What Bronx bodegas are saying about trash pickup times and bacon, egg and cheese prices

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By Dan Sears

Bronx bodega owners say the Adams administration’s move to limit how long trash sits on the curb is a step in the right direction, but the city needs to do more to curb rampant rat and rodent infestations.

The third edition of WNYC and Gothamist’s community survey of Bronx bodegas dove into how the shops and their customers were adjusting to new trash pickup times and this year’s slate of environmental disasters — including the wildfire smoke crisis in June and the large rainstorms this autumn.

Like the first and second surveys, we and our partners asked owners and their customers about how inflation and the economy are influencing the price of a New York City staple: bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches.

WNYC is partnering with the New York City-based research institute Knology and the Bodega and Small Business Group to poll people at the trusted business hubs where customers can connect with their communities.

This latest iteration concludes the project’s pilot phase, which focused on bodegas in the largely Black and Latino working-class neighborhoods in the west and South Bronx.

This round included visits to four bodegas and interviews with 24 of their customers, but it also expanded slightly to include other types of businesses in the neighborhoods.

That included owners, workers and patrons at four barbershops and salons, three laundromats, more than a dozen street vendors, the occasional pedestrian and people waiting at a bus stop. We had more than 70 conversations on and around Grand Concourse between Mt. Hope Place and Kingsbridge Road on Oct. 19 and 20.

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The Bacon, Egg and Cheese Indicator — October

Bodega owners — or bodegueros — said the price of a bacon, egg and cheese remains roughly stable. Although eggs are cheaper than they were last spring, bacon prices have stayed high or continued to climb, bodegueros said.

Their observations mirror food price reporting from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Daily prices for New York eggs were mostly flat from June through late October, hovering around $1.30 to $1.70 for extra large eggs. The weekly average cost of a pound of sliced bacon, however, jumped from $4.58 to $6.52 in the Northeast from early August to early November.

Trash pickup moves in right direction

Most people said they were aware the Adams administration changed sanitation rules this year to limit how long piles of garbage sit on sidewalks.

But among those interviewed, the general consensus among people we spoke with was that the city needs to do more, especially as it relates to controlling the rodent population in the South Bronx.

Many also showed eagerness for the sanitation department to install large trash bins in their neighborhood, similar to what’s been done in Harlem.

People also blamed both animals – including rats – and people for tearing open trash bags and creating a mess. A small number of people, especially street vendors who are outside on a regular basis, noted that there has been an increase in street sweeping since major construction was done on that part of Grand Concourse.

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Many South Bronxites complained about individuals throwing food scraps and other trash on the street even when bins were available. They also noted that waste collection in this neighborhood is not prioritized, so trash may sit out a long time relative to other neighborhoods.

Most people said they’d seen more rats in their neighborhood than there used to be and that the rodents had become bolder. Even the people who commended the effect of the new trash laws said the rat problem had worsened.

Those responses included more than a few horror stories about rats getting close to or running over people’s feet, including from one person who said that a neighbor of theirs had killed 16 rats in a single apartment. Several respondents also spontaneously mentioned cockroaches as another problem that was on the rise.

Almost everyone we spoke to was in favor of large dumpsters. We consistently heard that closable containers would go a long way toward helping with the rats, as long as there were enough containers that were designated for a particular building or buildings to use.

Only a few people indicated that parking was more important than the large trash bins.

Several bodegueros and other business owners expressed some frustration at the high cost of new trash rules to them, since they had to buy new containers and keep them chained up to avoid theft.

Air quality and climate change in the South Bronx

Most respondents said air quality needs to improve in New York City — with their comments touching on more than the wildfire smoke crisis in early June. Approximately, 1 of every 5 responses referenced fires and wildfire smoke as affecting air quality, but a larger portion pointed to vehicles, cigarettes and marijuana.

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While asthma and other lung problems came up in about one-third of the conversations we had (24 out of 71 conversations), almost nobody seemed aware of formal measures of air quality, such as the federal AirNow tracker and New York state alerts, or they did not pay attention to them.

South Bronxites frequently said they had noticed signs of climate change, such as hotter summers and less snow than there used to be. They said all the seasons seem to have more unpredictable weather now.

Quite a few people pointed out during the survey in late October that the temperature was north of 70 degrees. Only a few people specifically mentioned that storms are much wetter than they used to be, which is a major climate trend for the Northeast.

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