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In the increasingly bitter race for the New York City Democratic mayoral nomination, one disturbing fact looms larger by the day:
While Andrew Yang has absolutely no qualifications for the job, Kathryn Garcia, who’s risen in the polls in what’s become a three-way race with Yang and Eric Adams, has all the wrong qualifications.
A career bureaucrat who boasts of her accomplishments in various city positions — mostly notably, or ignominiously, seven years at the helm of the Department of Sanitation — Garcia compiled a track record of incompetence bordering on dereliction.
In fact, “garbage in, garbage out” might best reflect her DOS tenure, during which the city’s streets and sidewalks turned filthier than ever. Yang alluded to it without using Garcia’s name at Wednesday night’s debate, but her finger- and footprints are all over it.
Garcia’s career history is full of embarrassments, from her fuzzy, blame-the-cops approach to crime (she’d take us “from a warrior culture to a guardian mindset”) to paying mostly minority women at DOS half as much as mostly white men for similar work, as The Post reported.
Her loopy proposed solution to reducing traffic congestion is to add 250 miles of bike lanes to the existing 1,375 miles — which are, of course, in themselves a large reason for traffic congestion.
But it’s her performance as sanitation chief — the centerpiece of her campaign — that calls for the most scrutiny. As Mark Twain hilariously wrote of novelist Fenimore Cooper’s over-acclaimed literary output, “It has some defects.”
Garcia was more absorbed in global environmental issues than in the less “woke” business of keeping streets clean. No surprise that she was endorsed by the statewide League of New York Conservation Voters, who praised her for making “Zero Waste her top priority” — which included “the largest composting ban in the US.”
Of course, what most New Yorkers want is sidewalks that don’t resemble Himalayan ridges of smelly, rat-friendly trash outside their homes. The deterioration started long before department budget cuts last year, as anyone with eyes — and a nose — can attest.
Although Garcia cited Mayor de Blasio’s spring 2020 budget clippers as the reason why she quit as commissioner last September, the agency’s much-publicized $106 million chop needn’t have been a death blow.
The cuts (which impacted all city departments) stemmed from de Blasio’s failure as a fiscal manager. Still, an agency chief must roll with the punches. Garcia did not weather the battle with valor. Rather than redeploy personnel and otherwise tweak the operation to pick up the slack in trash collecting, Garcia punted the blame.
As city Controller Scott Stringer (himself a mayoral candidate) said last year, “Stop throwing your hands up because you had to make a small budget cut.” In fact, that $106 million chop — much-cited by her media cheering section — accounted for a mere 6 percent of the DOS’s $1.75 billion annual operating budget. Nearly a quarter of the cuts, $24.5 million, came out of composting and recycling — not the department’s No. 1 reason for being.
Garcia’s agency was out to lunch long before then. Its failure to promptly clear a mere six inches of snow in November 2018 resulted in epic traffic jams that trapped hundreds of school kids on buses for up to ten hours. That time, too, Garcia blamed the fiasco on a more sinister cause than her own ineptitude — that the city didn’t warn people to stay inside.
An analysis by the city in 2020 absurdly found streets and sidewalks “acceptably clean” more than 95 percent of the time over the previous two fiscal years. It was a howler that drew belly laughs from Big Apple residents.
Most of us observed the rise of the putrid piles going back years. Once-tidy East 75th Street between First and Second avenues, where I live, came to look and reek like a block-long garbage dump.
It wasn’t only my impression. An independent study by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli — who like Garcia is a Democrat — last fall found that of 271 blockfronts it examined, 189 streets and 159 sidewalks were dirty based on City Hall’s own Operations Scorecard criteria.
Among DOS’s failings, DiNapoli found, it “does not monitor daily performance of its street-cleaning staff”; didn’t deploy resources properly; and “did not effectively utilize or share information across its bureaus and divisions.”
For good measure, city inspections were “performed from a moving car,” denying inspectors a clear view of streets and sidewalks they were supposed to rate.
In that unsparing light, Garcia’s claim that “I’ve gotten up at 5 a.m. to make sure that by the time most New Yorkers wake up, their trash has been collected” can only be read as comic relief. But should she become mayor, the joke’s on all of us.
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