Trash Queen of Hell’s Kitchen works to keep NYC streets clean

When it comes to refusing, she’s regal.

Longtime West 51st Street resident Catie Savage, who calls herself the “Trash Queen of Hell’s Kitchen,” and a like-minded group calling themselves the “Litter Legion,” go every other Sunday to trash the sidewalks and streets of their neighborhood to free.

Up to 25 people are members of the trash squad, and they range from millennials to seventies.

It all started in April 2020 when Savage noticed the pandemic debris from masks and gloves.

“That’s what I focused on because I didn’t want them to get washed up the storm drains during the rain and then end up in the river,” said Savage, 36.

Armed with a garbage picker, she cleaned up her West 51st block between Ninth and Tenth Avenues and a few neighboring houses and filled a plastic bag.

When takeaway food and drinks became the only option for guests early in the pandemic, “an insane amount of junk turned up,” she said.

After her first solo forays, the fashion industry pattern maker began posting on platforms like Instagram and Nextdoor, prompting others to join her.

Katie Savage
Katie Savage called herself the “Trash Queen of Hell’s Kitchen”.
Helayne Seidman

Sam Carnicelli, a chartered accountant who lives in Hells Kitchen, said the Litter Legion allows him to “marry” his passion for the environment and volunteering.

Savage, who pushes a “granny wagon” nicknamed her, braces for another spike in street trash with recently city-approved to-go liquor.

Savage’s efforts were timely. The city’s sanitation budget was cut by $106 million in June 2020, and the number of garbage trucks assigned to empty baskets on street corners fell by a whopping 63%. The number of trucks has since recovered but is still 20% lower than before the pandemic.

Michele Wheatly cleans up trash with the Hell's Kitchen Litter Legion at W.48th St.
Michele Wheatly cleans up trash with the Litter Legion on W. 48th Street.
Helayne Seidman

“When the budget was cut, the corner bins were in a constant state of overflow and sat for days without being emptied as loose trash piled up around them when they couldn’t fit anymore,” Savage said.

On April 18, she will begin a part-time position as a volunteer and outreach coordinator with the Sanitation Foundation, DSNY’s nonprofit organization.

“All New Yorkers have a part to play in keeping the city safe, healthy and clean, and we’re always excited to partner with residents like Catie who want to do their part,” said Sanitation spokesman Joshua Goodman. Trash Queen of Hell’s Kitchen works to keep NYC streets clean


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