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Building Staffs Are Stretched Thin by New Garbage Set-Out Times

Bill Morris in Building Operations on April 27, 2023

New York City

Garbage set-out times, rat infestations, Department of Sanitation, part-time supers, co-op and condo boards.
April 27, 2023

New York City’s new rules on garbage set-out times — a weapon in its war on rats — have produced major headaches for building staffs in many smaller co-ops and condos.

“No one’s happy,” says James Park, president of Spark Super, a company that provides part-time supers, doormen, porters and other workers to co-ops, condos and rental buildings. “Any building you go into, the staffs aren’t happy.”

Beginning April 1, a new rule went into effect that pushed the earliest time garbage can be set out on the curb from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. If the garbage is in enclosed containers, it can be set out after 6 p.m. Buildings with nine or more units had the option of signing up for permission to set their garbage out between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. on collection days.

“We’ve been getting calls from management companies and co-op and condo boards trying to figure out how to work this out,” Park adds. “Our solution is to try to get supers to come in later and work later if the set-out time is after 8 p.m. For morning set-out, workers need to get up much earlier, and there are transit delays for people coming in from the outer boroughs. A month in, people are starting to quit.”

Park adds that some of his clients have started setting out their garbage twice a week instead of the conventional three times — a solution, he points out, that merely invites the rats to move indoors where the food is. 

Peter von Simson, the chief executive at New Bedford Management, predicted there would be problems before the new rules went into effect — and he derives no pleasure from seeing his prediction come true. “It puts a lot of pressure on some of the most vulnerable people in this city,” von Simson says, “and there are people who are threatening to quit. We’re trying to split schedules and bring in guys to just put out the garbage after 8 p.m., and have them do a bunch of buildings. Boards have to cover the added cost, and they’re not happy. But it’s cheaper than hiring a private hauler.”

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Von Simson adds that some buildings that opted for morning set-out hours have gotten an unpleasant surprise. “A lot of boards thought it would be easier on the workers,” he says, “but now the Department of Sanitation is saying they need the garbage out by, say, 5:30 or 6 a.m. because of their truck schedules. So that window is sometimes less than three hours, which means those guys have to get up in the middle of the night.”

Property managers report that problems have not been as severe in larger buildings with full-time, unionized staffs. Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union signed off on the changes before they were implemented.

It’s the workers in smaller buildings who are taking the hit. “It’s not good for our workers,” says Esteban Vergara, owner of Verson Building Services, which provides porters and handymen to 40 Manhattan buildings, including co-ops and condos. “Everyone wants to be home at night with their families. Some people were willing to work late, but if they weren’t, we had to hire more people to do the nighttime garbage set-out.”

The Department of Sanitation is nearing the end of its one-month grace period when violators of the new rules receive warnings instead of fines. So far, says department spokesman Vincent Gragnani, more than 20,000 warnings have been issued to residential and commercial buildings for failure “to keep NYC sidewalks clean and send rats packing.” Gragnani adds: “When the one-month grace period ends (on May 1), we will start enforcement with those locations that received written warnings.” 

Meanwhile, Park’s workers are disgruntled and skeptical: “They feel that the city doesn’t understand their problems and that the new rules are misguided.” It gets worse: “They don’t believe this is going to solve the rat problem.”

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