Authorities say 56-year-old Armando Calderon started 15 fires in recepticles across Midtown on Monday, as well as several others on March 5.
An FDNY official said Calderon, who is homeless, told investigators he started the fires because he was upset about his situation.
The first fire was in front of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street at about 3 p.m. At about the same time, authorities received a 911 call about a trash can fire a block away on Madison Avenue.
More reports followed in rapid succession. They were between Fifth and Lexington avenues and 41st and 45th streets.
The fire department used three engines and two trucks to put out the small fires, which melted the plastic garbage bins.
Calderon is charged with reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and arson.
Get Eyewitness News Delivered