New York Daily News: MANHATTAN – Mountains of trash are piling up in front of homes across the city — and a lot of New Yorkers are bitter towards Sanitation workers who they suspect are in a work slowdown over Mayor de Blasio’s looming mandate that they get COVID-19 vaccinations.

“The Sanitation workers are garbage, literally. They’re garbage. They’re s–t,” groused Emanuel Zoumboulis of Staten Island.

Zoumboulis’ neighborhood, Castleton Corners, recorded 705 complaints for uncollected trash so far this month, the most of any neighborhood in the city and nearly 23 times the 31 trash complaints reported in the area during the same period of September.

Recycled paper and boxes are also piling up in Manhattan – ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images

“Just because they don’t want to get a shot — they don’t care,” said Zoumboulis, 40. “They’re incompetent.”

He said he recently chased down a city Department of Sanitation truck to ask the crews why they weren’t picking up his garbage. “They flipped me off.”

“Even when they do pick up garbage they don’t pick it all up. They’re the worst … They don’t care. They’re spoiled.”

Roughly a third of New York City’s 10,000 Department of Sanitation employees are not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Hizzoner’s mandate takes effect 5pm Friday evening, and applies to nearly all of the city’s 300,000 municipal employees. If a worker doesn’t get a shot, they’ll be put on unpaid leave first thing Monday morning.

De Blasio said the city would make up for crew shortages by extending shifts and offering overtime to avoid hits to city services. But garbage collection is already suffering, even with the DSNY fully staffed.

“They were supposed to come last Wednesday, they never came. Then Saturday again, they never come. Now again yesterday, no one comes,” said Musarrat Chaudhry, 43, who lives in Richmond, Staten Island and has six large garbage bags piled up in front of his house.

“We are going to have to put it behind the house. It’s too much to look at,” said Chaudhry. “I’ve never had a problem like this. They just don’t come.”

One of Chaudhry’s neighbors, a 58-year-old woman who asked not to be named, said she’s told her son to take garbage to commercial lots where trash is picked up by private companies that aren’t covered by the vaccine mandate.

Household garbage and recycling was piling up Thursday in Staten Island, where residents suspect Sanitation workers are on a slowdown.
Household garbage and recycling was piling up Thursday in Staten Island, where residents suspect Sanitation workers are on a slowdown – Liz Keogh/New York Daily News

Residents in Richmond filed 399 complaints to the city’s 311 system for missed sanitation collections from Oct. 1 to Oct. 27, city data show. That’s a 12-fold increase from the 32 complaints made over the same period in September.

Staten Island is home to the six zip codes with the highest increase in 311 complaints for uncollected trash this month compared to September, data show.

The city as a whole saw 8,188 complaints on 311 for uncollected trash during the first 27 days of October, more than quadruple the 1,722 reported during the same period of September.

Staten Islanders are losing sidewalk space in front of their homes as the garbage piles up. This picture was taken Thursday in Richmond.
Staten Islanders are losing sidewalk space in front of their homes as the garbage piles up. This picture was taken Thursday in Richmond – Liz Keogh/New York Daily News

As the deadline for the shots comes down to the wire, Teamsters Local 831 president Harry Nespoli, who represents the city’s rank-and-file trash haulers, said he was negotiating with city officials in what’s become a game of chicken.

“We didn’t even finish negotiating, and yet our guys are being threatened” with being put on unpaid leave for not getting shots, said Nespoli.

“Essential workers had to come in during the worst of the pandemic while a lot of people went to the Hamptons or went upstate,” Nespoli said. “Everyone’s forgetting what all the city workers did. It’s not right to be treating people like that.”

Mayor de Blasio in Times Square in August with Department of Sanitation employees.
Mayor de Blasio in Times Square in August with Department of Sanitation employees – Luiz C Ribeiro/for New York Daily News

De Blasio on Thursday said during a news conference that unvaccinated sanitation workers would be easy to replace if they decline to get shots.

“If you don’t want to do the job anymore, you know, someone else really will want to do that job,” said the mayor. “I assure you all of these uniformed jobs are deeply coveted… They’re fulfilling jobs, but they also come with some of the best benefits anywhere in the United States of America.”

“I just want to make it really, really clear: it’s unacceptable,” he said of workers not picking up trash. “We gave people lots and lots of time to come along voluntarily… If you’re a city worker, you have to abide by the law.”

  • Top Feature Photo: Piled-up trash in Manhattan makes a narrower path for pedestrians Thursday – ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images