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Letter to the Editor: A Shocking Encounter with a Sanitary District 1 Worker

North Woodmere resident writes about a bad experience with a sanitation employee.

This letter was submitted to the editor by Brad from North Woodmere

I wholeheartedly agree with Amy's comments (). I was not even going to bother to report or comment on Sanitary District 1's poor service or their loud (think — yelling so alarmingly loud that several times I thought that men were fighting in the streets), rude, and foul mouthed workers, until I was threatened by one of their rubbish collectors.

What makes the incident so weird is the fact that up until early august of this year, I had always pulled my containers to the street myself and pulled them back myself, never had any interaction besides the occasional "hi," "thank you," or offering cold water to the crew.

Sure, there were more than several times when I had reason to complain — not emptying entire cans at all, partially emptying cans, leaving obvious trash (including full refuse bags) on the street. I have also personally heard a racial slur screamed with venom by one particular employee (not directed at my race or to me — I was inside at the time, but looking out). The comfort level with which it was uttered was astounding, with impunity and vitriol.

The tipping point for me was when I went to personally take a trash bag (that had not been collected for about a week) out of my own garbage receptacle. I did so while the truck was still down my block on its way to my home. I personally carried it (mind you, not begrudgingly — or with an "attitude" or any comments or accussing eye contact) to the curb area. Simply, a homeowner quietly taking out a bag of garbage in the morning that should have been removed a week or so earlier.

What happened next was outrageous, startling, egregious and beyond troubling. As I was walking to the curb with the bag in hand, the sanitation truck drove up to my home to collect the trash and I was being shouted down and harassed. 

One of the workers shouted: 
"You don't think we're taking that, it smells like S@#$t!" 
I informed him that that's why it's called "garbage". 

At which point I honestly felt like this particular individual was going to become physical. He approached me in a very belligerent manner and began to curse at me — by the way this was the same employee whom I had witnessed making the racial slur some weeks earlier. I asked for his name as I moved even closer to my home's external security cameras, he refused to provide me with that information or with his supervisor's name.

This individual then came within inches of me and with an icy glare, coldly and matter of factly stated: "Don't forget, I know where you live". 

I was stunned by the nature and audacity of the threat. I immediately called Sanitary District 1, and was assured that the matter would be dealt with appropriately, and that a disciplinary letter would be placed into this particular individuals "file."

I now avoid being out when the workers are there, and I certainly don't take my receptacles to the curb anymore. I have referred this matter to the Sanitary District 1 supervisors and other offices with higher authority. 

What a sad state of affairs.

