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CUNY School of Law Hosts “Tales from Our Trash: Sanitation Workers, Sustainable Cities, and the Value of Knowledge”

November 14, 2013

Event in memory of sanitation worker Frank Justich features discussion with anthropologist and author Dr. Robin Nagle

Queens, NY—Dr. Robin Nagle, anthropologist-in-residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation and author of Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City, discusses sanitation as a key urban environmental issue at an event with CUNY School of Law Professor Rebecca Bratspies, director of the Center for Urban Environmental Reform (CUER). Together with conceptual artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles, creator of Touch Sanitation and artist-in-residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation, they also discuss how the City’s sanitation workers are key environmental actors.

“There is a vast corpus of law governing the generation, treatment, and disposal of waste that seeks to structure waste-related behaviors. The idea behind this talk is to examine those laws in context—to see how the legal frameworks intersect with actual human behaviors—in hopes of offering an entry point for a long-term examination of sustainability (and unsustainability) in modern American society,” said Bratspies.

“I’m honored to be speaking at CUNY Law about New York’s Department of Sanitation,” said Dr. Nagle. “My work with uniformed and civilian members of the DSNY across a decade has confirmed my belief that theirs is the most important job in the city.”

Tales from Our Trash: Sanitation Workers, Sustainable Cities, and the Value of Knowledge takes place Thursday, November 14, 2013, at 6 p.m. at CUNY School of Law in Long Island City, Queens. Other guest speakers include New York City Department of Sanitation Commissioner John J. Doherty, and a special presentation from New York City high school students speaking on behalf of future generations. The event is free and open to the public. More information is available at

This event launches CUER’s Whose Trash Initiative, which uses our practices of generating, handling, and disposing of waste as a lens for considering urban sustainability. The event was inspired by the life of Frank Justich, a sanitation worker struck and killed by a tractor-trailer while on the job in Queens in 2010. “Frank was a sanitation worker on my block,” said Bratspies. “He was the nicest guy you would ever meet. Under Frank’s influence, his sanitation team really made a difference in our neighborhood. Frank exemplified the best of civil service. He was always looking to make a positive contribution to the world, whether by collecting the trash, lending a hand, or by giving a smile.” The corner where Justich died—35th and Ditmars in Astoria—was renamed Frank Justich Way in his honor in 2011.

In remembering Justich, Sanitation Department Deputy Commissioner Vito Turso said, “He clearly viewed his job to be making people’s lives better and, indeed, he always did. I think this event is a great way to pay tribute to his work and the work of thousands of people dedicated to keeping our City beautiful.”

The Center for Urban Environmental Reform (CUER) at CUNY School of Law promotes environmental democracy as a critical aspect of social justice. It seeks to expand participation in public decision-making and to increase transparency and overall access to information to enhance both the legitimacy of environmental decision-making processes and the fairness of decisions reached.


Founded in 1983, CUNY School of Law is the premier public interest law school in the country. The school trains lawyers to serve the underprivileged and disempowered and to make a difference in their communities. A greater percentage of graduates from CUNY Law choose careers in public interest and public service than any other law school in the nation. PreLaw magazine ranks CUNY Law as the #1 law school in the nation for public interest, and National Jurist ranks CUNY Law second in the nation for diversity. U.S. News & World Report ranks CUNY Law fourth in the nation for “Best Clinical Programs,” and in the top ten for diversity. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has praised CUNY Law School for being one of the few law schools in the country to prepare students for practice through integrated instruction in theory, skills, and ethics.

Contact: Abbi Leman,, (718) 340-4472


Related Categories: CUER, General News, Spotlight

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