COMPLETE VIDEO: 184th CityLaw Breakfast with DSNY Commissioner Jessica S. Tisch

DSNY Commissioner Tisch at the 184th CityLaw Breakfast. Image Credit: CityLaw.

Today, February 16, 2023, Jessica S. Tisch, Commissioner of the Department of Sanitation (DSNY), spoke at the 184th CityLaw Breakfast. Commissioner Tisch spoke on “Getting New York Clean.” Professor Ross Sandler, Director of the Center for New York City Law provided opening remarks. Dean and President of New York Law School Anthony W. Crowell joined for a closing conversation. This Breakfast was sponsored by ConEdison, Greenberg Traurig, and Verizon.

Commissioner Tisch started her talk with a discussion of how the COVID-19 pandemic affected cleanliness in the city. Due to emergency budget constraints, many DSNY services needed to be restricted, limited, or put on pause, which led to an immediate difference. As a response, part of Mayor Adams’ approach has been “restore and more,” restoring the services cut due to the pandemic and enhancing and expanding those services where possible. 

Commissioner Tisch talked about five areas of approach the agency is looking at to improve the cleanliness of the city. Targeted neighborhood task forces help address neighborhoods with greater sanitation issues. Previously, there were areas that the DSNY did not have jurisdiction over, like underpasses, greenways and medians. Often these areas would be some of the dirtiest, but Mayor Eric Adams has changed some of the jurisdiction back to DSNY. As a result, over 1500 locations have now had an additional three sweeps of cleaning, which has made a difference. 

According to Commissioner Tisch, changing the times trash can be put out from 4 pm to 8 pm curbside or 6 pm in a container and changing what time that trash can get picked up can decrease the opportunity rats have to snack on garbage. The City’s new citywide composting program that will roll out over the next 20 months follows a successful pilot in Queens where over 13 million pounds of organic waste were diverted from landfills in 12 weeks. Increasing enforcement of illegal dumping through the installation of cameras at common dumping sites has led to a big increase in the number of people caught and fines collected. Sharing the videos of illegal dumping on social media helped spread the message that this was an issue DSNY was taking seriously.

Commissioner Tisch also discussed containerization and how the agency is considering all the important factors that would go into installing containers for trash collection on city streets, including how to do this with limited curb space, how that impacts other street uses like parking, Citibikes or outdoor dining, how to develop trucks to hoist those containers which currently do no exist in North America, and how to implement more frequent collection.

Commissioner Tisch answered several questions, including about how the commercial waste zone procurement process is currently underway; that NYC public schools are expected to separate their organics out by next year, and that new litter collections bins will be coming to city streets.

Dean Crowell asked about how her legal background has helped prepare her for the role of Commissioner. Commissioner Tisch responded that legal skills come into play with contracts, memorandums of understanding, creating and analyzing the impact of agency rules, and many other ways.

According to Commissioner Tisch, working for city government has been “one of the greatest gifts of my life,” as she is happy that every place she’s gone to she’s had the opportunity to make a positive change.

To watch the breakfast, click here or watch below.




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