It’s no secret: New York in the summer stinks. Most of the time, that overpoweringly unpleasant smell is coming from the garbage bags whose contents are slowly cooking, sous-vide style, in the sun. But if you’ve wandered the streets of North Brooklyn or the Lower East Side recently, you may have noticed a flash of gold peeking out from the rat castles that are our city’s trash piles. Those gilded bags aren’t the Department of Sanitation’s newest attempt at urban beautification; they’re the work of Peruvian-born artist Iván Sikic, whose new series “Trashed” aims to call attention to New Yorkers’ relationship with waste.
Like Oscar the Grouch, New Yorkers are surly and we live in filth. But things might get a lot less trashy, thanks to a series of initiatives announced by Mayor de Blasio today. The city is set to expand graffiti removal, sidewalk power washing, litter-basket pickup, and highway ramp cleanup, de Blasio said.
“You really have to be quick crossing the street, or they’ll totally run you down,” a friend of mine laughed. “I’m actually really scared that someday they’ll catch me not paying attention.” He was right– even after dark last night, garbage trucks were still rumbling down Thames Street periodically, past his apartment and toward the Brooklyn Waste Transfer Facility, which neighbors are saying is a particularly devious garbage deposit. I was on my way to a community meeting that brought together activists, workers, residents, and local business owners– all of them concerned about waste inequity– inside La Luz, a storefront and pop-up venue space.
To get to the meeting, I had to cross directly in front of the garbage processing warehouse where, per usual, the massive doors were wide open (which activists and residents say is the case several times an hour), revealing voluminous mounds of stinky refuse. I picked up the pace, realizing suddenly that I was in the crosshairs of an enormous white trash truck and a frantic bulldozer– I felt the distinct possibility that I could be mistaken for a passing ant. Had it been summer, my friend assured me, this experience would have been a more nauseating one.