One of the major problems with public housing is the sanitation issue. (the others being crime, graffiti, teenage pregnancy) Many residents leave large bags of garbage in front of the development, stairwell, hallways and elevators. In response to this problem my development purchased and installed containers in the hopes people would deposit their garbage and recyclables in the correct receptacle. However this has done little over the last ten years since I came back from college.
On December 7th the new development manager had the staff remove all the recycling and garbage containers in front of my development and issued a memorandum reminding residents that their garbage must be deposited in the garbage chute and that failure to comply would result in a termination of their lease. Their solution to the garbage problem is removing the garbage containers. Is it working? Of course not! At today’s tenant association one of the major complaints is that management is not doing enough. One tenant said that the notices were not widely advertised (which was untrue) The development manager blamed the tenants for tearing down the notices and not abiding by them. One woman said “The people who are doing this do not care and are not in this room…”After much arguing the development manager says she will ask headquarters for more exterminators and funding to curb the problem.
Last week I wrote an email to the chairman of NYCHA, John Rhea. (aka Mr. Harvard Business School and top liberal arts Wesleyan grad about this problem. I pitched to him the idea of creating a position of “garbage sifter.” It may sound like a gross, disgusting idea which is ludracrous. But wait till you hear about this person’s job duties.This person would through bags of garbage left in stairwells, elevators, and hallways for personal mail which ties the garbage back to the resident. They could be volunteers who need to do community service or staff whose salary can be paid for by the fines collected.
I tried this method and about half the time I have been able to find personal mail from at least four households. I left the garbage in front of the development office presenting them with a irrefutable evidence and asking action be taken. But I continue to see their garbage being left there.
Chairman Rhea mentioned last year that federal regulations prevent public housing tenants from being fined because when the rules were created it was viewed as a way of extorting additional money from low-income residents which is analogous to a rent increase.
I use this example as the backwards thinking of the agency. The leaders of our government implement a policy with no contingency plans on how they will incentivize good behavior or deter unwanted behavior. Instead they operate as such: when something does not work: throw more money, resources and manpower into it and hope the problem will fix itself. NYCHA always had a garbage problem. With the lack of staff and cutbacks it will continue to be a growing problem. Don’t you think it’s time they go with my idea because their ideas don’t even put a dent in the problem?