Neighbors are taking a stand against what has been called an age-old problem in Ditmas Park: dog poop minefields on the sidewalks.
Last week, we spotted these pet waste containers strapped to U-channel poles on four residential blocks that have long been garbage-can deserts: East 16th, East 17th, East 18th Streets, and Ocean Avenue between Dorchester Road and Ditmas Avenue.
The project is a collaborative effort between the Ditmas Park Association (DPA) and homeowners who’ve volunteered to host the sanitation stations and empty the bag liners.
The Association voted to use their funds to make this small, incremental neighborhood improvement that can have a rippling effect, said Tom Parker, DPA board member.
“They project a sense of, ‘Hey, this neighborhood cares,'” he said, hoping that it will lead to more conscientious behavior and less littering.
While poop-splattered sidewalks aren’t a Ditmas-specific problem, as we’ve reported similar escalations in Sheepshead Bay and Park Slope, the 4-block micro-neighborhood covered by the DPA has no public garbage cans for dog owners to dump their refuse.
They decided on the smaller, more specific cans instead of the city-style trash cans at every corner because they didn’t want them to become dumping grounds. But if people want to put small litter in there that’s okay, too.
The stations cost the DPA less than $200, according to the product listing, a bit less than the normal price because they opted to not provide baggies.
Neighbors on Facebook were excited to see someone take action. “OMG. Finally. Got to love whoever made this happen. The other day I brought my dogs’ poop all the way into my apartment,” wrote one commenter.
“We want to get more proactive and look for more tangible ways that the association can work to better the neighborhood,” said Parker.
Here’s the scoop:
Since 1978, NYC has been enforcing the Pooper Scooper Law, which charges dog owners with the responsibility of cleaning their animal’s waste [except for guide dogs or service dogs walking with people who have disabilities.] However, property owners can also be fined for unsanitary conditions from perpetual animal waste on their property, according to NYC.gov — and you can fill out a complaint form here.
The law’s success has been debated for decades — it can be tricky to enforce since a City agent must actually catch a dog owner ‘in the act’ in order to issue a ticket.
Though data varies by neighborhood, overall it seems the trend in Brooklyn points to cleaner streets — or just less reported cases. According to a 2015 study by RentHop, the number of canine waste complaints to 311 actually dropped, with 31.8 percent fewer complaints in 2015 than 2010. (Their numbers vary dramatically by neighborhood, with complaints in Southern Brooklyn’s Homecrest spiking by 900 percent between 2015 and 2016).
But some attribute the relative success to the watchful eye — and ire — of neighbors. In a 2005 NY Times article, authors Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt say that the law’s enforcement is helped by social incentives like “the hard glare of a passer-by and the offender’s feelings of guilt.”
And in Ditmas Park, being a good neighbor can mean more than just stepping in to the line of doody, but actually volunteering to pick it up. “It seems like such an easy fix,” said Parker. “We’re hoping more people will sign up if we can expand the program.”