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COVID-19 related budget cuts in the early days of the pandemic led to a reduction in sanitation services such as trash pick-ups, and changes to alternate side parking regulations.

Such cuts overlapped with an increase in outdoor dining, and other shifting patterns of human behavior, resulting in spikes in complaints relating to street cleanliness and rat sightings.

On March 12, 2020, then Mayor de Blasio issued a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, some City resources were diverted to aid the relief efforts and Fiscal Year 2021 (FY2021) budget gaps, and priorities shifted substantially. Alternate side parking (ASP) reductions led to cars remaining parked on streets for longer periods of time, reducing street sweepers’ ability to thoroughly clean the streets.

This may have been a contributing factor to the increase in litter being reported throughout the City, which saw increases in 311 complaints for dirty street conditions and missed garbage collections between 2020 and 2022.

On September 12, 2023, the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, chaired by Council Member Sandy Nurse, held an oversight hearing on DSNY’s Initiatives to Address Street Cleanliness. The committee will also hear several bills on street cleanliness. These bills seek to address concerns pertaining to the disposal of yellow and brown grease, dumping enforcement, the removal of abandoned or derelict vehicles, the commercial citywide routing system, increasing civil penalties for repeated littering violations, and DSNY’s resiliency and emergency planning.

The Council’s Data team gathered the following insights on street cleanliness in the City:

  • 311 derelict vehicle and illegal dumping calls have increased over time but have had fewer OATH violations issued. There were 18 derelict vehicle calls and 39 illegal dumping calls for each violation made. While there was only 1 dirty conditions call for every 4 violations
  • While most NYC streets have few dirty sidewalk OATH violations, less than three, there are eight streets that have more than 50 violations per total number of properties on that street.
  • The businesses with the most dirty sidewalk violations/complaints are located in Southwest Queens on Rockaway Parkway, with 70 complaints per business, and in Floral Park on Union Turnpike with 50 violations/complaints, also in Queens.

DSNY Litter Baskets

September 2023
Areas with Most Foot Traffic

Dirty Sidewalk Violations

August 2022 – August 2023
19,000 Streets
At least 1 Violation

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Learn More About the Hearing

Street Cleanliness

The sanitary conditions of New York City’s streets has effects beyond general quality of life and perception.

During flash flood conditions like those experienced on September 1, 2021 when Tropical Storm Ida hit the City, significant amounts of litter floated with stormwater and swiftly clogged catch basins, exacerbating flooding issues in some neighborhoods, and and correlating with a large spike in catch basin complaints called into 311.

Looking at not only where NYC residents are making 311 service requests but also at where OATH violations occur helps to gauge enforcement of sanitation street cleanliness rules.

Between August 2022 – August 2023, there were 212,632 OATH violations and 146,595 complaints to 311 related to dirty conditions (including 311 complaints for litter), derelict vehicles, and illegal dumping. There were more OATH violations for dirty conditions than 311 complaints. For every complaint about dirty conditions, there were about 4 violations.

On the other hand, there were fewer OATH violations per 311 complaints for derelict vehicles and illegal dumping. For each violation there were around 18 complaints for derelict vehicles and 39 complaints for illegal dumping.

311 data may be missing potential complaints due to an absence of 311 calls, or 311 data may contain multiple complaints about the same issue. For example, there are likely duplicate complaints of the same abandoned or derelict vehicles since they are not immediately removed.

Street Cleanliness Categories
August 2022 – August 2023

An indicator of street cleanliness is the number of OATH violations a residence or business receives. A building or business owner can receive an Oath Violation for many reasons; litter, improper disposal of waste/recycling, food-related conditions, and more.

Of approximately 19,000 streets with violations like ’Failure to Clean 18 Inches into Street’, 90% have less than 2.5 violations (per total number of properties on that street.) Around 200 streets have more than 10 violations and 8 streets have more than 50 violations.

The table below shows the worst 5 streets — streets with the most violations per property. West Kingbridge Road in the Bronx has 81 violations per property and 2823 – 2825 Dewey Avenue (also in the Bronx) has 68 violations per property, suggesting additional sanitation services are needed.

These top streets are where one property takes up the entire block facing the street. For example, on 2823 – 2825 Dewey Avenue has the Throggs Neck NYCHA Development with 11 buildings facing the street.

Streets with the Most Violations per Property
August 2022 – August 2023

When looking just at total violations, about 190 streets have 80 or more violations. The table below shows the worst 5 streets with the most violations overall. 1457 – 1499 Rosedale Avenue in the Bronx has 465 violations overall and 25-001 – 27-099 Steinway Street in Queens has 424 violations overall.

Streets with the Most Violations Overall
August 2022 – August 2023

In April 2021, then Mayor Bill de Blasio announced as part of his Recovery for All Plan, the creation of the City Cleanup Corps (“CCC”), a jobs program aimed to “make New York City the cleanest, greenest city in the United States.” The goal of the program was to hire up to 10,000 workers across 10 City agencies to clean and beautify public spaces, neighborhoods, parks, and green spaces.

This work included graffiti removal, pressure washing sidewalks, designing public murals, and tending to and maintaining community gardens and Open Streets. The CCC was funded with federal stimulus money, and hiring for the initiative began in April 2021.

According to a social media post made by the CCC official Instagram account on December 29, 2021, the CCC collected 1,000,000 bags of garbage around the City, and hand swept 70,000 City blocks in 2021. Funding for the CCC program expired in June of 2022, and 80 workers employed through the initiative were transferred to permanent positions with the city.

