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Earth Matters

Earth Matters: Autumn Leaves 101

by Susan Hellauer

Earth Matters focuses on conservation, sustainability, recycling and healthy living. This weekly series is brought to you by Maria Luisa Boutique and Strawtown Studio and Blue Rock School and Dying To Bloom, a natural burial boutique for humans and pets. Blue Rock School ivites you to attend their “Family Barn Dance” on November 9.If Earth Matters to you, sign up for our mailing list and get the next installment delivered right to your inbox.

The clocks are back, the trees have turned… Grab the rake, leaf wranglers!

What can residents do with autumn leaves? Depends on where you live. What should you do with them? That’s the same for everyone. We’re here with the “can” and the “should,” no matter which Nyack you call home.

Village of Nyack

Leaves should be piled neatly at the curb from now until December 5 or the first snow fall. Please do not block sidewalks, fire hydrants, or intersections.

Leaf pick-up will occur on most work days with the exception of Mondays. Biodegradable bags are available at the DPW if you would like to bag the leaves. No plastic bags for leaves or yard waste will be picked up. 

Please call the DPW 845-358-3552 with any concerns.

Village of South Nyack

Leaf vacuuming is underway from now through mid December, weather permitting. Put loose leaves into the gutter, right against the curb, at any time. They will be picked up periodically.

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You may also put leaves into biodegradable bags (NOT PLASTIC BAGS!) and set them out next to your trash on garbage collection days (Tuesday and Friday). The South Nyack DPW will come around and collect them, along with bagged yard debris, as usual.

South Nyack provides biodegradable lawn and leaf bags to its residents. Pick them up at Village Hall on South Broadway during business hours.

autumn leaves

In some places, leaves can be placed in the gutter, but that can clog storm drains, cause pollution and traffic problems, and attract children to play in the street. Image courtesy Orangetown Highway Dept.

Village of Upper Nyack

Upper Nyack is the only municipality in our area that does NOT vacuum leaves from the curb. Leaves—like grass clippings and yard debris—must placed at the curb in biodegradable paper bags (available at the village Hall M-F 9-12 through Dec.15). Leaves will not be collected if in plastic bags, boxes or cans. There’s no time limit for leaf pickup in Upper Nyack. They are treated like any other bagged yard debris.

Central Nyack and West Nyack

Leaves will be collected from these hamlets by the Clarkstown Highway Department. Here’s the gist: Pile loose or biodegradable bagged leaves on your lawn or curbside no later than November 26, 2018. Plastic bags will not be picked up. (Pick-up of yard waste including brush, twigs, branches, and logs is suspended until April 2019, and there is no leaf pick up after December 7th.)

Take note: Clarkstown wants all loose or bagged leaves piled on the lawn, and not in the gutter. “For the safety of our children, school bus drivers, and the population-at-large, do not pile leaves in the street (pursuant to the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law, Section 1220), at an intersection, at school bus stops, near fire hydrants, or over storm drains,” the Clarkstown website states.

autumn leaves

Residents in Orangetown and Clarkstown hamlets must keep leaves out of roadways to comply with town codes and state traffic laws.

Clarkstown will continue to pick up biodegradable bags filled with leaves throughout the winter. Free biodegradable bags may be available at the following locations (but call ahead to be sure they are in stock): Clarkstown Highway Dept. (12 Seeger Dr., Nanuet 845.623.7500); Clarkstown Parks & Recreation Dept. (31 Zukor Rd., New City 845.639.6200); Clarkstown Dept. of Environmental Control (10 Maple Ave., New City 845.639.2111). 

Our Blauvelt and Orangeburg Neighbors

The Orangetown Highway Department will pick up leaves for these hamlets. Like Clarkstown, leaves must not be placed in the roadway. There will be one last pickup after December 1. After that, leaves must be placed in biodegradable bags, available from the Highway Department building on Route 303. There’s a detailed how-to handout for Orangetown residents.

For everyone: Love ‘em and leave ‘em

You can heave, haul, bag, and drag your leaves to the curb for municipal pick-up, but is that the most sustainable way to get rid of them? No! 

There’s a greener way to deal with autumn leaves. The “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” program, pioneered locally in Westchester County, advocates shredding fallen leaves in place, and keeping them on your property, as a nourishment for lawns, trees and gardens, or as a useful “brown” for compost. If your yard is professionally maintained, talk to your landscapers about mulching leaves in place. It’s something they should be familiar with; but there’s information online that can help bridge any gaps.

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love 'em and leave 'em leaf mulch mulch in place

After and Before: Even a modest reel mower can reduce volume by about 2/3. Adjust blades to lowest position. Makes perfect compost “brown” and great mulch for garden beds, trees and shrubs.

You can swap your leaf blower for a mulching mower—why not an electric one?—and do it yourself. Even a decent manual mower can reduce leaf bulk by a factor of three or four for garden mulch or compact storage for the compost pile.

The Village of Nyack has been promoting and practicing leaf mulching in its public green spaces since 2015. An October 26 message from Mayor Don Hammond, posted to the village’s Facebook page, ticks off the many benefits of shredding leaves where they fall, rather than riding them around in big, diesel-belching trucks:

10:1  — That’s the reduction of volume of leaves when you mulch them.

That means—

  • Less taxpayer money for hauling leaves away
  • Less pollution from fuel emissions
  • Less clogging of storm drains
  • Less phosphate and nitrogen in the waterways
  • Less fertilizer you need to buy for the lawn
  • Less tiem blowing or raking leaves to the curb

That adds up!

$30-40,000 is the cost of Nyack’s leaf program (that equals a 1% tax increase). Those dollars could be used instead for critical infrastructure maintenance and repair.

Want to spend more time enjoying the beautiful fall season in Nyack? Just spend less time and effort raking and hauling leaf piles to the curb this year. Just Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em.

electric mulching mower

Homeowner shredding leaves right into the lawn with an electric mulching mower. Photo courtesy LELENY


Learn more:

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Read Earth Matters every Wednesday on Nyack News And Views, or sign up for the Earth Matters mailing list.

Earth Matters, a weekly feature that focuses on conservation, sustainability, recycling and healthy living, is sponsored by Maria Luisa Boutique, Dying to Bloom, Strawtown Studio, and Blue Rock School.

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