2019年12月27日 星期五

N.Y. Today: The Sidewalk Economy

What you need to know for Friday and the weekend.

Living Off What the Wealthy Discard

It’s Friday.

Weather: Mostly cloudy, with a high in the mid-50s. The sun returns tomorrow, but rain is expected on Sunday afternoon.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until Wednesday (New Year’s Day).


Andrew Seng for The New York Times

Rosa moved to New York from Ecuador 16 years ago and began working at a clothing factory here. She is 36 and now makes money collecting empty bottles and cans on the Upper East Side.

Jaqe, 19, attends nursing classes at Borough of Manhattan Community College and collects in the afternoon, also on the Upper East Side.


Lin Meixian commutes from Queens to collect around Chinatown. Her husband recently had brain surgery and could no longer work at restaurants. Now, her mother-in-law in China sends her money — the immigrant dream in reverse.

My colleague Andy Newman accompanied Rosa and other canners, as the collectors are sometimes known, for a story about the economy built on empty bottles and cans.

The redemption business

To encourage recycling, the state passed a law in 1982 that put a 5-cent deposit on certain cans and bottles.


For every bottle and can that a beverage company sells to a store, it charges an extra 5 cents. Stores pass on that charge to customers. When customers return an empty can or bottle, the store gives the nickel back.

Then the store sells that empty to the beverage distributor, for 5 cents plus an additional 3.5 cent state-mandated handling fee. That fee fuels the redemption business. (For every deposit container that is not redeemed, the state seizes 4 cents of the unclaimed 5-cent deposit.)

For the collectors, the work is grueling and the pay is low. Many are retired or on disability and need a little extra for their monthly payments. Many are undocumented and drawn to a no-questions-asked job without language barriers.

Eunomia, an environmental consulting firm, estimates that there are 4,000 to 8,000 bottle-and-can collectors in the city.

Where to get cash

Real estate prices have forced dedicated redemption centers out of Manhattan. That means many collectors are left with supermarket redemption machines, which impose a $12-a-day limit.

Alternatively, collectors can lug giant bags of cans and bottles to centers in other boroughs. In the city, there are about 40 redemption centers.

The sidewalk economy

Some companies send trucks to buy from bottle-and-can collectors on the street. One place where collectors meet truck drivers is under the Manhattan Bridge. There is another spot on Wall Street.

The trucks pay $10 for a bag of 200 empties. Some collectors buy their friends’ empties for 3 cents each and sell them to trucks for 5 cents.

A company called the Galvanize Group sends trucks mostly to Manhattan. It pays 6 cents per container for a bag of “straights” — all one brand. In the winter, Mainstream Recycling, another company that sends trucks to buy from collectors on the street, pays 7 cents per container for a bag of straights as a thank you to collectors who supply it year round.


Explore news from New York and around the region

The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.

What we’re reading

A stolen car got stuck in the pedestrian lane of the Pulaski Bridge. [ABC 7]

At least four anti-Semitic crimes were reported in a 24-hour period in New York City, the police said. [New York Post]

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s police chief is retiring. [NY1]

Coming up this weekend


Drop off Christmas trees for chipping and recycling at sites across the five boroughs. Times and dates vary. [Free]

Celebrate New York with the immersive Up Close Festival at the New Ohio Theater in Manhattan. 7 p.m. [$25]


A closing party for the “Brooklyn Loves Oaxaca” exhibit, showcasing artists from the Espacio Pino Suárez printmaking workshop, at the Jalopy Theater in Brooklyn. 5 p.m. [Free]

Celebrate Kwanzaa with performances and a local artisans’ market at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Noon-5 p.m. [Free with museum admission]


Future Vision: A New Year’s Concert” is at Caveat in Manhattan. 9:30 p.m. [$8]

A tribute show commemorates Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston at Cafe Wha? in Manhattan. 6:30 p.m. [$15]

— Melissa Guerrero

Events are subject to change, so double-check before heading out. For more events, see the going-out guides from The Times’s culture pages.

And finally: Ghost kitchens

The Times’s Jonah Engel Bromwich writes:

New York City is the country’s largest market for food delivery. So it was only natural that a new business model for food delivery, called a ghost kitchen, would emerge here.

Ghost kitchens host food establishments, usually fast-casual, that make meals that can be purchased exclusively with a delivery app like Seamless or DoorDash. Ghost kitchens can house extensions of existing restaurants or new brands.

But customers cannot order takeout or eat in a restaurant attached to the kitchen.

Several ghost kitchens almost always exist within the same physical kitchen, sharing staff, ingredients and equipment. (In practice, this means that a customer can order Indian food, burgers or falafel, all from different restaurants, but the food is coming from the same address.)

Zuul Kitchens, for example, opened a facility in Lower Manhattan in September. The space is divided among six restaurant brands, including established names like Sweetgreen, Junzi (a fast-casual Chinese brand) and Stone Bridge Pizza and Salad (a fast-casual pizza and salad brand).

Delivery-only kitchens are not new to New York. A start-up called Maple tried a similar business model in 2015, in which it produced its own food. Costs were high. It shut down in 2017.

The restaurant operator David Chang was a key investor in Maple. In an interview, Mr. Chang stressed that the technology world and the culinary world spoke different languages, and that until someone figured out how to bridge that gap, a full-scale vertically integrated delivery business was not going to succeed on the level of a tech giant like Amazon or Google.

It also remains unclear how ghost kitchens may affect people and employment. They could mean fewer well-paying jobs and gathering places. And if ghost kitchens took over New York en masse, real estate could become even more expensive.

“The mom-and-pops, the bricks-and-mortars may not be able to stand up to these cloud kitchens,” said Mireya Loza, a food studies professor at New York University. “My question is, where are people who actually come from different backgrounds, where will they have to interact?”

It’s Friday — enjoy the last weekend of 2019.

Metropolitan Diary: The closing doors

Dear Diary:

It was sometime in the 1990s. I was on the F train during the morning rush. We were around Bergen or Carroll Streets.

The train operator was admonishing passengers to pull in their bags, use all available doors or wait for the next train.

Finally, exasperated, she sighed and slid into a gorgeous, smooth-jazz radio D.J. voice. “Y’all do what you want,” she said. “I’m already at work.”

— Alyssa Goldberg

New York Today is published weekdays around 6 a.m. You can also find it at nytoday.com.

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