The bill, sponsored by Assembly members Joe Lentol, Rory Lancman and Michael DenDekker, along with State Senator Martin Golden, would extend the same protections currently offered to traffic enforcement agents, registered nurses, emergency medical service personnel, firefighters and police to sanitation workers.
Sanitation employee Hugh Hicks was punched in the chest by a woman while working his Monday morning route on Hoyt Avenue in Astoria in October. His partner, who was driving the truck, blocked the woman from getting out of her car for a minute, leaving her furious, Hicks said.
Even though he suggested she call 311, the woman directed her rage at him and his partner.
“If a cop car's blocking the street, they don't say anything. If a fire truck is blocking the street, they just wait,” he said, “but for some reason, when a sanitation truck is in the street, they get out of the car, they roll down the window, they yell and scream at you.”
Every Sanitation Department worker has been threatened at least once, he said.
“This is just one example of what people do,” Hicks said, referring to the assault. “I've been threatened numerous times.”
The police were called to the scene, he said, but no arrest was made because the woman didn't leave a mark on his skin.
Hicks said although Sanitation workers are city employees, they're viewed differently.
“Maybe it's because we collect trash, maybe they view us as trash,” he said. “I don't know.”
Hicks said Sanitation workers also face problems when plowing snow, because sometimes it builds up in people's driveways. However, he said, they also get mad if their streets aren't plowed at all.
But he said, “For the most part, I love my job. For the most part, New Yorkers are good and they're nice.”
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, chair of the Criminal Justice Committee, introduced a resolution in the City Council last week urging the state to pass the bill.
“It's time we give New York's Strongest the same legal protections as the Bravest, Boldest and Finest,” Crowley said in a statement. “This legislation would strengthen the message that sanitation workers are a valued part of our city and that assaulting a member of the department will result in severe consequences.”
Crowley announced the legislation at a press conference on the steps of City Hall with Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, which Hicks also attended.
“I have zero tolerance for violent attacks against the city's uniformed civil service workers while they are trying to do their jobs,” Hynes said. “The hard-working sanitation workers that work hard to keep our city clean need to know that we are behind them and that we will not tolerate any violence against them.”