New York City’s Biggest Landlord NYCHA Does Not Recycle and Can’t Be Fined For It

For the last four years I have been trying to get someone to write an article about how public housing residents in New York City (all half million of them) are not required to recycle and even if they do their recyclables are ending up as garbage. In fact, the agency that runs public housing, The New York City Housing Authority has a recycling unit, spends millions of dollars on recycling bins, and says on their Green Agenda website they are “fully committed to providing safe, affordable housing for more than 400,000 residents in a cost efficient and environmentally conscious manner.” But the landlord does not recycle and can’t be fined or penalized for it.

I am a NYCHA resident myself and came to this  conclusion by scrutinously watching how garbage is disposed and interviewing maintenance staff. (not to mention photographs which serve  as irrefutable proof) The recyclables and garbage are commingled and transported to a yard. The yard has roll-off containers which compact the garbage. And the Department of Sanitation picks up the containers using flat-bed trucks taking it to a waste transfer facility. Don’t take my word for it, have your staff go to any NYCHA development and see for themselves. The recycling bins usually contain black garbage bags and are contaminated with non-recyclable garbage. For the permanent recycling bin the latch is behind the bin. It may seem like it requires a key but in many developments it is unlocked. To open the recycling bin just press down on the latch and lift up.

They also have a waste management / recycling unit where Margarita Lopez is paid 187K and at least two of the staff members are paid almost 100K. A Canadian company Haul-All was contracted to provided thousands of recycling bins for the city’s 2,604 NYCHA buildings. However none of these bins are being used. Margarita Lopez will blame the layout of public housing as the reason why recycling doesn’t take place. She says many tenants have to walk to their recycling bins. I believe it is more over a lack of education and enforcement. For example people take large bags of unsorted garbage outside that don’t fit down the garbage chute and throw them into the recycling bin. But even if recyclables are put into the recycling bins they are just mixed with the garbage by the building maintenance staff.

NYCHA officials vehemently claim that the garbage is picked through  and sorted but I highly doubt this. The housing manager of my development said that my claims are unsupported. I would also be in violation of my lease agreement if I attempted to go public because it was slander.

To test if this was true I filed a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request January of 2011 about their recycling practices, where recyclables are processed, the salaries of their recycling staff and contracts spent on recycling bins. But NYCHA ignored my repeated  attempts to provide this information. I also filed a request with Sanitation and they claim not to have any records of this information.(see attached PDFs). I also filed numerous complaints  with the Department of Sanitation for recycling violations but they merely just closed my complaints. After speaking with insiders who  wanted to remain anonymous they said that is has been popularly known NYCHA doesn’t need to recycle and one city agency can not fine another city agency. The agency is exempt from New York City recycling laws and the stiff fines.

This isn’t the first time NYCHA has been exempt from city  law. In August 2008 a five year old boy fell ten stories down an elevator shaft to his death. The elevators in NYCHA buildings had failed numerous elevator  inspections. All elevators in buildings are required to be examined by Department of Building inspectors however NYCHA was allowed to employ their own staff who moonlighted as private inspectors and went to Kohl’s. Their elevators also were exempt from having elevator  door restrictors which prevent the elevator from opening up in between  floors. This public outcry resulted in a changes to the system including the resignation of the elevator director and chairman of NYCHA.

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1 Comment

Filed under Life in the Ghetto

One response to “New York City’s Biggest Landlord NYCHA Does Not Recycle and Can’t Be Fined For It

  1. Grover Mannings

    Dick this is the kind of investigative journalism that wins Pulitzer Prizes. You need to break this one wide open and team up with someone from a major media outlet (or blog) to spread the news about the idiocy going on in the NYCHA.

    NYC’s two faced approach to recycling – demanding that everyone else in the city recycle except for city run housing projects – is an embarrassment and worthy of national news.

    It sounds like the administrator, Ms. Lopez, needs to be fired or knocked down $80K in salary until she learns to coordinate better waste management efforts in the city. Also, to be honest, salaries that high are outrageous for civil servants who work Monday through Friday: these types of people are notorious for doing a half-ass job and can’t be bothered to work hard when they are in virtually guaranteed employment.

    Everyone in the nation is complaining about bloated Federal and State budgets, and here we are paying people enormous salaries to do what a private sector employee could manage in half the time on half the money.

    Furthermore, not recycling wastes more money than it saves. Surely NYC could earn some supplemental income reselling consumer grade plastic to recycling companies. Yes, it is only pennies on the dollar, but these days even a small return on waste management investment is worth the effort.

    Here are your options as I see them:
    1.) Contact the New York Times.
    2.) Contact the Wall Street Journal.
    3.) Join Equinox Fitness and talk to Anderson Cooper 🙂
    4.) Do a CNN “I-report” segment and submit it to CNN.com for consideration.
    5.) Send letters to the editor of Time Magazine and Newsweek.
    6.) Tip off local environmental groups about the abuses occurring under NYCHA management.
    7.) Organize a newsworthy protest, call it “Don’t be a prick, recycle like Dick” 🙂
    8.) Approach whistle blower blogs and advocacy groups with your story.
    9.) Send a detailed report and letter about your findings to CBS 60 Minutes.

    Good Luck,

    Grover Beer Belly Mannings

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