It’s been three weeks since Sandy hit. In parts of Staten Island and the Rockaways, you can still find debris on the curbs, or even piled high on the site where a home or business once stood.
The Army Corps of Engineers is tasked with leading Sandy clean-up efforts and estimates that 3.6 million cubic yards of debris will ultimately be carted out of New York City.
If that amount is hard to imagine, picture one square box, 3 feet and 36 inches in length on each side, and then multiply by 3.6 million. To be more respectful and specific than calling these units “trash,” consider these millions of cubic yards the water-logged, charred and destroyed pieces of people’s lives.
In the first week after the storm, the New York City Department of Sanitation reported clearing a quarter-million tons of storm-related debris off city streets.
The immediate question was where to haul it. Some quick thinking on the city’s part helped the DSNY locate sites.
“We turned a usual parking lot into an enormous short dump,” said DSNY spokesperson Vito Turso.
A short dump is just what it sounds like: a place to dump trash for a short while. The largest is at Jacob Riis Park, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area on the Rockaway Peninsula, nestled between Breezy Point (where 111 homes burned to the ground, and many more flooded), the Rockaways and the Rockaway Boardwalk (destroyed.) There are also short dumps at the Fresh Kills Landfill and at Father Capodanno Boulevard, both on Staten Island.
The amount of debris was too much for the DSNY to handle on it’s own. The department had taken some time off from picking up general household garbage and needed to get back to that service. Enter FEMA, which, with the Army Corps of Engineers, activated a standing contract with Environmental Chemical Corporation (ECC), a global construction, remediation and response company.
With the $92 million from the Army Corps, ECC subcontracted with 32 private, regional companies to clean up after Sandy, according to the Army Corps. Hauling companies have begun moving loads from the city’s short dumps to the Seneca Meadows landfill upstate in Waterloo, N.Y., near Syracuse.
So while Hurricane Sandy has thrown many businesses into financial upheaval, some New York companies are seeing an increased demand for their services.
Spiro Karolidig is the owner of Compac Industries, Inc., in Middle Village, Queens. His company has been involved with clean up from “day one,” he said.
“We got a lot of work and people are picking up a lot of extra hours,” said Karolidig, adding, “Thank God we’re busy.”
Compac employees hauled debris off the streets in the days immediately following Hurricane Sandy and are now at Jacob Riis Park excavating and loading debris onto two tractor-trailer trucks. They are also working for private companies contracted to clean out buildings in Lower Manhattan that were flooded.
Karolidig said it appeared many debris removal companies were hard at work cleaning up the region.
“The dumps have long lines like there’s never been before. It takes hours to dump where it’s usually in and out,” he said of the sorting site in Brooklyn where his company usually brings debris. “This storm has definitely brought extra work.”
For some, like Department of Sanitation employee Ed Shevlin, the work can get personal.
Crain’s New York Business, reported that waste removal and recyling businesses are booming.
“Volume is up tremendously,” Ronald Bergamini, chief executive of Action Carting Environmental Services Inc., a private waste-removal company based in Newark, N.J., told Crain’s.
As for recycling, a Sims Metal Management spokesperson told Crain’s that it’s business is expected to jump 10 to 15 percent as a result of Sandy, with everyone from contractors to individuals bringing Sims a lot of recyclables every day.
And what about all of the personal items left behind in Sandy’s wake that may not be trash?
Vito Turso of the NYC Department of Sanitation said that with Sandy, there is no lost and found.
“If it’s curbside, it’s lost,” he said.