Joseph Siano: “Building Life by Hand”


Joe Siano

Narrator: Joseph Siano

Interviewer: Hilary Crowe

Date: Friday, March 25, 2011

Duration: 3:30’34

Born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Joseph Siano (1946- ) came to sanitation later than most. After some time at Brooklyn College, a year in Vietnam with the U.S. Army, and some years working as a pipefitter, Joe became a SanMan at the age of 38. During his time as one of New York’s Strongest, Joe worked on MLP (Motorized Litter Patrol) and street sweeping, collection and pet removal, before retiring after 22 years of civil service. A large part of Joe’s work with DSNY was defined by his involvement with the Department’s fraternal associations. As President of DSNY’s Columbia Association, Joe was also integral in rebuilding one of the Department’s strongest fraternal societies after a period of internal conflict. He continues to serve the Columbia Association as the Special Advisor to the President.

Mr. Siano with Ron Cohen, president of the DSNY Columbia Association

The interview took place at Joe’s home in Middle Village, Queens, where he lives with with his wife, Maria Siano. Happily married and merrily retired, Joe reflects on how a career in manual labor afforded him a life he feels lucky to live. He discusses the sights, smells, and tragedies of pet removal, and some of the tough life lessons removing a dead German shepherd taught him; his thoughts on the December 2010 blizzard and the logistics of dealing with heavy snowfall; and the importance of ethnicity, fraternity, and respect within DSNY and without. The four-hour interview is separated into three parts, loosely focused on these themes: Early Life and Labor, Working with DSNY, and the Columbia Association. By the end of the interview, Joe makes clear why he decided to do the work that few New Yorkers fully understand, let alone appreciate. And why “everyone,” he says, “should take the [DSNY Civil Service] test.”

Audio Selections

The following audio clips are excerpts from our discussion of the importance of ethnicity and fraternity within DSNY.

Challenge faced when rebuilding the organization:

[audio:|titles=Siano Selection 1]

Proudest Accomplishment as President of DSNY’s Columbia Association:

[audio:|titles=Siano Selection 2]

Full Interview Audio

Part 1 of 13 (Duration: 17’44) [audio:|titles=Chopped Siano Part 1]

Part 2 of 13 (Duration: 19’27) [audio:|titles=Chopped Siano Part 2]

Part 3 of 13 (Duration: 11’57) [audio:|titles=Chopped Siano Part 3]

Part 4 of 13 (Duration: 10’08) [audio:|titles=Chopped Siano Part 4]

Part 5 of 13 (Duration: 16’52) [audio:|titles=Chopped Siano Part 5]

Part 6 of 13 (Duration: 19’54) [audio:|titles=Chopped Siano Part 6]

Part 7 of 13 (Duration: 18’20) [audio:|titles=Chopped Siano Part 7]

Part 8 of 13 (Duration: 19’10) [audio:|titles=Chopped Siano Part 8]

Part 9 of 13 (Duration: 19’56) [audio:|titles=Chopped Siano Part 9]

Part 10 of 13 (Duration: 18’03) [audio:|titles=Chopped Siano Part 10]

Part 11 of 13 (Duration: 14’25) [audio:|titles=Chopped Siano Part 11]

Part 12 of 13 (Duration: 13’21) [audio:|titles=Chopped Siano Part 12]

Part 13 of 13 (Duration: 14’26) [audio:|titles=Chopped Siano Part 13]

Full Interview Transcript


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