Public Housing Garbage Problem And How to Fix It!

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?



Filed under Life in the Ghetto

3 responses to “Public Housing Garbage Problem And How to Fix It!

  1. Grover Mannings

    This is a good entry, you use commonsense and pragmatic thought that is somehow lost in our government’s bureaucracy.

    I like the idea of paying someone to sift garbage. Yes, it is a sh*tty job, but I guarantee you there would be hundreds of homeless people lined up outside the door if 50 new jobs at housing projects were announced.

    Keep it simple. Hire someone less fortunate at minimum wage. Have a supervisor tour the projects to monitor work on a daily basis and make sure trash is getting sorted. Then, send a payment clerk at the end of the day to handout cash to the workers. 8 hours X (call it $5 after taxes) = $40 in cash is more than enough for someone to buy food, find shelter, and use public transportation. They could also be given preferential treatment at public shelters because they are working for the government, and therefore get a roof over their heads at night.

    The economy is so lousy – especially for the homeless – that ANY job is worth having, no matter how undignified it might appear. This would be an easy way to kill multiple birds with one intelligent thought.

    • Joseph Dodge

      The person mentioned in this article, John Rhea, the Chairman of the New York City Housing Authority attended Wesleyan University which is one of the high caliber schools Grover Mannings attended. Like Grover he should be reading this blog.

      Public housing residents have long complained about people scavenging the garbage for refundable deposit bottles and other random stuff.That skill should be put to good use. The New York City Housing Authority should hire homeless people, bottle redeemers or even public housing residents themselves to sift through the garbage. In fact Section 3 of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968requires any agency that receives federal funding set aside a percentage of jobs for low-income residents.

      Their compensation is minimum wage plus any refundable deposit bottles they find which they can return for a nickel deposit. In addition they can sift through garbage dumped illegally in an elevator, stairwell, lobby, or curbside for personal mail linking it back to households. If they find evidence they should clearly label each bag of garbage with the building and apartment unit. A NYCHA official can then write out a formal summons with a possible fine and failure to pay the fine means termination of lease.

      These people will learn the job skills of reycling and resource recovery which will benefit them in the future as New York City creates more green jobs.

      Grover this is perhaps even a better idea than I came up with. *”That College educates students to put the liberal arts into action as citizens in a global society.” *(seems like they were not wrong about that, problem is it cost a lot of money)

      • Grover Mannings

        …Yes, at about $53,000 a year Grover’s father said: “You would have had the following options if you just finished high school: one, in-state public university, or two, the marines. $53,000 is NOT worth it.”

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