The Ph.D. Program in History

at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York

GC Events

10/6 – The “World’s Most Wasteful City”? New York and its Garbage

The Gotham Center for New York City History presents The “World’s Most Wasteful City”? New York and its Garbage

New York has struggled with trash ever since the colonials first began making it. But with the rise of mass consumption, solid waste like plastic replaced the biodegradable garbage of earlier times — increasing at fantastic rates in the decades after World War II. By now, the city produces 14 million tons per year; a staggering count, even by the national rate (50% higher than most developed countries). The vast majority is hauled elsewhere for landfill or incineration.

In this conversation, Martin Melosi, perhaps the most distinguished historian of waste today, speaks about the various ways New York has tried to solve this growing problem, drawing on his giant new study Fresh Kills, about the notorious Staten Island dump, which served for many years as the city’s main junkpile (arguably, the world’s largest). The book explores a fraught, modern search for disposal that has triggered often-fierce argument in many cities, as well as severe challenges and costs. The work also examines the dramatic, ongoing restoration of the 2,200-acre landfill into a salt marsh and park three times as large as Central. Robin Nagle, Anthropologist in Residence at the Department of Sanitation and the author of Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City, joins for this reflection on an essential but often neglected part of Gotham’s history.

Tue, October 6, 2020

6:30 PM – 8:00 PM EDT

Register for this free virtual event here