After months of complaints from residents and business owners, the Sanitation Department is adding corner litter basket collection along Sheepshead Bay’s commercial streets, according to Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz’s office.
Beginning July 1, Kings Highway, Avenue U and Sheepshead Bay Road will receive extra attention from the department.
“Not only did the overflowing corner baskets look awful, but they were a magnet for additional trash and an open invitation for vermin,” Cymbrowitz said in a press release. “It was getting so bad there was hardly a corner that was spared from this urban blight, and adding insult to injury, the mess would frequently sit on the corner for several days until the regular collection truck came by.”
Last July, Sanitation Department officials ended regular pickups of public trash cans, which happened as often as two or three times a day, seven days a week. Instead, trucks collected during their residential drive-bys, which occur about twice a week.
The additional service announced by Cymbrowitz’s office won’t restore that frequency of service, but does promise improvements. In addition to the residential drive-bys, basket trucks will pick up from Avenue U, Kings Highway and Sheepshead Bay Road twice a week. Residential trucks will also devote a portion of their shift solely to basket cleanings on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Business owners say the cleanup will be an improvement, but doesn’t go far enough.
“It’s always overflowing,” said Alex Mikhaylov, owner of Jonathan’s Bakery at 1424 Sheepshead Bay Road. “Two times a day is okay. Three times is perfect.”
Mikhaylov said he makes frequent calls to 311 to complain about garbage.
“I’m running a food business and I don’t want all the trash in front of my store,” he said. “It’s unsanitary and it’s disgusting.”
Because his business is next to the train station and in front of a bus stop, he said cleaning up after commuters is becoming a costly burden on his business.
“I told them if I have to clean more than four times they need to provide me with a full-time employee,” he said. “And guess who’s getting a ticket if they’re putting [garbage] in front of my store?”
Cymbrowitz’s office told Sheepshead Bites they’re pushing to restore full service, but Sanitation can’t deliver because of budget constraints.
So the assemblyman is considering other options. Cymbrowitz said that the problem doesn’t solely lie on Sanitation’s shoulders, but also with residents who disregard the law by dumping household garbage in the litter baskets. The assemblyman said he’s developing a plan to educate the public that throwing household garbage into public cans is illegal and can result in a summons.
In addition to that, he’s pushing Sanitation’s “Adopt-A-Basket” program. The all volunteer program recruits businesses, organizations and individuals to monitor public litter baskets to help prevent overflowing. The Department supplies green plastic bag liners, a collection schedule and a contact person, and are tasked with changing the liners when the basket is three quarters full. Bags are tied and placed next to the basket until collection comes around, helping prevent debris from spilling onto the street.
According to Oswalt Heymann, Cymbrowitz’s chief of staff, Sheepshead Bay’s businesses have so far balked at the proposal, but they’re looking for ways to make volunteering more attractive.
“If we could get merchants to adopt baskets,” it’ll help stop the accumulation and overflowing, Heymann said. ”It isn’t a big deal; a couple of minutes a day. That would make a big difference with or without any additional pickups.”