Overgrown vegetation and excessive litter on Loring Avenue between Drew and Emerald Street in East New York, Brooklyn, made the sidewalk almost impossible to walk through. The tree pits and grass patches that run alongside the sidewalk were piles of mixed glass and plastic bottles, plastic bags, and other miscellaneous garbage.
The constant complaints from community members about the condition of the block motivated members of Community Board 5 to coordinate a clean-up event with residents in Spring Creek Gardens, Loring Estates, and Emerald Green on Saturday, Oct. 17, to beautify their neighborhood.
About 12 volunteers used brooms, rakes, and grabbers provided by the NYC Department of Sanitation to clean the Loring Avenue block. In total, volunteers filled roughly 70 sizeable green garbage bags in the three hours of the event from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
“I feel this is a reflection on me personally, that I would keep my house where I live is like this. That’s what it looks like to me, and I don’t. That’s why it concerns me so much,” said Helen Williams, who motivated the clean-up after struggling with people illegally dumping for almost the entire 14 years that she’s lived in the neighborhood.
“Somebody dumped about 20 bags of garbage right around a fire hydrant. That happened two days ago. I took a picture of it, I sent it to the community board and luckily, maybe because I’m communicating with them so much, they (sanitation) came and got it,” said Williams.
Williams said contacting Community Board 5 Deputy District Manager Keron worked better than her attempts to reach out to 311 and the NYPD for help.
Keeping the sidewalks and 18” into the street clean of litter is the property owners’ responsibility. The block suffers from lack of care from the Linden Cinemas parking lot owners (Linden Boulevard Theatres LLC), that occupies one half of the north side of the block, and the neglect by owners of the yet to be developed property that used to be a medical center on the other half at 2832 Linden Boulevard. It was sold for $11.3 million in an all-cash deal in January of 2018 to 2832 Linden Boulevard Realty LLC, so it seems money is not an issue.
“Now, more than ever, we rely on the partnership of our fellow New Yorkers – residents and business alike – to do their parts to help keep our City clean,” said a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Sanitation in an email.“Additionally, we are thankful to community groups, block associations, and others who are working hard to keep their neighborhoods clean. We support their volunteer efforts to keep their neighborhoods clean through local block and street area clean-ups.”
The city’s sanitation department faced a $106 million budget cut this year as the city scrambled to make up for lost revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic. Although volunteers were willing to help, questions remained about what the Department of Sanitation was doing as litter continues to pile in the neighborhood.
“We understand that it’s COVID time, but the quality of life of people has been disturbed,” said Joyce Scott-Brayboy, the Emerald Green Tenants Association president. She was part of the first couple of clean-up events around Stanley Avenue and said she was glad they weren’t picking up garbage with kitchen bags like in previous community clean-up events.
“It’s all over Brooklyn now. Where I live, it’s a big fight,” said Sandy Mingo, who came from her home near Euclid and Pitkin Ave to volunteer.
Mingo, who was joined by her daughter Monetta, said issues with litter where she lives also stems from an empty lot next to her home acting “like a magnet” for illegal dumping.
Daniel Lorient, a resident in the neighborhood, only hopes to see more youth participation in clean-ups for future events across East New York neighborhoods.
“When you live in a community where there’s a lot of debris, a lot of garbage, it affects your mood,” said Lorient. “But when it’s clean, it makes you feel proud.”