A photo of garbage. Photo: Ryan Chiao, Photo Editor

For years, some New Haven residents have been unable to sleep through the night — saying they are abruptly awakened by garbage handlers rumbling through the streets in the early hours of the morning. 

The Legislative Committee of the Board of Alders met on Tuesday night to discuss an amendment that would require the operators of garbage and recycling buses to provide GPS data relevant to the noise complaints. Previously, for a noise complaint to be filed, a city employee had to witness the infraction. 

The amendment, proposed by Ward 1 Alder Eli Sabin ’22, Ward 2 Alder Frank E. Douglass Jr., Ward 7 Alder Abigail Roth ’90 LAW ’94 and Ward 3 Alder Ron C. Hurt, would require garbage haulers to provide GPS data that would confirm their whereabouts at the time of a complaint — allowing the city to cite companies that violate the city’s nighttime noise ordinance.

“For many years, our city has been unable to enforce our noise ordinance because it requires a city employee to witness any violations committed by trash haulers operating in our community, and since most violations happen at 3 or 4 in the morning, no city staff is able to be there to witness the infraction,” Sabin said during Tuesday’s meeting. “The trash haulers, who make a lot of money picking up garbage and recycling at our commercial properties around the city, have been able to exploit the fact that we can’t enforce our ordinance.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, speakers noted the many concerns they had received from residents as a result of trash and recycling vehicles passing by their houses at inconvenient times. Sabin and Roth also emphasized throughout the meeting that the law is intended to punish the company behind these violations, and not the individual worker driving the vehicle. Six months after the approval of the amendment, the Board of Alders plans to review its impact and determine its efficacy.

A few alders noted concerns about a section of the amendment stating that the GPS data is required when “relevant to a credible allegation.” Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison and Ward 25 Alder Adam Marchand GRD ’99 both pointed out that verifying the credibility of the complainant could cause complications.

However, Deputy Corporation Counsel Catherine LaMarr clarified the question of legitimacy depends on whether there is clear evidence, and is not a question of a person’s credibility.

“I am comfortable that this ordinance change … is a legitimate way for the city to enforce its law,” LaMarr said. “I think it is a reasonable approach.”

Ward 16 Alder Jose Crespo shared the experiences of residents who had communicated their concerns to him, adding that the issue particularly disturbs elderly communities around the city. He noted a particular resident in his ward who has advocated for more than six years to change the legislation to stop haulers from illegally collecting trash and driving late at night.

Steve Changaris, vice president of the Northeastern region for the National Waste and Recycling Association, spoke at the meeting against the proposed amendment. He said that trucks being out during the day causes traffic, can concern pedestrians and can be a general inconvenience to people conducting their daily business. Changaris also claimed that some companies in the city have been causing more disturbance than others, and said it was a legal privacy violation to demand GPS data from drivers.

“While they might have some slumber issues and some noise issues, we didn’t pick collecting waste at night for the fun of it,” Changaris said. “We picked it because it’s safe, we were efficient and we’ve been able to do it for a long time.”

Ward 26 Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr. also voiced some concerns about the legality of the proposed amendment. He noted that, in the past, the legal counsel of the legislative committee has supported legislation that eventually led to lawsuits. In light of Changaris’ comments, Brackeen supported tabling the amendment for the time being. 

Otis Johnson, a downtown New Haven resident, came to the meeting and explained how disruptive the experience can be. He noted that throughout his 13 years living downtown, he has been requesting for trash companies to be penalized. Other residents who attended the call and spoke about their years of requesting legislation to penalize companies that have disregarded noise ordinances in the area — but have seen no progress. 

The committee agreed that there is still some work to be done to improve the ordinance before approving it. Ward 13 Alder Rosa Santana withdrew her motion to move the item, meaning that the committee is able to take up the item at their next meeting to vote on it.

The next Board of Alders meeting will be on April 19.

Ángela Pérez | angela.perez@yale.edu

Ángela Pérez is City Editor of the YDN. She was a former beat reporter, covering City Hall and Women's Volleyball. She was a former editor and writer for the WKND desk. She is from Puerto Rico and plans to major in Architecture.