Metro

NYC sanitation workers blame de Blasio’s vaccine mandate on trash pileups

These city employees think Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vaccine mandate is pure garbage — and they should know!

Sanitation workers outraged over the order to get inoculated against COVID-19 are letting trash pile up across Staten Island and in parts of Brooklyn — and the head of their union said Wednesday that he’s on their side.

The protesting workers are engaging in a rule-book slowdown that includes returning to their garages for things like gloves or gas so collections don’t get finished, sources said.

Supervisors have even been warned to guard the garages this weekend to prevent trucks from getting vandalized, sources said.

When asked what was going on, Teamsters Local 831 President Harry Nespoli, whose union represents the sanitation workers, shot back, “The mandate’s going on.”

“Look, you’re going to have some spots in the city that they feel very strongly about this,” he said.

Nespoli added: “I’ll tell you straight out: I disagree with the mandate because of one reason. We have a program in place right now in the department, which is, you get the vaccination or you get tested once a week.”

Mayor de Blasio has required city workers to get the jab.
Mayor de Blasio has required city workers to get the jab.
Andrew Burt/Getty Images

Nespoli said the vaccination rate among the agency is about 65 percent.

“Our vaccinations are going up on a regular basis,” the union chief noted. “In the last five days, we had 300 more that got vaccinated.”

Residents of Staten Island’s Dongan Hills neighborhood said Wednesday’s scheduled pick-up didn’t take place, echoing what happened on Saturday.

“A few more days of this and people will be screaming in the streets!” said Nick Gisonda, 69.

Sanitation hasn't picked up garbage in Staten Island. Victory Blvd in Silver Lake Staten Island.
A view of a trash pile on Victory Blvd. on Staten Island.
Steve White

But the retired city mechanic expressed solidarity with the sanitation workers, saying, “It’s like Nazi Germany: ‘Where are your papers? Your cards! Show me your cards!’”

A neighbor who identified herself as Julie added, “What the city is doing is unfair.”

“I am coming from Russian federation and this is deja vu,” she said.

“People should not be forced by state to take medicine, because state says, ‘Do this or starve!’ They should be free. That is why I came here 20 years ago.”

In Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhood, dozens of bags stuffed with trash were heaped in three piles along Shore Road.

Sanitation hasn't picked up garbage in Staten Island. Photo on Richmond Road near Old Town Road
Nespoli said the vaccinations among the sanitation workers is around 65 percent.
Steve White

“If they aren’t going to pick it up, it’s going to be a big problem,” said Rolando Ponze, the superintendent of a local apartment building.

Ponze also noted that Owl’s Head Park was located around the corner, on the other side of 68th Street.

“If you keep this here for a while, the rats are definitely going to cross,” he said.

The deadline for workers to get the jab is on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021.
The deadline for workers to get the jab is on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

Other areas in Brooklyn where mounds of rubbish are piling up include Dyker Heights, Fort Hamilton, Bath Beach, Gravesend, Bensonhurst, Flatbush, Midwood, Kensington, Canarsie, Mill Basin and the Flatlands, according to the Sanitation Department.

Under de Blasio’s directive, city employees have until 5 p.m. Friday to get their first shot — and collect a $500 bonus — or be placed on leave without pay.

But enforcement won’t begin until Monday, giving still-hesitant workers one last weekend to reconsider.

Additional reporting by Steven Vago and Nolan Hicks


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