Nikki September 13, 2012 at 04:20 PM
There is so much to say about this subject, but since I wasn't the one to write the letter, I'll TRY to be brief. I am a former resident of the Five Towns, and thusly no longer a member of Sanitary District 1. I now reside in Oceanside, serviced by Sanitary District 6, and there have been some very stark differences since I moved. Firstly, district 6 does curbside take away. I know that it might seem like a chore to residents of district 1, but having grown up in Franklin Square (which has curbside), it's no big deal to me, and I actually prefer it. This way, I don't have to worry about any of my garbage pails or bags being "forgotten" or "missed" by the sanitation employees, because they were too far back on the side of my house or too far down at the bottom of a garbage can to be lifted out, or whatever other excuse there might be.
Nikki September 13, 2012 at 04:21 PM
I have personally never had an encounter with an employee of Sanitary District 1, but have heard plenty of similar comments from my former home that others have already posted. I can remember on one particular instance, one sanitation worker shouting (so loudly that he could be heard down the street) to another about his conquest the night before. Not only were curses included in what he said, but he used a word to refer to the woman that would be inappropriate to post. I just hope that no children were around to hear.
Nikki September 13, 2012 at 04:21 PM
As far as the workers' treatment of our garbage cans, mine were thrown on multiple occasions (to the point where one had to be replaced due to a gaping hole and missing wheel), and on numerous occasions had multiple bags of trash remaining (and these were SEALED bags that could not pose any kind of threat to the safety of the sanitation workers - as commented by anthony above). I think that there is no excuse for the actions and behaviors of the workers in district 1. I think they should probably learn from district 6 workers, who QUIETLY and politely take the garbage from the curb. Not only that, but since I moved to Oceanside, I get my garbage picked up 3 times a week, and the recycling a whopping once a week (which feels vastly different from the once every 2 weeks in Woodmere - that seems to last almost a month when the sanitation workers ignore it half the time). Not to mention the fact that glass and cardboard are ACTUALLY recycled in district 6. Sorry, I guess I couldn't keep it brief.
dannyberrios September 13, 2012 at 04:44 PM
District # 1 is the only district that says that BOXES are RUBBISH an not recycling every other district on long lsland recycles boxes y are we the only district that runs to pick up a box when these people call there are no rules down at the job
JLA September 13, 2012 at 08:58 PM
We are always finding garbage all over the side of the house, and our recycling was not picked up for weeks. Had to move the full container in front of the other pails and it was finally emptied yesterday. We have not been happy with the sanitation district for years, except for special pick-up which is very prompt and accomodating.
Barbara September 13, 2012 at 10:50 PM
I agree with all of the above...I've personally heard the curses, rude racial comments and yelling so loudly that I thought there was a fistfight going on in my driveway. I've had to call several times to complain about garbage being left in my pails and I've seen my pails get kicked and thrown on numerous occasions. Our street looks disgusting after garbage pickup days, because broken bags, or garbage that has fallen from the truck when they toss the bags in gets left there..I haven't seen it recently but they used to pile all the bags in front of mine or my neighbors house and the smell was horrible from the leaking bags..It forced me or my husband to have to pour bleach in the street..I've seen them kick the garbage (which was a cereal box, and Tide plastic tub) onto my neighbors lawn instead of picking it up, when it fell right at his feet. I've tried to make their job easy for them. I always wash out my pails in the summer, so they don't smell or have bugs in them, and in the winter I bring the pails to the street, so they don't have to walk onto my property. I think there might be a slight improvement because I haven't heard the yelling or cursing in awhile.
Carmela Soprano September 14, 2012 at 01:23 AM
I've lived in the district for 42 years. Complaints by me are few and far between. There was one bad apple and his nephew working on the truck for a while, but once the bad apple moved to another truck, the nephew, who stayed on, ended up being quite a nice guy and very helpful. The whole district shouldn't be judged by the acts of one specific crew on the trucks. Where is the administration in all of this? There isn't. The superintendent is always "out of the office" when in fact, he's been home ill all this time. His nephew, the assistant superintendent is a loser himself. The foremen were hand picked, not because of their management skills, but because they aren't "rats" to the way the administration works. Where are the commissioners? Also hand picked to run for office. It's about time they clean house from the top, down.
