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Central Park's Newest Wheels

Central Park's Newest Wheels


Good morning on this warming Wednesday.

It might not be as easy to detect on days when the green is shrouded in a blanket of white, but Central Park is really, really clean.

That’s because Central Park Conservancy workers scoot around the premises seven days a week, picking up litter and emptying the trash cans.

This month, these miracle workers will descend on the park in a brand new fleet of 52 electric garbage carts.

We had a chance to see the carts up close at the 79th Street maintenance yard — where they were lined up like soldiers ready for battle — and took a ride in one with Nick Marotta.

Mr. Marotta has been working in Central Park for 13 years, surveying the grounds for garbage on his daily route: “59th to 72nd Street, east, west, north, south.”

Nick Marotta, who works with the Central Park Conservancy. CreditStephen Speranza for The New York Times

He told us that the carts are a big step up from the old gas-powered vehicles: no more noise and no more fumes. They’re sleeker and are considered more environmentally friendly.

(Before those gas-powered carts, the park’s roads were filled with giant garbage trucks that, between emissions and pedestrian hazards, did more harm than good to the park.)

The electric carts that you will soon see skedaddling around the lawns, meadows and playgrounds are just the latest in a decades-long transformation of trash management.

In the 1980s, when the park welcomed 12 million visitors a year, the place was filthy.

“Years ago, this was basically the place where you’d dump everything,” said Douglas Blonsky, the park’s administrator and the president and chief executive of the conservancy.

But today, with 42 million guests annually, it is nearly spotless.

“The public comes into the park and sees how beautiful it is, but they may take it for granted,” Mr. Blonksy added. “They don’t understand there’s a huge team of people working here 24 hours a day to keep this place as beautiful as it is.”