The skirl of the bagpipes filled the air in lower Manhattan Thursday as the city’s Department of Sanitation (DSNY) held a ceremonial walkout to honor their departing Commissioner Ed Grayson as he concluded his nearly 23-year career.
Two rows of DSNY workers lined up along Worth Street to salute Grayson who was raised in Ridgewood, Queens, by his parents who also worked at the city agency.
Grayson’s father was a sanitation worker and supervisor and his mother was a recycling outreach coordinator during the rollout of the groundbreaking citywide recycling program in the 1990s.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to work with all of you for the past nearly 23 years, and on behalf of the legacy of my family that has worked for the department for 52 years I thank you,” Grayson said. “It has been an absolute honor to be one of the ‘Strongest’ and my heart is full.”
Grayson was appointed acting commissioner in September 2020 after Kathryn Garcia stepped down to run for mayor. He was sworn in as commissioner on New Year’s Eve having worked his way to the top from humble beginnings on the back of a collection truck, then as a supervisor, a superintendent and as a chief.
“Growing up in Ridgewood, everyone in my neighborhood had a plan for how they’d someday serve the people of New York, as so many of our parents did, including my own,” Grayson said following his appointment as commissioner.
Speaking from the front steps of DSNY’s headquarters with his wife and kids, he offered praise to the rank and file before they returned to their posts serving the people of the city of New York.
“For 23 years I have loved this department and that won’t ever change,” Grayson said. “You are the most adaptive and impressive agency in the entire city and it all worked because of you. You are the definition of what essential and critical is.”
The 10,000 workers at the nation’s largest municipal waste agency were deeply impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ten died from the virus as operations continued to collect 12,000 tons of garbage each day.
“It all worked because of you,” Grayson said. “There will be 8.3 million people that may never know your name, but know I know you.”
Grayson and his family live in Middle Village, where he will be honored by the Juniper Park Civic Association during their town hall meeting on Thursday, April 21, at Our Lady of Hope School at Eliot Avenue and 71st Street beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Before delivering his goodbyes to hundreds of workers, Grayson shared a final thought.
“I was born on this job and I will love you forever,” Grayson said. “God bless New York’s Strongest, and God bless New York City.”