The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

confined wholly

with 2 comments

A garbage post today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One makes a point of photographing the things which other people do not. Partially, this stems from my fascination with the vast municipal machinery of New York City. I know a lot of people who work in the boiler room of the great hive, from executive to laborer, and what I’ve gleaned from conversation with them over the years is how complicated and byzantine the “system” is. Many have opined about the proverbial situation of “replacing the carburetor while driving down a dark highway at ninety miles an hour” they encounter at work. There’s holdover labor agreements which were arrived at prior to the Second World War, political compromises made by Mayors who have been dead for fifty years, and legal or regulatory issues which randomly arrive from Albany or Washington that can upend an otherwise smoothly functioning operation.

I’m particularly interested, on the subject of recording things few others notice, with the muni services that nobody really wants to think about that revolve around human and animal cadavers, sewage, and especially garbage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Intricate. That’s how I’d describe the system in NYC which gathers up waste and moves it out of the City. Originally a wholly owned arm of the Dept. of Health, the Deparment of Sanitation is a “Reports directly to the Mayor Commissioner” level operation in modernity, although it’s still organized as part of the Health Dept.

As Wikipedia will tell you – The New York City Department of Sanitation is the largest sanitation department in the world, with 7,201 uniformed sanitation workers and supervisors, 2,041 civilian workers, 2,230 general collection trucks, 275 specialized collection trucks, 450 street sweepers, 365 salt and sand spreaders, 298 front end loaders, and 2,360 support vehicles. It handles over 12,000 tons of residential and institutional refuse and recyclables a day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a boy in blue collar Brooklyn, the conventional wisdom passed on to a young but already humble narrator as far as success in life was to “take the civil service exam” and become a garbageman as they had a strong union with great benefits and you’d basically never be out of work. There was also a contingent who recommended becoming affiliated with the court system as a Bailiff, as a note. Almost nobody recommended becoming a Cop, but it was the 1970’s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a private carting industry in NYC, of course, which handles commercial and restaurant waste. That side of waste handling has a decidedly checkered past, whereas the DSNY is generally considered above any reproach.

Part of the reason I’m fascinated by services like DSNY or the DEP is that people would rather not think about their personal waste stream, so they’re seldom aware of the budgets or sending practices of either agency. Anything municipal that operates in shadow is something that should very much be paid attention to, in my opinion. All of the classified stuff that NYPD gets up to involving terrorists is a subject which should receive a lot more introspection than it gets, as “black box” spending is where a lot of dirty laundry can be found.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DSNY handles residential recycling collections, passing the material pulled off the curbs to private companies like SimsMetal, or in the case of black bag garbage – Waste Management. I’ve written a whole lot over the years about how this system operates and the intricate web of waste transfer stations and maritime industrial transport of the stuff which occurs invisibly all around us. It’s made me highly aware of my own contributions to the “flow” and quite conscious of my own culpabilities as far as destroying the planet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you may have guessed, this is another one of my “archive posts,” but if all goes to plan and I manage to process the shots I have cooking on my hard drive today, you’ll see some of what I saw over the last few days in tomorrow’s post at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 16, 2018 at 1:00 pm

2 Responses

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  1. An article on the health risks of DOS workers might be in order. Consider yourself very lucky not to have joined the Department.

    Louis K

    October 16, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    • Do tell, I know little to nothing on this other than the obvious side of being around tens of thousands of pounds of unstable piles.

      Mitch Waxman

      October 16, 2018 at 1:47 pm

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