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When it comes to refuse, she’s royalty.
Dubbing herself the “Trash Queen of Hell’s Kitchen,” longtime West 51st Street resident Catie Savage and a like-minded group calling themselves the “Litter Legion” go out every other Sunday to clear their neighborhood’s sidewalks and streets of filth.
As many as 25 people are members of the trash troupe, and they range from millennials to septuagenarians.
It all began in April 2020, when Savage noticed the pandemic detritus of masks and gloves.
“That’s what I was focused on because I didn’t want them to be washed into storm sewers during the rain and then end up in the river,” said Savage, 36.
Armed with a trash grabber, she tidied up her block, West 51st between Ninth and Tenth avenues, and a few neighboring ones, filling a plastic shopping bag.
Once to-go food and drinks became the only option for diners at the start of the pandemic, a “crazy amount of litter started showing up,” she said.
After her first few solo forays, the fashion-industry pattern-maker began posting on platforms like Instagram and Nextdoor, prompting others to join her.
Sam Carnicelli, an auditor who lives in Hells Kitchen, said the Litter Legion allows him to “marry” his passion for the environment and volunteering.
Savage, who pushes a “granny cart” emblazoned with her nickname, is bracing for another spike in street garbage with to-go alcohol recently approved by the city.
Savage’s efforts were timely. The city Sanitation budget was slashed by $106 million in June 2020, and the number of garbage trucks assigned to empty street corner baskets dropped a whopping 63%. The number of trucks has since rebounded, but it’s still 20% lower than pre-pandemic times.
“When the budget was cut, the corner baskets were in a constant state of overflow, sitting for days without being emptied as loose litter piled up around them when it could no longer fit inside,” Savage said.
On April 18, she will begin a part-time position as a volunteer and outreach coordinator with the Sanitation Foundation, the DSNY’s nonprofit organization.
“All New Yorkers have a part to play in keeping the city safe, healthy and clean, and we’re always happy to work with residents like Catie who want to step up to do their part,” said Sanitation spokesman Joshua Goodman.