No trash talk here in the Five Towns

Residents and officials praise S.D. 1’s storm cleanup


At a Lawrence Association meeting back in November 2011, nearly 100 Five Towns residents complained about the lack of service and attentiveness from Sanitary District No. 1, which picks up trash and recyclables throughout the community.

What a difference a year makes.

At a Village of Lawrence meeting on Nov. 15, 2012, Sanitary Commissioner James Vilardi received sustained applause from community members for the work sanitary district employees have done since Hurricane Sandy.

They have removed more than 15 million pounds of storm debris since Nov. 1, compared with 1.2 million pounds during November and December of 2011. The refuse is taken to the district’s facility on Bay Boulevard in Lawrence, and then trucked to Covanta Energy in Westbury. “It’s been a 24-hour operation,” said the district’s deputy superintendent, George Pappas. “We’ve made six, seven or eight trips down the same block to make sure we took everything.”

Hewlett Harbor Mayor Mark Weiss said that despite complaints about Sanitary District No. 1 in the past, residents have praised its efforts post-Sandy.

“It’s an incredible feat to have a 180-degree turn-around,” Weiss said. “It’s not an easy job, and there’s nothing glamorous about what these guys do, but they gave people a sense that they were being helped and distinguished themselves in this storm. We were thrilled with the approach they took.”

The district’s management met on Oct. 31, then employees reported to work the next day to resume regular garbage pickups as well as storm debris removal. “At our staff meeting, we discussed how important it is to let the residents know that we’ll pick up all of their debris,” Pappas said. “And we’re still assisting residents to this day.”

About a dozen of the 70 employees who pick up garbage had their homes damaged by Sandy, Pappas said.

CSEA Union President Joe Mazziotti, a Lindenhurst resident, was dealing with flooding in his basement while working to clean up Cedarhurst, where his parents grew up. “It was like a circus running between my house, my family’s house and working,” Mazziotti said. “It was an emergency, though, and it’s not something that happens every day. There was no time to think about anything; you went about your day as normal as you could.”

Helping others who had suffered was Mazziotti’s motivation. “Everyone was affected by the storm, and you wanted to get it cleaned up as soon as possible,” he said. “We couldn’t get enough thanks from the community — they were great. They understood we were not only working, but coming out after work to pick more up, and they couldn’t have been more grateful.”

Lawrence Association President Ron Goldman read longtime member Margaret Carpenter’s written words at the association’s Dec. 26 meeting: “The men worked around the clock and worked diligently to clean up our neighborhoods.”

Constant communication with village officials helped the district run more efficiently, according to Pappas. “We were able to give the community a sense of relief,” he said.

Cedarhurst Mayor Andrew Parise said that the Sanitary District was very cooperative, and that they kept in touch regularly after the storm. “They had men out day and night,” Parise said. “I received wonderful feedback from residents; the reaction was great. They did an excellent job.”

Pappas could not say enough good things about the staff. “Many of the men worked 10 to 14 hours a day and then went home to a cold shower,” he said. “We all worked together and stuck together to help the residents.”

Recycling pickups were suspended until the middle of January, because storm debris pickup is the priority. “We had to make decisions, and it’s important to get the storm debris first,” Pappas said.

Residents can schedule a recycling pickup by calling the sanitary district offices at (516) 239-5600.