DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN, Brooklyn (PIX11) — More trash on the streets, and more rats everywhere — those are what critics of Mayor Eric Adams’s proposed cuts to the city’s sanitation budget predicted on Thursday. They held a protest on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall, calling for the mayor to increase, rather than decrease, what the city will spend on handling waste.
Their demonstration began with some people in rat costumes pretending to be rallying for the Sanitation Department’s budget to be slashed, in an attempt at ironic humor.
Steps away, James Daniels, a local resident, used some humor himself to talk about what he called a real problem with trash, and what can come with it.
“You come here about 6, 7 at night or in the morning,” he said, gesturing to Cadman Plaza, “and they might kidnap you,” he continued. “Take your camera and your microphone. That’s how big they are. Keep sanitation, please.”
He was overexaggerating for effect, but Regina Wilkinson, another person nearby who spoke with PIX11 News, made clear that his description was only a slight exaggeration, and that the issue is king-size serious.
“If you come out at night” to the area, she said, you’ll see “big kitty cats.”
“Those are rats,” she continued. “They’re big, though. If [the mayor] reduces [the sanitation budget], I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
City records show that rodent complaints are up significantly.
According to an analysis of 311 complaints by RentHop.com, rodent complaints to the 311 system rose 29 percent last year, compared to 2020.
And it’s likely to get worse, according to protesters, if the city’s final budget matches what Mayor Adams wants. He’s proposed a three percent reduction in all agencies’ budgets, with the exception of the NYPD.
In the case of the SDNY, the cuts would include stopping a program that would have city residents separate some food waste, and compost it.
Sandy Nurse, the Brooklyn City Council member who chairs the council’s sanitation committee, organized Thursday’s protest and said that the city needs its composting program expanded, not cut.
“What we’d like to see,” she said, is people taking their food waste “[and] putting it in rodent-proof containers. That would come with the curbside organics program being fully expanded.”
She and other demonstrators, including Antonio Reynoso, the Brooklyn borough president, and former city council sanitation chair, said that any reduction to the sanitation budget will also reduce the quality of life in the city.
“We’re putting you on notice,” Reynoso said at the protest, “We hope that the executive budget reflects an increase, not a decrease, in the sanitation budget.”
For its part, City Hall issued a statement early Thursday evening:
“As Mayor Adams laid out in his Preliminary Budget, agencies must tighten their belts and operate more efficiently. Like other agencies, the Department of Sanitation achieved savings without reducing services or laying off employees. We are committed to working with the chair, her colleagues in the Council, and advocates to ensure our streets are clean and sanitary, and we continue to make progress toward our Zero Waste goals.”
Both the mayor and the City Council have until July 1 to pass a budget on which they agree.