john michael September 14, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Its garbage ! Leave these guys alone let them do their job and STOP BITCHING .
Carmela Soprano September 14, 2012 at 11:11 AM
John Michael, the writers are saying it's the way the guys do their job!
Carmela Soprano September 14, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Corrogated cardboard boxes are recyclable and the district picks it up as part of their recycling route.
Igwheet September 14, 2012 at 12:59 PM
I've had trouble with these guys many times in the past. I called Legislator Kopel to complain and got a call from Commissioner Vilardi, who gave me his cell phone number, then connected me with someone named George, who had a supervisor come to my house within about a half an hour to cleaned up the mess. Mr. Vilardi called a few days later to let me know the guys who caused the problem were suspended and told me to call anytime I need help. They must be doing something right because I haven't had a serious problem since.
James Rotenberg September 14, 2012 at 02:38 PM
I have lived in this District for many years and also wheel my garbage and recyclables to the curb. Except for the occassional missed pick-up and wind blown mess, i have enjoyed fine service and cordial relations with the workers. I'm responding to the posted complaints to point out that our District is subject to political process where WE elect the Commissioners yet hardly anybody shows up to vote other than "insiders." If District residents wish that the District management be more responsive they need to participate in the political process and make sure their voices are heard at the polls. Village of Lawrence residents have done this through Lawrence Mayor Olner and the Village of Lawrence Association led by Ron Goldman and as a result sanitary pick-up services in Lawrence has improved. Unfortunately, District residents in unincorporated areas have less access. But show you care and vote in the Sanitary District elections; it could result in contested elections for Commissioners which in itself could result in a better response to complaints. Just a thought.
charlotte pearsall September 14, 2012 at 03:38 PM
I think they do the job the best they can. They work in all kinds of weather and tolerate it. Thanks truck 18 and 6 your the BEST! Not everyone is going to be happy with the way things work.
HeeeeaaaaaHHH!!!! September 14, 2012 at 03:46 PM
I live in Woodmere and have never had a problem. Maybe because I work all day and I am not watching my garbage mans every move.I noticed both the author of the missive and the editor are from Woodmere; all looks a bit personal. I remember a guy years ago screaming at a Sanitation worker before the guy had a chance to get out of the truck and say any thing. I thought who the hell does he think he is. I did not grow up in the five towns and regret buying here and its not not because of the Sanition people.I think a lot of the residents here are smug and disscontent and really do not know how to interact or speak properly to others.
Chris September 14, 2012 at 07:37 PM
I have to say these guys work. Some guys have to go up driveways. I know I did it. Most part we put the time in and get the work done. These guys r not perfect. We have great supervisors. Keep up the good work guys. U will always get complainers. Enough said
Danny Gonzales September 14, 2012 at 09:50 PM
this job is not for everyone but alot of my coworkers are good people an work VERY HARD ... people should look at what they do to have such problems ... our JOB is to remove trash , ( NOT TO CLEAN YOUR YARD ) .......... as for asking a worker whats his name call the district an talk to office workers i dont have to tell you anything an that might be for your own good !!! ......................... IRONMAN
phil September 15, 2012 at 01:39 AM
So, "Danny," you say that alot of my coworkers are good people an work VERY HARD ... I know that's true because after many decades here I have had only a few opportunities to call and complain. I COULD have, but I don't like to give a hard time over small things to folks that drag garbage around in all weather conditions for the 6 or 7 bucks a week it costs me. people should look at what they do to have such problems Really, Danny? What could a person do that would justify workers that curse and shout as they work and are rude to their customers? our JOB is to remove trash , ( NOT TO CLEAN YOUR YARD ) If you dump garbage in someone's yard or in the street CLEAN IT UP,(like the glass in front of my house last week. Don't worry, Danny, I cleaned it up). It IS your JOB. as for asking a worker whats his name call the district an talk to office workers i dont have to tell you anything an that might be for your own good !!! Danny, Danny, Danny. I can see why you aren't is the public relations department. To everyone else at SD1, thanks for a job (usually) well done.
