I live in the Marigny, just two blocks from Esplanade. One day two weeks ago, we heard a lot of clunking and banging. Everyone on my little street went outside, and thinking it was a film shoot we didn't know about, (hey we're easily entertained over here!) peered into what we thought was a grip truck. No. It was two guys in an open huge truck tossing out 96 gallon trash "carts." Up and down Burgundy was a sea of black, HUGE black carts. One building with four units and a nice porch had four of the damn things tossed in front of it. The next day they did our little street, which is only about 2 blocks long. We all stood there astonished and had a de facto block meeting right then.
First we looked at the sheer size of these things, big enough to hide a couple bodies in easily, and after the expected jokes about that, we started talking about how much actual trash we put out each week. We are not huge families over here, and we figured on a really busy week of spring cleaning or yard work, maybe we'd fill it up, but mostly we were all talking about maybe two kitchen size trash bags per week. One of the neighbors called the head of Sanitation, as she had talked to her earlier in the week about the FQuarter bins, explaining patiently that there simply wasn't anyplace for her to put the albeit smaller FQ trash cart at her place of business. Madam Sylvia told her, "Well then, just put it in your living room." Our neighbor dialed the number as she was telling us the story, and asked upon getting connected with the office, whether we in the Marigny would have the option of asking for smaller carts. We were told NO. PERIOD.
At that, the rest of us were incensed. (BTW, we have a different trash company than the Quarter does, part of the "new improved three company-costs three times as much as it used to" contract Nagin signed.) Some of us decided that perhaps we should all just use one or two for the whole block. That seemed more reasonable, then one of our number, a very astute guy said, NO. If they're going to make us have these, then put your one little plastic bag of trash in it, don't use anyone elses and make them pick up every damn one of them every damn time.
Most of us over here are fairly ecologically minded, and we thought that combining would make sense, send the rest of the gigantic petroleum product carts back, but another of our neighbors thinks that they're expecting us to do that and that in five years or less there will just be one big dumpster on every block to make it more expedient for the mechanized trucks to pick it up. It's possible I suppose. Speaking of the mechanized trucks, the parking situation here is very dense, short of putting our carts out IN the street, the guys are still gonna have to come get them off the sidewalk, take them to the mechanized arm for emptying and return them.
So we've decided to decorate ours. We are going to have a get together, come up with a theme, and decorate all our damn carts with slogans asking HOW MUCH DID THESE COST? WILL OUR PARKING TICKET PAYMENTS COVER OUR TRASH BILLS? THINK WE COULD GET SMALLER ONES? and of course, lots of pretty flowers.
I know Varg has weighed in on this, and there's a piece over at Suspect Device. And yes, I do understand that bitching about this when some people can't get trash pickup seems ridiculous. But what we see is what appears to us to be an overpriced, overkill approach that's costing too much, and offers no room at all for compromise, at least when it comes to the Sanitation Department head. And all the talk about "Hey I live in the French Quarter, up yours" that I'm seeing is ignoring the very REAL issues business owners are having. The place where we go to get our hair cut has no place to put these bins, at all, period, finito. He will have to leave his bin out in front, put it IN the shop, or eschew the cart altogether and take the trash from the shop home, which is what he's thinking of doing. Another little shop on Royal has no alley and a very narrow sidewalk in front. She has no room inside for this cart, and if it's on the sidewalk, people will have to walk single file to get past her shop. Her concern is that they will do just that--walk PAST the shop which is barely squeaking by anyway. Oh yeah, and she's in her late 60's, takes a cab home and can't take her trash with her.
Not all of us who live in this area are a bunch of "up yours the rest of NOLA" snobs, nor are we all monied property owners. (Our block is half renters, half owners.) One commenter on Suspect Device's blog said, "at least the black plastic bags were picked up and GONE, the carts will stay out." And yeah, it WILL change the look of the French Quarter, and YEAH, that is a problem. I've already heard tourists asking if they can move the damn things to take a picture. No kidding. I mean, hey, they wanna show the folks back home the lacy iron work, not the behemoth trash bins. But some of what I'm hearing has a tinge of screw the tourists and the business owners who exist thanks to them. Lupin called her a bitch, how petty, how typical of all those snobby FQ/Marigny folks.
Well ya know, he was RIGHT. He could have been more politic, but my guess is he's heard more stories about "keep it in your living room" than the rest of us have, and I know he's been trying hard to find a compromise which apparently is impossible even though the Sanitation Dept originally said they'd give waivers to people who couldn't accomodate the carts, and now they're evidently taking that back.
Those of us living here care deeply about the problems of other parts of this city, things like no garbage collection, or the gigantic hole on Magazine Street. Ya know why? Because we LOVE New Orleans, all of it and cuz WE are the ones on our bicycles riding through the bewildered tourists, being asked, "Hey you know a good place to find. . . ." Know what we do? We send them to Uptown, we send them to Magazine Street with lots of praise for all the fabulous shopping they'll find there saying, "There's way more to New Orleans than just the Quarter." We patiently look at their maps with them, we explain that the street names change once they cross Canal, we tell them about NOMA, we tell them about City Park, we tell them they'll love the city. We're also the ones who have to move the damn carts out of the way while they hand us their cameras to "take a picture of us, will you?"
Oh yeah, and for the record, I loaded up my cart for its first pickup: All the trash I could find, including an old vacuum cleaner and all its parts that had been sitting around here for a year. (Yes, the entire vacuum, its parts and three bags of trash fit with room to spare and the lid went all the way down.) The following week there was one bag in there. What a waste.