In the echelon of post-Sept. 11 (9/11) heroes, New York City's police and firefighters have been joined by another brand of champion: the refuse collector.

In the 5½ years since the World Trade Center attacks, people around the world have donned gear bearing the logos of the New York Police Department and New York Fire Department, honoring the heroic services of their members.

Last year, the city beefed up its line of official NYC apparel with a brown-and-tan cap with the New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) logo emblazoned on the front. The item quickly became a bestseller, flying out the door faster than the police and fire tchotchkes that the city offers.

The city sells the DSNY hat through its Web shop and in gift shops catering to tourists. In addition, the item's huge success has moved NYC to expand nationwide, and you can now pick up a DSNY cap at mass retailers like Target. Part of the cap's cool factor can be attributed to its “distressed” feel—a look that seems to fit well with the rugged, rough-and-tumble image of the department.

Before 9/11, annual sales of NYC apparel hovered below $1 million; in the year after the attacks, sales soared to $28 million a year and have stayed in the $20 million range. NYC Marketing—the department that oversees licensing and sale of branded items—is looking to add Parks Department items to its roster in the coming months.

More PW gifts and gadgets

Looking for a unique public works-related present for that special someone? Consider nabbing these neat-o knick knacks.

Sewer cover rugs

Feet First rugs look exactly like manhole covers from several big cities—Chicago, New York, London, and Paris among them. The 24-inch rugs, made by Cumberland, R.I.-based Easy Aces Inc., are made of 100% recycled truck tires, flocked with nylon, and durable enough for indoor or outdoor applications. They'd look good in the office of your favorite wastewater manager. The items are available at gift stores nationwide, or pick them up for $23.99 apiece at

Water/wastewater and garbage gear

Forget the tired old “Kiss Me I'm Irish” shirts and buttons you see around St. Patrick's Day. This hoodie encourages passersby to plant smooches on the water or wastewater operator wearing it. You can also select a hoodie that proclaims the wearer the “World's Best Garbage Collector.”To procure one, gather up $22.99 and contact Miami-based Sife-Athletics Inc. at

Bridge-building kit

If you know a kid who's crazy into Legos and Lincoln Logs, you can take his or her construction craze to the next level with Our Amazing Bridges. POOF-Slinky Inc.—the same Plymouth, Mich., company that makes “the spring, the spring, the marvelous thing”—offers this kit that teaches Junior how to make suspension, truss, and Roman-arch structures. It includes a landscape base, bridge components, molding materials, and all the other materials needed to build spectacular spans. Pick one up for $22.99 at