Carmela Soprano September 15, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Yeah, I notice those who work for the district and responded to the comments are really putting their foot in their mouth. The attitudes don't have to come with the job. Customer Service classes are in order!
Bojames September 15, 2012 at 10:46 AM
Never a problem with individuals workers in 32 years. Any encounter was friendly. Now what's the tax impact of NYS Real property Law 460 (clergy exemption ) in your school district? Do you get a $14,000 tax exemption ( it's suppose to be $1,500) on your house? clergyexemption@gmail.com
ELVIS September 15, 2012 at 04:01 PM
AS A RETIRED SD 1 EMPLOYEE AND SEVERAL OPERATIONS AND MORE TO COME STILL NOT RIGHT TO ALL OF THE SO CALLED "MOTORMOUTHS" THAT THINK THIS JOB IS FOR ALL I SAY GO FOR IT AFTER SO MANY YEARS OF COLLECTING GARBAGE AND NOT BY CHOICE BAD CIRCUMSTANCES AT HOME THERE ARE ALWAYS A BAD APPLE IN THE BUNCH BUT IF YOU REALIZE THAT THEY ARE THERE TO PICK UP YOUR GARBAGE NOT CLEAN UP YOUR GARBAGE LOTS OF TIMES ANIMALS RIP BAGS OPEN IT GOES FLYING ALSO THE WIND STOP AND THINK WHEN YOU PLACE YOUR WASTE IN THE PAILS HOW HEAVY SOME OF YOU LOAD THEM BAGS TEAR OPEN THEN FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO CHOOSE NOT TO USE BAGS THANKS BECAUSE THEN I AM PICKING UP LOOSE TAMPONS Q-TIPS DENTAL FLOSS AND THE ONES THAT PLACE DOG ----- IN THERE PAILS NO BAGS CAT LITTER THAT LEAKS DOWN THE BACKS LET ME KNOW IF YOU GO HOME SMELLING LIKE ROSES KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK BOYS
Nancy Lanzilotta September 18, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Many negative comments have been placed in blogs AGAINST our Sanitary District 1 . I would like to offer a different perspective . I am happy Elvis beat me to it . And yes let me preface by saying my brother is employed by Sanitation. Im truly sorry MORE people are not speaking up in defense of Sanitary District 1 -Our community is a well oiled machine and there are sometimes breakdowns. But lets not forget .The Five Towns is very unique and thats why people choose to move here. A lot of hard work has made our Sanitary District 1 a luxury . People have become spoiled. Our Mayors instead of condemning , need to remind residents that it is NOT acceptable to throw garbage loosely on the streets before pick ups . I can say this because I have lived in the Five Towns for 50 years . Every night my daughter and I laugh at how stupid the neighbors are to put their open refuse on our residential street for animals to have a party -I work in Brooklyn and pass through Queens every day . Brad and Amy should see the "no nonense approach" of those Sanitation departments . I do not condone any sanitation worker speaking inappropriately to Brad and Amy . Maybe James Velardi should insist that any Sanitation worker thats uses profanity be enrolled in a "Behavior Modification program" I think they would be less prone to speak out . But after seeing the decline of 'conscience people" disposing waste , How can they keep up? These guys are YOUR neighbors too -LOVE THY NEIGHBOR, n lanzilotta
Carmela Soprano September 18, 2012 at 10:32 AM
I bag all of my garbage. I will either put it in a tall kitchen bag or a black lawn bag. It keeps stuff from blowing and it does deter some of the animals from breaking into the garbage. If you have a bad problem with animals, spray the tops of the bags with lemon scented ammonia. Don't put loose things in the can. If all the homeowners do this, maybe the workers will have less to bitch about.
pasqualina September 19, 2012 at 01:35 AM
i have seen many neighbors that leave their garbage all over the place. these guys are not there to clean up your filth..they are there to pick up your garbage and haul it away...Get a life and stop looking out your windows to watch the garbage men pick up your crap....they work hard and im sure there are a few bad apples, but for the most part it is a tough job,give the guys a break.....
Fred Afault September 20, 2012 at 12:03 AM
Hey Nikki, That just moved to Oceanside. Our district is #7 in Oceanside w/ red trucks not #6, we take a lot of pride in what we do for you customers of Oceanside that do get picked up 3 times a week and 1 recycle day. We don't throw garbage in the streets, nor do we shout profanities out or at customers. As a worker of sanitation I would like to say some people think about the people that pick up there garbage every day, they make sure it is in a bag that is tied not in a bag thats not tied and ready to fall out all over as we lift your can. I have been at my job 12 years now, I have been cut from stuff inside of a bag, I wounce was burned by a customer in Oceanside that threw out chlorine the night before it had rained and actived it so here I come to empty the pain and it spills all over me. After about an hour in the hot sun it burned a hole in my stomic. I was rushed to the hospital. I have broken my ankle twice cause of the pot holes in the street. The stuff people throw out is bad it stinks and sometimes it is covered in magnets that's always a treat. So try to tell the people on your block to treat us like humans and put you trash in a tied bag out niclely at the curb. Thanks
