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MY AFTERNOON PICKING UP LEAVES
Release Date: November 19, 2004

Paul Feiner

GreenburghTownSupervisor

            The most enjoyable and educational part of my job as Greenburgh Town Supervisor has been working alongside town employees in different departments. On Friday afternoon I had the opportunity to work with the leaf collection crews –picking up leaves on Topland and Underhill Roads. This was the second time since I became Town Supervisor that I’ve been temporarily assigned the task of collecting leaves. Leaf collection is tiring and slow moving.

            The first crew I worked with consisted of Tyrone Carver, Anthony Graves, Pete Sarrubi, Jim DiBenedetto. During leaf collection season some members of the leaf collection team are loaned to the Department of Public Works by other departments. The team I worked with on Friday included representatives of the Parks & Recreation Department, TheodoreYoungCommunity Centerand Public Works. I was very impressed with this team. Although I wanted to chat with them (an excuse to put the rake down), the team was more interested in getting the job done. They were working non stop, didn’t want to take breaks. They were working like workaholics. I was pleasantly impressed.

 Some readers might suggest that town employees make sure that nothing goes wrong when the Town Supervisor works alongside them.  Not true!  On Friday I observed an innocent mistake that practically never happens. Two trucks are assigned to each leaf collection team. When a truck is filled with leaves –the truck is sent to our leaf compost site on TaxterRoad. An empty truck is on site and then replaces the first truck. After we stacked the first truck with leaves that truck we immediately starting putting leaves in the second truck. But, there were leaves in that truck and no one checked to make sure that the truck was empty before taking it out. The crew was upset –the day goes faster when they are working hard, they told me –not hanging around  waiting for another truck. And, they lost some leaf collection pickup time. The first crew I worked with used vacuums and rakes.

Rather than lose time waiting for the truck to come back so I could resume raking – foreman Bob Thombs drove me to Underhill Road. I observed a completely different operation.  Chuck Pateman, Bob Errico, Joe Iurato, Mike Nichols, Jason Whittle, Sal Dicioccio were using “the claw” – a powerful piece of machinery that picks up lots of leaves at one time. The claw picks up many more leaves than the vacuum. And, members of the team assist raking leaves into piles for the claw to pick up. This crew was impressive because they provided me with some good ideas. Among them: leaf collection could be speeded up if every crew had at least one backpack blower. I’ll follow up on that suggestion and will ask the Public Works Commissioner if that idea can be helpful.

Working on leaf collection crews was interesting for a number of reasons. I have a better appreciation why it takes so long to pick up leaves. Today was an easy leaf collection pick up day. The leaves were dry. Tomorrow it will rain and the leaves will be even heavier and harder to pick up. Members of the crews I worked with complained that sometimes they will pick up leaves during the day. Minutes after they cleared a street of leaves a gardener will put new leaf piles out. And, most people will feel that the street was never done.

            In addition, the work requires skilled drivers who move the trucks backwards –as other members of the team rake the leaves. Drivers have to be very careful not to hit anyone. Our staff is good. I observed cars speeding by the crews as they were working – some cars came close to our employees.Motorists should show more regard for public works employees out there.  A nice woman stopped her car and gave the crew a bag of Halloween candy – thanking the team for doing a good job. Others seemed to be very happy that leaves on their streets were being picked up.

            So far—this year—I’ve worked at the Parks Department entrance gate collecting cash…spent time with the Highway Department removing snow from town streets. I’ve observed the Town Courtin action and watched the Town Attorney’s officer prosecute and settle cases…I’ve been a librarian for an afternoon..replaced curbs…patrolled the streets of Greenburgh on Halloween night…picked up recyclables on a town truck—among other temporary assignments. I always learn a lot from these experiences and enjoy interacting with town staff –the people who make our government work.

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