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A new study claims NYC streets aren’t that dirty and we’re all confused

Do you really believe that only 1.5% of NYC streets are "filthy?"

Anna Rahmanan
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Anna Rahmanan
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A new report by the mayor’s office claims that only 1.5% of New York City’s streets are considered “filthy.” For what it’s worth, we are 100% convinced there’s something off with the numbers: have you not noticed the piles of garbage that marinate on curbs all throughout the city each day?

The Department of Sanitation, the agency behind the study, has reportedly been using what we think are very odd metrics to evaluate the city’s level of cleanliness for years now. 

As explained by Gothamist, the scorecard method dates back to 1973 and calls for inspectors to visit city blocks each month “and assign a score ranging from ‘acceptably clean’ to ‘filthy’ based on the amount of litter” they can glimpse at. 

To give you perspective: according to 2020's scorecard, only 0.1% of NYC streets were "filthy" back then. Last year, the percentage went up to 0.6%. Although this year's data indicated a clear "rise in filth," it is undoubtedly not a true-to-reality look at how things are going around here.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has actually gone on the record multiple times about the absurdity of the system. In a 2020 audit, he argued that the quick official visits were the only measure of monitoring and a not-so-reliable one at that.

"We question whether Operations' drive-by approach to inspections provides inspectors with a clear line of sight of the actual conditions of NYC's streets or sidewalks, especially when inspecting areas that are blocked from view by parked cars or areas on the opposite side of the street," read the audit. 

This year, DiNapoli spoke up about the matter again. 

“For cleaner streets, the Department of Sanitation needs to clean up its operations,” he said in an official statement. “In 2020, we warned the department to make improvements, but our latest review found it did not implement our recommendations. New Yorkers deserve clean, livable streets—it’s time for DSNY to do more to effectively keep NYC clean, safe, and healthy.”

Although the city recently limited how long trash bags can sit on the sidewalk and giant garbage bins are being installed across the five boroughs to help us reach an acceptable level of cleanliness, we are very clearly the second dirtiest city in the world for a reason.

This is all to say: there’s absolutely no way that only less than 2% of our streets are to be considered filthy. 

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