It’s the city’s dirty little secret.
The Sanitation Department has dumped a longtime measuring system used to determine whether streets and sidewalks are clean — even as the city faces a trash and rat scourge.
In the Mayor’s Management Report for the fiscal year that ended June 30, officials noted that the 1970s-era “scorecard street cleanliness program” – which relied on random inspections – was dumped because it’s outdated.
The program will be “overhauled” at an unspecified date “to better reflect current standards of what constitutes a clean or dirty street or sidewalk,” the Sanitation Department insisted in the report released last month.
Under the old scorecard system, the city’s grades fell each of the previous three years.
Some critics are questioning whether the agency and Mayor Adams — who’s made ridding the city of rodent infestations a signature initiative of his administration — dropped the scoring system because they want to sweep the problem under the rug.
They say without having scorecards it will be hard to measure whether Adams and the agency are actually making progress.
“The city is a filthy mess – there’s garbage everywhere, especially in these areas where they brought in these migrants and it’s all condensed,” barked Republican Curtis Sliwa, who lost the 2022 mayoral election to Adams.
“So if you’re Eric Adams . . . of course you don’t want an audit – even if it’s your own – because it’s gonna be dismal. I don’t think there’s a neighborhood out there that can say it doesn’t have a garbage problem.”
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island) fumed, “Metrics or no metrics, everyone can see that New York City streets are filthier than ever, and Mayor Adams’ plan to cut city services by 15% to fund the migrant crisis . . . will only make things worse.”
Previous management reports released by Adams and his predecessor Bill de Blasio showed the number of streets rated “acceptably clean” had declined from 96.4% in fiscal 2020, to 93.7% in fiscal 2021, to 89.6% in fiscal 2022. Meanwhile, streets rated “filthy” rose from 0.1% in fiscal 2020, to 0.6% in fiscal 2021, to 1.5% in fiscal 2022.
Sidewalks rated “acceptably clean” also declined over the same period from 96.8% to 95.2%. while sidewalks rated “filthy” jumped from 0.1% to 0.8%
Sanitation Department spokesman Joshua Goodman said there are better ways to measure street and sidewalk cleanliness than the old “scorecard” – including tapping into 311 data – and that the department is working with the Mayor’s Office of Operations to develop “a permanent successor.” No time frame was provided.
He insisted the agency has made great strides this past year in its fight on filth, including handing out 64% more summonses for basic cleanliness violations, beefing up enforcement against illegal dumping by 150%, and seeing a significant drop-off in litter-basket complaints.
A 2020 report by the state comptroller’s office cited some flaws in the metrics of the scorecard, including that “inspections are performed from a moving car, making it difficult for the inspectors to have an unobstructed view of the street/sidewalk being rated.” It suggested the city rely more on data sources, including 311 service requests.
In Oct. 2022, Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Queens) introduced a bill that would force the Sanitation Department to inspect each city street at least two times a year and post letter grades on its website based on the level of cleanliness. It is currently stalled in a committee.