Department of Sanitation workers are called the unsung heroes of the Hurricane Sandy recovery, hauling away tons of soggy drywall and ruined furniture from stricken neighborhoods across Southern Brooklyn for months after the devastating storm. But locals say that although New York’s Strongest have already done a lot, they’re not quite done.
The city ended free bulk pick up March 18, but elected officials and civic leaders say that the struggle to gut damaged homes continues in many neighborhoods, and they’re pressing the city to extend the policy for property owners who still need it.
“My office and assemblywoman Weinstein’s office reached out to [Sanitation] to continue extra pick-up services,” said councilman Lew Fidler (D–Marine Park). “We do not view the rebuilding to be done, the demolition to be done, nor the crisis to be over.”
The Sanitation Department had been picking up non-commercial bulk waste — and unofficially, more than a few tons of commercial waste as well — ever since Sandy struck last October, altogether hauling off 430,000 tons of hurricane debris.
“People were putting out all kinds of debris, and a lot of it was construction debris, from contractors, which they should not have been picking up,” said Community Board 18 district manager Dorothy Turano. “But they were very nice, they were doing a lot of things for the community. They’re really unsung heroes.”
But like Fidler and Weinstein, locals say that the demolition and rebuilding process in southern Brooklyn continues even now, almost six months after the storm, and that most folks don’t even have the money to rebuild their damaged properties, let alone pay private disposal firms to cart of their bulk debris.
“We don’t own anything anymore, only the garbage we’re trying to throw out, and now they’re telling us we have to pay to get rid of it,” said Kathleen Flynn, president of the Sheepshead Bay-Plumb Beach Civic Association.
A lot of people in Gerritsen Beach are having the same problem, and some folks are letting their soggy, mold-ridden furniture languish in their basements for lack of a dumpster, according to Gerritsen Beach Cares founder Michael Taylor.
“I have friends who have stuff in their basement that’s full of mold, and but he won’t get rid of because he doesn’t have the money to afford a dumpster,” said Taylor.
Folks in Manhattan Beach, however, are taking the news in stride, and leased dumpsters are becoming a common site in the more affluent southern Brooklyn neighborhood, according to Edmond Dweck, a spokesman for the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association.
“Basically, we were very grateful they extended it the time they did,” said Dweck. “The people in Manhattan Beach have already started getting their own containers, because they know bulk pickup has ended.”
Small quantities of construction and demolition debris resulting from work done by homeowners will continue to be picked up by Sanitation Department on regularly scheduled refuse collection days, provided it is properly bundled. Wood may not be more than four feet in length and must be tied up securely. Garbage crews will pick up a maximum of ten bulky items per home.
Reach reporter Colin Mixson at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4514.