Below is an interactive map of sanitation related 311 service requests from the past year. The map shows complaint types related to sanitation at the citywide and Council District geographies.

‘Missed Collection’ is the top complaint Citywide with 61,000 complaints. ‘Derelict Vehicles’ and ‘Dirty Conditions’ also receive a high volume of 311 complaints (47,000 and 46,000.)

When looking at Dirty Conditions alone, Council District 9 and 36 have the most number of complaints (2,200 and 1,800.)

311 Service Requests Related to Street Cleanliness
August 2022 – August 2023

Commercial Waste

On August 1, 2023, a new set of administrative rules aimed at managing food-related waste took effect. Under the new rules, food-related businesses such as restaurants, delis, grocery stores, caterers, and bodegas must put their refuse and organic waste in a secure lidded container, to be emptied by the businesses’ private waste carters. An additional rule, that went into effect on September 5, 2023, extends containerization requirements to all businesses with five or more locations, regardless of what they sell.

New containerization rules endeavor to reduce the hazards of food waste — rodents, spills from broken bags, and insects, while improving the overall presentation of trash. Containerization, along with the imminent rollout of Commercial Waste Zones, will aid in improving street and sidewalk cleanliness efficiently.

This map shows the distribution of business-related OATH violations and 311 complaints per business. The median number of violations/complaints per business is about 1. Around 5% of areas receive 33 or more violations/complaints per 100 businesses. The businesses with the most violations/complaints are located in Parkside, Queens, near Forest Park, with about 4 complaints or violations for every business, and in the Rockaways with about 4 violations/complaints for every buisiness, also in Queens.

Commercial 311 Complaints and OATH Violations per Business
September 1, 2022 – August 30, 2023

Littering & Street Cleanliness

There are 24,681 litter baskets distributed across the city, with the highest density in areas with the most foot traffic. Litter baskets are for pedestrian use only (not household or commercial trash), and disposing anything besides light personal garbage can result in a ticket. While integral to street and sidewalk cleanliness, many litter baskets require more attention from DSNY so that refuse does not spill onto the streets and sidewalks.

The median number of 311 complaints per litter basket (overflowing and general complaints) is 8, though about 10% receive greater than 18. The litter baskets with the highest number of 311 complaints are located in Brooklyn, on Boerum Place/Atlantic Ave (30) in Cobble Hill and Myrtle Avenue/Carlton Place (56) in Fort Greene.

Litter Basket Complaints per Basket
August 2022 – August 2023

Additional Concerns

Illegal Dumping

Unlawful dumping of household and business waste is an ongoing challenge to maintaining clean and sanitary sidewalks and streets. It is illegal for any person to deposit household or commercial refuse or liquid wastes in or upon any sidewalk, street, lot, park, public place, or in a public litter basket.
Local Law 135 of 2018 increased the civil and criminal penalties for unlawful dumping, prohibited improper disposal of household and commercial waste on sidewalks and streets, and allowed DSNY to use identifying information to locate the violator.

Still, illegal dumping and corner litter baskets overflowing with household and commercial waste continues to exacerbate the City’s litter challenges.

Illegal Dumping Complaints
August 2022 – August 2023

Yellow and Brown Grease

Yellow grease, or waste vegetable oil, generally consists of used cooking oil, while the term brown grease denotes grease that has been recovered from the grease traps of restaurants and food processing facilities.

When improperly disposed of down drains, grease can congeal around debris like nonwoven sanitary wipes and discarded plastic, accumulating in sewage grates and wastewater conveyance pipes to form clogging masses known as fatbergs.

Grease Complaints
August 2022 – August 2023

Derelict and Abandoned Vehicles

According to the New York State Code Vehicle & Traffic Statute, motor vehicles are deemed to be abandoned if they are left unattended without license plates for more than six hours on any highway or public place, for more than twenty-four hours on any highway or public place, except those on which parking is legally permitted, for more than forty-eight hours beyond when the parking of the vehicle would be considered illegal, if left on a portion of a highway or public place where parking is legally permitted, or for more than ninety-six hours on private property without the permission of the property owner.
If a vehicle with license plates accrues more than three tickets, the NYPD may tow and impound the car, after which the vehicle’s owner has 90 days to come forward before the property can be put up for auction.

Cars that meet the criteria for a derelict vehicle, meaning that the vehicle lacks license plates, has a missing or damaged hood, grill, front bumper or front fender, or is otherwise seriously burned, damaged, or visibly deteriorated or damaged, are removed by DSNY’s Derelict Vehicles Operation Unit.

Derelict Vehicle Complaints
August 2022 – August 2023


To address this issue, the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management will be hearing the following legislation:

  • Establishing a tracking system concerning the disposal of yellow and brown grease. Int 0413-2022
  • Resources for cleanup and enforcement of dumping. Int 0769-2022
  • Increasing the civil penalty for repeated littering violations. Int 0809-2022
  • Emergency and resiliency plans of the department of sanitation. Int 0861-2022
  • Expanding the commercial citywide routing system for sidewalk cleanliness violations and technical amendments thereto, including to repeal and reenact subdivision c of section 16-118.1. Int 0981-2023
  • Removal of abandoned or derelict vehicles.Int 1032-2023

 For feedback, comments, and questions please email

Created by the NYC Council Data Team.