The City Room Blog features writer Lisa Dowda and photographer Liz Lignon, the team behind “Chasing Sanitation.” A new exhibit of their photos and narratives, called, “This is New York’s Strongest” opened Saturday at 411 Lafayette Street in Noho. The photos and stories showcase untold stories and physical toils of New York City’s Department of Sanitation workers. The exhibit runs until February 27th.
The Winter/Spring issue of the Freshkills Park newsletter, Fresh Perspectives, is up on the official Parks homepage for Freshkills Park. In this issue are a walk-through of the design for the first phase of South Park, a primer on composting toilets and how they work, and a history and guide to wetlands at the Freshkills Park site.
We put this newsletter out every six months and distribute hard copies to various parks and cultural institutions throughout the City, in addition to handing them out on our public bus tours of the Freshkills Park site. Digital archives of past newsletters are available on the homepage, under the ‘More Information’ tab.
Thanks to the huge crowd that came out to Robin Nagle’s talk in our lecture series two weeks back. Standing in front of a fascinating slideshow featuring many of the men and women who keep New York City clean (or–more than that–keep New York City alive, as artist Mierle Ukeles famously phrased it), Robin discussed her academic approach to Sanitation, the stigma we attach to the work San Men and Women do and some hypotheses as to how those stigmas develop and why they stick. It was a passionate and heartfelt address about the value of Sanitation workers that also included some explanation of the mechanics of Sanitation vehicles and the skills required to operate them. Thanks go to Robin, most of all, for volunteering her insights to the appreciative crowd.
You can stream the entire audio of the talk, below, or download it directly as an MP3 (74 minutes, 68MB).
We meet people all the time who have stories about Fresh Kills. Folks who live nearby, who used to live where the landfill now is, who worked on-site, who were part of the 9/11 recovery effort, who are part of the team working on landfill closure right now. It’s a huge site that has played a role in the lives of so many people. We want to start capturing their stories, in their words, for posterity. So, as part of a larger Department of Sanitation-focused project, we’re joining with Dr. Robin Nagle at NYU’s Draper and Public History Programs to start a Freshkills Park Oral History Project. And we’re seeking an intern to help us get it started.
The internship will run from January through the end of May and will focus on technical and management assistance to graduate students compiling the Sanitation archive, with the goal of gleaning knowledge and providing the Freshkills Park team with a guide to building an oral history archive. The full description is available here.
The Freshkills Park Talks lecture series continues on Wednesday, December 8th, with a talk by Dr. Robin Nagle. Titled “The Twist-Tie that Binds: Garbage, New York City and You,” the lecture will recount how the City’s garbage connects New Yorkers to one another as well as to history, politics, infrastructure, and technology.
Dr. Nagle is anthropologist-in-residence for the Department of Sanitation and director of the John W. Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Humanities and Social Thought at New York University. She’s most recently been featured in The Believer and a serial New York Times piece, and she maintains the Discard Studies blog. Her book Picking Up, about what it is to be a sanitation worker in New York and why you should care, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
December 8th, 7 pm – 8:30 pm at the NYU Philosophy Building
5 Washington Place (at Mercer St.), Room 101, Manhattan.
FREE. No RSVP necessary.
The Staten Island Advance profiles the Staten Island Transfer Station (SITS), where 750 tons of the island’s garbage is trucked every day, compacted, containerized and sent out on a seven day journey by rail to Lee County Landfill in Bishopville, South Carolina.
Between three and four 20-foot orange containers are filled with 19 tons of trash an hour and loaded onto a rail car. The cars, which leave once a morning, travel eight miles over the restored Arthur Kill Lift Bridge — often joined by freight from the New York Container Terminal — into Elizabeth, N.J. There, they connect with the national rail network.
In Fiscal Year 2010, the city paid $31 million for the processing of 222,576 tons of garbage to Allied Waste Systems, which won a long-term contract with the city to cart the borough’s trash to its South Carolina landfill. Recyclables are not processed at SITS.
SITS is a 79,000-square-foot facility operated by the NYC Department of Sanitation and opened in 2006 as part of Mayor Bloomberg’s 2006 Long-Term Solid Waste Management Plan. We were given a tour of the impressive facility last year.
Chasing Sanitation: Falling in Love with New York’s Strongest is a series of portraits and interviews with New York City Sanitation workers produced by writer Lisa Dowda and photographer Liz Lignon over the past two years.
Sanitation Workers – they’re not saints. But they made a choice for their families and for themselves. And they were there after the attacks, and they’ll be there next Monday morning. And through the last century, the fight continues against the stigma of one of our most essential civil service agencies. Still, the job, the snow, the trash – it gets done.
The stories are funny and humanizing peeks into the lives of a labor force that, as Dr. Robin Nagle writes, “is absolutely essential to the city’s very existence but that gets little love from the larger world.” The website went live this summer as the authors search for a publisher to make their project into a book.
We’re thrilled to be able to exhibit Mierle Laderman Ukeles‘ work The Social Mirror at Sneak Peak this Sunday! The piece is a 12-ton, 28-foot long 1979 Department of Sanitation collection truck outfitted in mirror glass. It made its debut in the 1983 New York City Art Parade and was last publicly exhibited at the 2007 Armory Show.
‘The mirror captures you, but people are afraid to be caught by it,’ said Ukeles, who has been the unsalaried artist-in-residence at the DOS for 30 years and constructed the piece in 1983. “You’re right there, part of the whole deal. It’s about the interrelationship between the people who provide the services and the people that get the services.’
Mierle is not only the Artist-in-Residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation but also the Percent for Art Artist for the Fresh Kills Landfill. She contributed several proposals to the Draft Master Plan for Freshkills Park and is in process designing the first of her permanent projects that will be constructed at the site, in the South Park section of the site. The Social Mirror will be a great addition to the weekend’s conversation about Freshkills Park and its capacity to host large-scale public artworks.
We’ve been hard at work putting together the first open, public event EVER at the Freshkills Park site, which will take place Sunday, October 3rd! ‘Sneak Peak at Freshkills Park‘ will not only be a chance to see the site’s hills and wetlands in all their autumn glory, it will also be a hybrid kite festival/street fair/series of special site tours! You and everyone you know are invited.
We’ll be offering a slew of programs over the course of the day: guided walking tours with a host of experts, canoe tours, birdwatching tours, kite-making and kite flying, workshops on composting and recycling, birdhouse building, free giveaways, children’s games and attractions, live music, food and more! A full program schedule, along with a list of our program partners, is available on the event’s listing page.
This is a free event, and RSVPs are not required, though on-site, day-of registration is required for all tours. Join us for a preview of what the park will have to offer!
NYC Department of Sanitation Anthropologist-in-Residence Robin Nagle is featured on the cover of the current issue of The Believer (along with Wallace Shawn and “Weird Al” Yankovic!). The issue’s in-depth interview with Dr. Nagle is terrific, covering the ‘cognitive problem’ of garbage, the outlook and perception of Sanitation workers and the role of the anthropologist or archeologist in the study of waste and waste management.
“Garbage is generally overlooked because we create so much of it so casually and so constantly that it’s a little bit like paying attention to, I don’t know, to your spit, or something else you just don’t think about. You—we—get to take it for granted that, yeah, we’re going to create it, and, yeah, somebody’s going to take care of it, take it away.
….The goal of a scholar is to reveal things that otherwise might never be seen or studied or considered or understood or debated…. If I can help illuminate some facet of us as a species that makes culture, as a species that tells stories, as a species that plays in ways that connect us to each other, then I’ve done my job. My entry point is through things we decide are no longer worth keeping.”
And we learn a new word, too: mongo.