On closer inspection,
some of these bags turned out to be full of not household garbage or even typical business garbage, but the blood and guts of chickens. That is not a joke. The carcasses and blood led to an intense rotting stank and swarming flies. Repeated 311 calls eventually got the garbage removed. It was a brilliant and hyperbolic reminder of what we're dealing with around here - a sanitation situation that no one seems prepared to or capable of dealing with. Some of us, and believe me I've talked to quite a few bewildered long and short time neighbors, are flummoxed beyond belief...is this really something we have to just throw up our hands and tolerate? Of course not. Still, a simple solution eludes.
In my role as chair of the Environmental Protection Committee at Community Board 9 I've tried to wrap my head around this seemingly intractable problem and I feel like I have a pretty good sense of what we're up against. As always, I'm writing the Q at Parkside not in any official capacity but as a private citizen/geek/blogger and I only mention the community board because I continue to believe, perhaps foolishly, that there is a way to combat the problem using existing levers of governmental influence. I certainly hope so, anyway.
Nearly every block from Wendy's to Duane Reade has a few businesses that ignore the law and dump their trash either at the corner or in tree pits. Until I got schooled I had no idea just how illegal this is. Each business is required to contract private garbage collection; the City provides this service for residential trash only. And each business is required to show proof of this contract so that it is clearly visible to DSNY - usually in a window near the door. Tickets are supposed to be issued for non-compliance, and in other parts of the City they routinely are. For some reason, the penalties around here are not sufficiently levied to stop a significant number of scofflaws (and I emphasize the phrase significant number because plenty of business follow the rules and are just as pissed as the rest of us that fellow merchants choose to flaunt the law - heck it's usually only $30 or $40 a month we're talking here). Sometimes businesses dumpe their illicit garbage blatantly; others do so under cover of night. It's shameful really, since the corner garbage cans are intended for litter from passers-by. When a pedestrian DOES have a piece of trash to dump, the bins are frequently overflowing and unable to accommodate so much as a gum wrapper.
That's not to say that individuals and businesses from off the Avenue don't get in on the act. Bags of residential trash are routinely left on the wrong days at the curb or topping off the corner bins. On many occasions I've noticed construction garbage, bags and bags of it, that illegal dumpers drop on our streets assuming no one will care. Mad Momma Carmen even managed to catch a cheap landlord dropping apartment renovation trash in the 'hood, and the City takes this kind of dumping very seriously, and can impound cars and levy big fines and jail time Though as a practical matter, it's extremely uncommon that people get caught.
To complicate things, many mixed-use buildings don't offer proper guidance and space for tenants to store their garbage properly between residential pick-ups. These often poorly bundled bags often cause a blanket of trash to greet one on most morning's commute. Treading through ankle-deep trash is so common you almost don't notice it after awhile.
To summarize the reason it's worse here than on other heavily trafficked commercial corridor - there is NO merchant's group to speak of that has the ability to change the behavior of existing businesses and landlords from Parkside to Empire. By contrast, from Parkside south, the Flatbush Avenue BID successfully keeps litter and dumping at bay by hiring workers to keep the avenue clean between DSNY pickups. It's a big job; but the Flatbush BID takes cleanliness seriously, and the result is a reasonably clean street. Litter persists of course; the sheer numbers of pedestrians helps ensure a steady stream of wrappers and soda cups and the perennial favorite, dog poo. But since the problem is not generally overwhelming, individual business owners tend to address small messes quickly even before the hired guns come by and sweep it up.
As an aside, I'm not convinced that the Flatbush Merchant's group - FEPMA - has the skill or support to do anything about the problem. And without major outcry from the community, DSNY doesn't seem moved by individual complaints to systematically address the intense lawlessness. So who's gonna step up? I haven't even mentioned the sh#t-show in front of the subway stations, particularly on Flatbush just north of the Prospect Park entrance on the way to Empire.
My next move is to invite Pearl Miles, district manager, out for a walk-through. I'm also going to drop more of those single-page of rules on worst offender businesses. Maybe you agree that the problem is serious enough to warrant some kind of response. Or maybe you think I'm a kook and should find a real issue to complain about it. Who knows...maybe I'm the one who just doesn't "get it." As always, I'm happy to leave you plenty of space below to let your feelings be known to all.