DeeDee September 20, 2012 at 04:16 PM
30 years in Cedarhurst and no problems until this year. We never had to call and complain until recently. Our entire block seems to be forgotten on the route sometimes. Sealed garbage bags are left in the container for no apparent reason. The recycle bin is not emptied for weeks at a time and then it's left blocking my driveway instead of where it was taken from. One apparently disgruntled worker on the route cannot be spoken to, no matter how politely. I'm not sure how the supervisor is dealing with him but it doesn't not seem to improve the situation. There was a never a problem before. Maybe they just keep moving around the couple of "bad apples" so everyone gets a chance to be miserable for a while.
Nikki September 20, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Fred, firstly I'm sorry that I confused the number of the oceanside district. But I'm really confused. I have been praising the oceanside sanitation workers and district and feel the others could learn from them. I can't tell of you are agreeing or arguing with me. Please clarify. Also, I can't believe that people could be so stupid and careless as to cause the injuries you sustained...
marlene mollo September 21, 2012 at 08:05 PM
I think its time to start hiring people who don't hate their jobs and people who really need a job like my son who would more than appreciate a job on Sanitation. He would probably be one of the nicest guys they ever hired. These guys earn a great salary work half days and have the best retirement plans as well as medical plans possible! Most of them are the nastiest people I have ever encountered. My cans are left thrown in my driveway half the trash lying next to them...so that when I come home from work...I have to get out of my car and pick everything up before I can even pull in my driveway. I have pebbles in my driveway and they literally drag half of them into the street because god forbid they ought to lift the can. They insist on dragging it all the way down the driveway with all the pebbles with it. SO THEN ALONG WITH HAVING TO PICK UP ALL THE TRASH AND THE CANS...I ALSO HAVE TO SWEEP ALL OF THE PEBBLES BACK INTO THE DRIVEWAY WHICH BUY THE WAY... ARE VERY EXPENSIVE TO REPLACE! I have lived in the 5 towns my entire life. My Dad worked for the county and I work at Lawrence High School. My mother drives for independent and my brother in law was a police officer at the 4th for 25 years. As a matter of fact my father in-law worked at district one for 35 years. He was a very well respected man. I truly think its time to do some cleaning out. Get rid of these miserable guys and hire some fresh blood. It's time for a change!!!
5towner September 21, 2012 at 08:20 PM
i lived in an apartment building in woodmere for 33 years was on a store truck route, garbage was picked up daily but you could set your clock by the time they were coming with the foul mouths and they would stand by the truck and literally toss the cans toward the alleyway where they were kept, one older man in particular must be the most nasty, disgruntled worker ever. he had even approached my father several times to ask if he was the super and when my father stated no, he proceeded to explain the poor service was due to the fact that they recieved no tip at the \holidays!! even telling my father to start up a collection in the building to "take care of the boys" at the holidays if we wanted better service, special pick up was a nightmare, never wanted to come out and we even had to resort to lying pretending to be the super (the building hadn't had one in years) to get them to remove stuff. district 1 is full of the most disgruntled employees you would ever want to meet! don't get me wrong i understand it is tedius, back breaking work but "taking care of the boys" should have been the landlords responsibility not the high rent paying tenants, he was a slumlord anyway so glad we moved, now there's no more loud, foul mouth workers on our route! Amen!
JSam September 21, 2012 at 08:29 PM
This Is Not Shocking To Me... Ive Had More Than A Few Run Ins With These People. Just Glad Others Are Seeing What Goes On. Thanks For Writing This Letter... Maybe Someone Will Take Notice And People Will Lose Their Jobs. No Where Else In The Workplace Would This Kind Of Behavior Be Accepted.
Marina September 24, 2012 at 02:23 AM
AMEN. People have nothing better to do. We should be grateful for what these guys do.

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