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New York City considering trash containerization to combat rat problem

New York City unveils new plan to get piles of trash off city streets
New York City unveils new plan to get piles of trash off city streets 02:30

NEW YORK -- A new plan to get piles of trash off the streets of the city and cut down on rats was unveiled Wednesday.

But it comes with a price some New Yorkers may not want to pay.

The streets of Hamilton Heights in West Harlem are about to become the so-called test dummies for a new pilot program to see if the city can make huge piles of plastic trash bags as extinct as the dinosaur.

"It's an important part of the mayor's war on rats. The mayor has been very clear, he doesn't want the black bags on the street," Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch said.

READ MORERat action plan set to target Harlem-area hotspots

The solution, according to a highly anticipated new report, is to put trash in secure -- rat-proof -- metal containers. The report found that it would be possible to put trash in containers on 89% of city streets. The containers -- individual ones in low-density areas like Staten Island and larger ones in high-density areas -- would banish the plastic trash bags, hopefully forever.

"They look terrible. Who wants to play a game of hopscotch around piles of black bags? Those black bags, one-third of the material in them is food and our food is also rat food. We want to stop feeding the rats," Tisch said.

The tradeoff is that in many neighborhoods the trash containers would have to be in the street, taking up parking spaces.

"It would be, we estimate, around 150,000 parking spaces, but I want to be really clear: we are not taking 150,000 parking spaces today. What we have announced is a pilot of shared containers on 10 residential blocks in northern Manhattan, as well as the schools in that neighborhood."

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Parking is clearly the third rail of politics in New York City and residents of West Harlem, where the pilot will begin this fall, have mixed reactions.

"I'm for the garbage cans because the rats around this neighborhood is outrageous," Carl Clark said.

"Why couldn't they put the trash on the sidewalk, for example, I mean, put the bins on the sidewalk?" Lori Berlin said.

"I think it's important to help our neighborhood, be sanitary, but you can't just take away parking spaces. You need to create them in other spaces," Erin Bigelow said.

For the record, the city has about 3 million parking spaces. Containerization could remove about 10% of the spaces on residential streets citywide. In comparison, outdoor dining removed about 1% of the parking spots.

Tisch says one benefit of the program is that trash pickups would double from three times a week to six.

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