BENSONHURST —Trash sticks to Southern Brooklyn’s streets like gum on a shoe.
Every year, residents call 311 about dirty streets, averaging a steady 57.5 complaints a month over the past three years in Bensonhurst, according to NYC Open Data. While Bensonhurst is not the dirtiest area in the borough (that honor in Brooklyn goes to Cypress Hills), complaints are steady, dropping in the dead of winter only to skyrocket come spring.
Street conditions, trash removal, and cleanliness, were among the top three issues for residents of Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, and Gravesend, according to the 2020 Statement of Community District Needs and Community Board Budget Requests — and politicians are promising to follow through.
“18th Avenue and 86th Street is beyond disgusting. Garbage everywhere and it smells,” Melanie Quezada, a resident, told Bklyner.
Councilman Mark Treyger said City Council is allocating Sunday litter basket pickup now by the Department of Sanitation with one-time funds for the year, to provide more regular commercial service on 86th Street. Treyger announced he’s spending an additional $260,000 to keep the streets clean.
“We’re doubling down on services here,” said Treyger.
The $260,000 will be allocated from Councilman Treyger’s discretionary funds from the FY 2020 budget City Council adopted in June 2019. Here’s how they’re split for trash services.
- $170,000 provides for Wildcat Service Corporation to sweep both sides of the street on 86th Street from 18th to 26th Avenue and along 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst daily. Wildcat will also sweep Kings Highway, Avenue U and X in Gravesend.
- Coney Island gets $50,000 to the Alliance for Coney Island and the Center for Employment Opportunities for services, and $10,000 goes to sanitation education along King’s Highway.
- The rest will go to sanitation for seasonal supplemental sanitation services for Coney Island’s Surf, Mermaid, and Neptune Avenues.
A recent collection day saw workers emptying trash out of bins and gutters, and mostly-clean streets.
“I promise you once the Department of Sanitation, and once Mark Treyger and Bill Colton [are] done with this thoroughfare, you’re going to be able to eat Lenny’s Pizza right off the street!” said Congressman Rose.
So far, locals say, increased efforts have made no difference. Residents said the issue with litter is from people and businesses.
“The businesses are disgusting and nasty. I remember in the past there has been cleanups, but then it’s back to the same old nonsense. These businesses don’t care, maybe if they were given summonses on a daily basis they would learn,” said Dawn Millea, a stay-at-home mom of two teen boys from the area.
There are two Department of Sanitation agents enforcing sanitation rules in Bensonhurst, mainly patrolling along to supervise repeat offenders on 18th Avenue that spill their business trash onto the sidewalks. The community board wants more.
However, Treyger, a former educator, told Bklyner he would rather educate over fine people, “If they keep doing it, I understand the fines. But I’d rather we pick up more services. We have [a person] in our offices that speak the languages of the business owners to try to educate them not to put trash on the sidewalk. A problem for businesses here is there’s no merchant association formed among the businesses. That would help them and help everyone.”
Collections are in place along commercial areas. Community District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia told Bklyner, “We’ve asked for funding for more enforcement when they repeatedly violate [regulations] by having trash out in the street. We do what we can.”
Residents want their side streets clean too.
“Commercial along Bay Pkwy and 65th-both commercial streets-it has gotten better. The trash issue still persists in residential though,” said resident Oksana Londorenko.
Lack of consistent community engagement is also blamed for an increase in trash, especially on residential streets.
Lifelong Brooklyn resident Dena Ross, a wife and mom, as well as a senior manager at a major cable station, told Bklyner she felt people have become drawn more inward over the years; and if people don’t interact with one another, that translates to them not caring about one another’s well-being, including leaving litter on sidewalks.
“There’s a section of my block by the New Utrecht Reform Church. Although signs to ‘curb your dog’ are everywhere, there’s dog poop and garbage everywhere,” she said.
There has been a saturation of mailings on the “Dos and Dont’s” of sorting trash and collection dates to residents, according to Elias-Pavel. She emphasized that collection services don’t do much good if litter doesn’t end up in baskets. Community Board 11 admitted in the past it did not properly educate residents on recycling, and said it knows it is a community with many languages spoken.
Residents said people don’t care about their environment overall.
“It’s a completely different experience than the Brooklyn I knew 15 to 20 years ago, where people got to know each other and took pride in their neighborhoods by helping keep their blocks safe and clean,” said Ross.
Ann Margaret, another resident, said cleanliness is everyone’s responsibility.
“Maybe it should go to the local politicians no matter the outcome, but in my opinion, we need to do better in regards to keeping the area cleaner overall.”