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.