Garbage Problems on East 86th Street Recall Bad Old Days

A whole lot has changed on East 86th Street in Manhattan. What once was the famed hub of Germantown (1900-1960's), later a center of dereliction (70's/80's), has been on the move up for decades. High end condos have sprung up as have high end retailers. There is new street furniture, a new subway on the way, new energy, and even new (reproduction of old) "Bishops Crook" street lamps. However, if you pine for the days of old, the true grit of East 86th Street, no worries, it is strewn all over the street in the form of......garbage!

86th Street bet Third and Lexington
We've all seen the internet meme in the past couple of weeks: pictures of garbage revealed as our 2 month old piles of frozen snow melted off the streets. Sure, those pictures are a cumulative illustration of how sloppy we are as a people, however, I would argue that East 86th Street absolutely took the cake (and the Snapple bottles, coffee cups, cigarette butts, newspapers, etc..). Items as random as infant booster seats and cat scratching towers were being unearthed next to the ubiquitous denuded bike frames more common throughout the city.

I've spoken to numerous neighbors, some of which have come to my unsolicited, and the consensus is unanimous- we are all frustrated and disgusted! Yes, there are plenty of slobs that transit 86th Street, but I would argue that there are other factors at work that contribute to this being one of the nastiest stretches in the city.

1- Street Vendors. Any of you who follow this blog, or know me well, knows that these Cretans are the bane of my existence! Aside from taking up parking spots, three quarters of the sidewalk, and looking like junk, these people have an absolute disregard for the garbage that their business creates. Wrappers, tags, and paper associated with pashminas, cell phone covers, and counterfeit handbags are all over the place. And frankly- they don't give a crap. When I was a kid, in the bad old 70's, if they saw a cop approaching they would grab all of their wares and run for it. Now, it is like they own the place and consider it a campground. Don't even get me started on the food trucks!

2- Sanitation Fail #1. No enforcement of sanitation laws for merchants and landlords. Is it me, or isn't there a law that if you have a store, or own a building that you are responsible for the cleanliness of the sidewalk and curb? If that is still the case, there is no evidence of enforcement.

3- Sanitation Fail #2. Garbage cans overflowing. Day and night you see it here. People want to throw things away, but the garbage cans are all full! When that happens, the top of the can becomes a pyramid and everyone is trying to add that one last piece of garbage that will balance on the top without falling off. Problem is, it usually falls off, and if it doesn't, a slight gust of wind is all it takes to clear the pyramid onto the streets and people start again. Others simply place their garbage next to the garbage can- like that helps! Where are those huge recycling cans they have up on Lexington? How about those gigantic solar powered compacting cans they have in Union Square Park? All we get is one pint sized, ages old can per corner. No wonder it's a mess!

Until 2012, "Ready Willing, and Able" workers were cleaning the streets in and around 86th Street in a $300,000/yr program, but the effort was ended when funds from the "Doe Foundation" were required for Hurricane Sandy related clean-up. The East 86th Street Alliance collected funds to have the street covered by cleaners for 4 hours a day, but that clearly is not enough! The bigger question is why a local organization or foundation has to subsidize garbage clean-up in the first place? Isn't that what the Department of Sanitation is there for? If the three issue I mention above are properly addressed, and that is easy, we can live with the slobs, and a much cleaner East 86th Street!


  1. what a sin, it really is.

    I think our sanitation dept is at fault here, they do a terrible job.
    everything in NY is disgusting. The mayor is useless as well.

  2. In all fairness, the recent snow storms might have contributed to the neglect while sanitation resources were deployed elsewhere.

    Agreed though, 86th street is a pretty sad stretch these days between the subway construction, closed-up shops, and garbage everywhere. Add in Fairway keeping their handtrucks on the street and irresponsible dog owners who don't clean up after their pets (a nuisance everywhere)...well, the place is a mess. I no longer live in the hood but do visit often. I would think alone that Fairway, WF, B&N, Best Buy, Petco, and Staple can kick in enough dough to help keep the area clean or at least supplement the existing 4 hours of clean-up.

  3. Agree, and it is not just East 86th Street. First Avenue in the high 50's is comparable. Let's face it, the East Side is still the victim of the mayor's petty snit.


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