Chasing Sanitation

Falling in Love with New York's Strongest

:: Mongo from the Interview with Roy DiMaggio ::

[“Mongo” is San-speak for the stuff you find in and the around the garbage that you want to take home. They can’t, though. They’re not allowed. I’m just sayin’ – there’s a name for it. Mongo. Interview Mongo, however? Not illegal! I didn’t steal anything. Everything below is on-the-record. I swear.]

Roy’s Stats:

Age: 39

Residence: Brooklyn

Years on the Job: 9

Favorite Music: I could listen to Pearl Jam for three days straight.



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What do you think about on the route?

Getting the day over with.

What do you assume about people by what they throw out?

We don’t want to see most of it. They don’t take care, don’t use liners to throw things away, everything’s discarded, and we see it. People aren’t too clean. Some people’s diets are like heavy garbage … fruits, a lot of fruits with the Chinese. The Hasidics love us, love to watch us, their kids wave to us, greet us, follow us, watch us cycling the hopper.

What do you like about the DSNY?

The hours, pays great, the benefits, the guys – I love listening to the drama, of dealing with the public, you know?

What do you not like about the DSNY?

All the technicalities, makes it difficult. The rain is the worst. The public.



What did you do before you joined Sanitation?

Oh, a million jobs.

What do people say about Sanitation Workers?

That we’re not respecting, that we’re lazy – bringing in 450k bags of garbage and construction! We’re not supposed to pick that stuff up! We won’t get into trouble, but a supervisor comes out and explains it to the resident that he put it out wrong. It creates trouble. I have a 1000 houses.

But when it snows, they love us, even when we have to leave the garbage and plow the streets. We’re an emergency arm of the city then.

I’ve been threatened, had a gun in his car. I was trying to figure out what I was going to do. It was Sunday – we were picking up leaves in the morning. This guy was partying, and there wasn’t enough room for him to pull around the truck. There was enough room. This gentleman gets out of his car – 15 minutes or so, and all of a sudden, he wants to fight.

What do you want to do after you retire?

I want to open up a candy store, do my hobbies. I just want to sell stuff. I had an ice cream parlor. It didn’t work out. I don’t want to be tied down – eh, I’m dreamin’.

What’s your worst day on the job?

Night shift, in the winter. Need a heat blanket on me when it’s 6, 10 below zero, and the heater’s blowing cold air ’cause it can’t get hot enough.

Where’s “New York’s Strongest” come from?

We see a lot of stuff happening. A prostitute gets slapped by their bosses, we see it. We see the stuff happening before the cops get there. Sometimes you just close your eyes.

Who takes out the trash at home?

I do. I hate doing it.

Who cleans up after you?

I clean up after myself, do my own laundry.

Are you a loader or driver? Recycling or regular trash?

I like my work. I’ve got seniority, I’m a loader. I prefer doing garbage to recycling.Yeh, it’s heavier, but recycling is more demanding, don’t like it, more bending. It’s not organized, and it takes longer.

Why do you guys talk so much?

I don’t really, unless you were with me [making me talk].

Who’s got your back?

That’s a good question. Nobody has my back but myself. I don’t think anybody.

::: ::: :::

Responses (2) to “:: Mongo from the Interview with Roy DiMaggio ::”

  1. T.W. says:

    This was fascinating. I’m in a similar line of work. Love the photo’s too. Impressive to say the least. Thanks.

  2. Carol says:

    My father was a mongo picker when it was allowed. He worked near Gerritsen Beach in the 70’s and 80’s. He came home with all kinds of stuff. The shoe salesmen who left his size neatly on the top of the cans. Or the people who left copper tea sets or tables and chairs. Yes, they somehow took it home. And Christmas WOW. What tips he made. And then came the kabosh. No more allowed. Then they cut his paycheck so people could collect $11/wk from him for welfare people. Aye. But mom is banking his retirement every month. Niceeeeee.

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