Brendan Sexton, who as New York Metropolis’s sanitation commissioner initiated what on the time was the nation’s most bold obligatory rubbish recycling program and employed the primary ladies as uniformed employees within the division’s 105-year historical past, died on Tuesday at his residence in Manhattan. He was 78.
The trigger was prostate most cancers, his daughter Dr. Tara Shelby Sexton stated.
An indefatigable public servant, Mr. Sexton labored underneath 5 mayors. After leaving metropolis authorities, he remained lively as a civic chief: He oversaw the Municipal Artwork Society’s mandate for historic preservation, the Instances Sq. Alliance and its millennial celebration in 2000, and the South Road Seaport Museum because it struggled to advance from municipal stewardship.
However it was his marketing campaign for curbside recycling that had the best influence on New Yorkers. The Metropolis Council handed laws in 1989 requiring tens of millions of households to bundle newspapers, magazines and cardboard and separate them from different trash, and to put glass bottles and steel cans in their very own plastic luggage or receptacles for curbside pickup. The brand new guidelines have been to be phased in over the subsequent a number of years.
“What we’re doing is working a cultural revolution, a social revolution,” Mr. Sexton, who had been sanitation commissioner since 1986, stated on the time. “We’re altering the way in which property homeowners handle their property, the way in which homeowners handle their kitchens.”
His objective was to have 25 p.c of the town’s rubbish recycled inside 5 years. However with the town dealing with a finances hole by the early Nineties, this system proved prohibitively costly. At present, based on the Sanitation Division, solely about 17 p.c of all the town’s rubbish is recycled.
Throughout Mr. Sexton’s tenure, which ended later in 1989, landlords have been ordered to section out incinerators in condo homes. Town additionally launched into a pilot resource-recovery program that burned rubbish, producing steam to be offered to the ability utility Consolidated Edison, and commenced an experiment to seize methane fuel from landfills.
The challenges of disposing of tens of millions of tons of stable waste yearly captured nationwide consideration in the summertime of 1987, when Mr. Sexton oversaw the ill-fated launch of what was in all probability probably the most well-known rubbish barge in historical past, the Mobro 4000.
With its landfill websites full, the town sought different locations to bury stable waste. The Mobro, crammed with 3,000 tons of rubbish, departed from Lengthy Island. However after the fabric was rejected by six states and three international locations out of fears that it was contaminated with medical waste, the barge lumbered again to New York, ending its 162-day, 6,000-mile odyssey at a Sanitation Division incinerator within the Gravesend Bay part of Brooklyn.
Though Mr. Sexton would later play the position of aesthetic guardian with the Municipal Artwork Society, it was he who pursued a program underneath which autos that ignored alternate-side parking laws have been plastered with lurid chartreuse stickers proclaiming that they have been illegally obstructing mechanical avenue sweepers. The Metropolis Council ended the sticker program in 2012.
“Brendan was a first-rate analytic expertise who additionally possessed robust administrative abilities and savvy,” stated Norman Steisel, who preceded Mr. Sexton as sanitation commissioner in the course of the Edward I. Koch administration and later served as David N. Dinkins’s first deputy mayor.
“He demonstrated a capability to navigate complicated points and collaborate with numerous political stakeholders, abilities that enabled progress on issues like launching the town’s landmark recycling system and cleansing up Instances Sq.,” Mr. Steisel added, in an electronic mail.
Eric A. Goldstein, a senior legal professional and New York Metropolis environmental director for the Pure Assets Protection Council, stated by electronic mail that Mr. Sexton was “a fantastic pal of the environment, and one of many nicest folks to anybody and everybody who met him.” He added, “Even when he was delivering unhealthy information, he did it in a method that made you wish to like him.”
In 1986, two ladies who had accomplished their coaching have been sworn in as the town’s first uniformed sanitation employees. The greater than 130 males who took the oath with them cheered.
Brendan John Sexton was born on June 29, 1945, in Detroit. His father, additionally named Brendan, was a union chief and a sociology professor at New York College. His mom, Hilda Zack Rogin, was a professor at American College in Washington and in addition taught highschool in Washington and New York. The household moved to New York when he was 4.
After graduating from Forest Hills Excessive College in Queens, Mr. Sexton earned a bachelor’s diploma in experimental psychology at New York College in 1969. (He would return to the college years later as a scientific professor on the Wagner Graduate College of Public Service.)
Along with his daughter Tara, Mr. Sexton is survived by his spouse, Karen Dalzeell; two sons, the actor Brendan Sexton III and David Zalk; three daughters, Amber Sexton, Oona Dalzell-Sexton and Zoë Dalzell-Sexton; 4 stepchildren, Eben Sexton and Lisa, Ilona and Carinna Abitbol; one grandchild; three step-grandchildren; and a sister, Patricia Hersh. His marriages to Lynn Ossa and Judith Ann Ford resulted in divorce.
Within the Nineteen Sixties, Mr. Sexton was arrested for collaborating in civil rights demonstrations as a member of the Congress of Racial Equality; he was additionally a conscientious objector in the course of the Vietnam Struggle. In 1966, whereas he was nonetheless an undergraduate, he and Ms. Ossa, his spouse on the time, and a pal, Jan Stacy, based Encounter Inc., a remedy program for younger drug abusers that operated in Greenwich Village till 1972.
Mr. Sexton was laid off by the Dependancy Providers Company in the course of the metropolis’s fiscal disaster of the mid-Nineteen Seventies however was subsequently appointed to assist resolve the disaster as a member of the Mayor’s Administration Advisory Board.
“Immediately the entire metropolis opened as much as me,” Mr. Sexton recalled. “After that, I wouldn’t work wherever else.”
He grew to become director of corruption prevention and administration assessment for the town’s Division of Investigation in 1978. Two years later, he was named deputy director of the Workplace of Operations, and in 1983 he was appointed the workplace’s director, reporting on to Deputy Mayor Nathan Leventhal.
When Mr. Leventhal was the town’s housing commissioner, he later recalled, Mr. Sexton, who was then on the investigation division, would periodically take him to activity for one factor or one other.
“I discovered his presence sort of troublesome,” Mr. Leventhal advised The New York Instances in 1986. “However after I grew to become deputy mayor, he was the primary individual I known as to come back over and work for me. I let him free on your complete metropolis authorities, and nobody was ever protected after that.”