Category Archives: Sanitation

Which Sections of the City Generate the Most & Least Complaints to Graffiti-Free NYC?

Graffiti-Free NYC is a city program that removes graffiti at no cost to the owners of residential, commercial, or industrial buildings. Anyone can report graffiti on any property by calling 311. The program is run jointly by the city’s Economic Development Corporation, Department of Sanitation, and the Community Affairs Unit of the Mayor’s office.

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  • Since fiscal year 2011, Graffiti-Free NYC has received an average of 14,916 complaints a year. But the numbers of complaints citywide are declining, from 15,393 in 2011 to 13,415 in 2016.
  • In 2016, the heaviest concentrations of complaints were in Central and Southwest Brooklyn and in Lower Manhattan. Complaints have been largely down in the rest of the city since 2011, particularly in the South Bronx and Queens.
  • In 2011 through 2013 it took an average of 67 days from receipt of a graffiti complaint for Graffiti-Free NYC to send a team to clean the site. In 2014 and 2015 it took an average of 114 days for a response (data is not complete for 2016).
  • The increased response time may mean owners or neighbors are taking matters into their own hands. The percentage of complaints that resulted in graffiti removal has declined from 84 percent in 2011 to 62 percent in 2015 as cleaning crews responding to complaints increasingly find no graffiti at the reported location.
  • The budget for Graffiti-Free NYC from fiscal year 2011 through fiscal year 2016 has averaged $1.9 million annually, with the majority of the funding in recent years coming from a federal grant program. While the federal funding is no longer available, the Mayor has increased the city funding for the program to $2.5 million in 2017.

Prepared by Daniel Huber
 New York City Independent Budget Office

Print version available here.

SOURCE: IBO analysis of Department of Sanitation data
NOTE: Map divisions are based on City Council districts.

New York City By The Numbers

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How Much of the City’s Curbside Recyclables Get Properly Recycled?

New York City recycles a wide variety of waste, but some materials are more likely to be recycled than others. The city has three solid waste streams: refuse, paper recycling, and metal/glass/plastic recycling. Overall, about 44 percent of recyclable material is “captured” by city recycling programs with the remainder sent to landfills, according to data from the Department of Sanitation’s 2013 Residential Waste Characterization Study. But a lot of recyclables are thrown in the wrong bins—aluminum cans, for example, tossed in with regular trash. As a result, the capture rate for each of the recyclable materials varies widely, from as low as 5 percent to as high as 75 percent. Material that ends up in the refuse stream or the wrong recycling stream is not recycled. In fact, such “contamination” makes recycling more expensive.

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  • Only about 28 percent of aluminum cans collected by the Department of Sanitation are captured in the metal/glass/plastic stream.
  • This below-average rate may in part reflect the more frequent scavenging of cans from the city’s recycling bins than trash cans. This takes aluminum cans out of the recycling stream, but leaves them in the refuse stream and headed to landfills. Aluminum is one of the most valuable recycled metals providing greater incentives for scavenging.

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  • Plastic dishware, which includes single use plastic cups, plates, and cutlery, has the lowest capture rate—only 5 percent of the material collected enters the recycling stream.
  • Plastic dishware is part of rigid plastics, which was added as a voluntary category for recycling in 2013—during the Waste Characterization Study period. It did not become a required recycling category until after the study ended. It can take years for recycling rates to rise as New Yorkers learn about items added to the list of recyclables.

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  • Green container glass has the highest capture rate of any material category, with 75 percent of this glass in the waste stream being recycled.
  • Glass has a long history of being recycled and public awareness is high, boosting the capture rate. Additionally, glass is not a valuable recycling commodity; only bottles that require a deposit have value outside the city waste stream.

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  • Cardboard boxes and related paper products have one of the highest capture rates of any material, with 71 percent entering the paper recycling stream.
  • The city has a long and uninterrupted history of paper recycling. The high capture rate may also reflect the ease of recycling large foldable items like boxes.
  • Paper is the only material for which commodity prices exceed the cost of processing—meaning that New York City is paid to recycle paper.

Prepared by Daniel Huber
 New York City Independent Budget Office

Print version available here.

SOURCES: New York City 2013 Residential Waste Characterization Study

New York City By The Numbers

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How Much Has Snow Removal Cost the City in Recent Years?

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  • The amount the city budgets each year for snow removal is set by a formula in the City Charter. The formula is the average of spending on snow removal in the five prior years—so the budget for 2014 is based on the actual amounts spent in fiscal years 2008–2012.
  • In some years the formula provides more funding than is needed while in other years, such as 2011 when the city had an extraordinary amount of snow, the formula-driven budget fell $87 million short of need. The formula budgeted $13 million more in 2012 than the city needed for snow removal and $19 million more in 2013.
  • If there is unused funding in the snow budget, that money is reallocated or becomes part of the city’s end of year budget surplus. Conversely, if the budgeted amount is short of what is needed, funds are drawn from other parts of the city budget to cover the expense.

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Print version available here.

New York City By The Numbers

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