NYU tackles ‘swell in rat population’ with new trash bins

Representatives from NYU, the Union Square Partnership and a local politician unveiled eight new enclosed trash bins outside of the Carlyle Court residence hall during an inauguration event on Sept. 30.


Yuna Baek

New garbage containers intended to reduce trash on the street are put into use at the Carlyle Court residence hall. (Yuna Baek for WSN)

Abby Wilson, News Editor

Eight trash enclosure bins were installed in front of the Carlyle Court residence hall as part of a pilot program which aims to remove leaky trash bags obstructing New York City curbs on Friday, Sept. 30. The new bins were unveiled by representatives from NYU and the Union Square Partnership — a nonprofit organization that oversees the upkeep of Union Square Park and its surrounding area.

“We’re delighted to be welcoming our students back to cleaner and safer sidewalks, and to be part of improving the quality of life for all those who live and work in the Union Square area,” Cecil Scheib, NYU’s chief sustainability officer, said. “With these new bins, we’re initiating a proof-of-concept that we hope to replicate across our campus, and share lessons learned that could be spread across New York City.”

The nearly 750 residents of Carlyle Court, which is located along the edge of Union Square, produce between 4,000 and 5,000 pounds of trash each week, according to a press release. The new bins, which collectively have the capacity for 45 bags of trash, will contain garbage that is otherwise left out on the curb outside of the residence hall, blocking the sidewalk, creating odors, and attracting insects and rodents. The containers will be emptied by city sanitation workers and cleaned by NYU employees on a regular basis. 

The bins were purchased by way of a grant from the New York City Department of Sanitation, which was given to the nonprofit partnership. The partnership is sanctioned by the city to represent and run the Union Square Business Improvement District. Only Business Improvement Districts — which lead initiatives to improve business in their designated neighborhoods — can apply for the sanitation grants. NYU and the Washington Square Park Conservancy, an affiliate organization of the New York City Parks Department that oversees the other major park near NYU’s campus, are ineligible to apply.

Scheib, New York City Council member Erik Bottcher, NYU administrator Lynne Brown and two executives of the Union Square Partnership — Ed Janoff and Tali Cantor — attended the program’s inauguration event outside of the NYU dorm. They posed for photographs and placed trash bags in the new bins during the event.

“We have all seen the mountains of trash blocking sidewalks and feeding a swell in the rat population, but we don’t have to live this way,” state senator Brad Hoylman wrote in the press release. “I look forward to taking the wisdom we glean from this pilot and using it to bring cleaner streets to all New Yorkers.”

The initiative is part of the city’s Clean Curbs Pilot Program, which is endorsed by NYU’s Office of Sustainability and NYU Facilities & Construction Management. NYU’s involvement in the program is a part of its larger push to minimize waste and improve air quality at the university. NYU plans to reach carbon neutrality by 2040 — a goal that is detailed in the 2021 NYU Climate Action Plan Update. In April, President Andrew Hamilton announced that the university was on track to halve 2006 emission levels by 2025.

Arnav Binaykia contributed reporting.

Contact Abby Wilson at [email protected].