policies.

    Good Luck,


    • Sorry, my lack of a job prevents me from joining Equinox and meeting Anderson Cooper. My blog though is a version akin to Anderson Cooper’s 360 slogan Keeping Them Honest.

      I am reminded of this training montage from Rocky IV where Rocky trains by running in the snow, chopping wood and pulling a horse carriage and Ivan Drago is in a state of the art training facility.

      • Grover Mannings

        Ouch, yeah I guess that gym is way to expensive. I just did some reading on him and apparently his mother is a Vanderbilt. That pretty much tells the story right there.

        Maybe Good Morning America?

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