The city has messed up parts of Williamsburg by placing dozens of extra trash cans on Bedford Avenue and neglecting litter west of the busy byway in what some locals say is a cost-saving attempt to avoid extending pick-up routes.
There is now a total of 43 trash cans on the four intersections of Bedford Avenue and N. Fifth through N. Eighth streets — in some cases, 12 cans per intersection! — yet zero cans on the same stretch of Wythe Avenue, despite mounting trash from popular waterfront concerts, and the weekly Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Flea markets.
A recent visit to Wythe Avenue showed the result of city neglect: refuse and litter languished on the sidewalk where garbage cans once were: discarded food wrappers, empty plastic bottles, and part of a foam alphabet were just a few of the items littering the avenue.
“There need to be trash cans over here,” said MacKenzie Smith, the cheese monger at the haute grocery store Depanneur — a recent addition to the rapidly expanding commercial area around N. Third Street, whose intersection with Wythe Avenue has no trash cans.
The lack of city trash cans adds an additional burden on Smith and her co-workers, as residents often come into the store simply to dispose of their garbage. Others fill up the outside ash bucket with trash.
Meanwhile, the city’s “solution” has been to concentrate receptacles on Bedford Avenue — despite requests for more cans elsewhere — causing congestion at corners.
In June, the East Williamsburg Valley Industrial Development Corporation — which represents more than 300 area businesses — requested 32 trash cans for streets west of Bedford Avenue. Only two were installed.
The problem, many believe, is city trash policy itself. Last year, the Department of Sanitation revealed that it had replaced regular street can pickups with infrequent pickups made during normal residential runs.
The result has been a 90- to 95-percent reduction in pickup frequency.
“The city is just putting trash cans on corners where they already have pick-up routes — they don’t want to expand their zones,” said Caitlin Dourmashkin, the director of planning and community development for the industrial development corporation. “The Sanitation Department is just cost-cutting.”
Dourmashkin did say that the can-glomeration on Bedford Avenue has helped to keep that stretch clean, but remains dissatisfied with conditions in the surrounding area.
In fact, the few cans that once existed on the now bin-less section of Wythe Avenue seem to have disappeared. A map of garbage cans from winter, courtesy of the Northside Merchants Association, shows two cans at the intersection of Wythe Avenue and N. Sixth Street — the only cans mapped on Wythe Avenue at the time — but those cans are now gone.
Amid this tidal wave of trash, some business owners are no longer letting the public use their sidewalk trash cans, which were becoming quickly overwhelmed.
“We don’t have a garbage can anymore because people would throw their dog poo in it,” said Alison Powers, the owner of PopFuzz down the block, another business at a can-less intersection. Powers also noted the frequency people coming by to use her inside bin.
The Bedford bin build-up has been striking. In 2009, footage provided by Google Street View shows eight bins on the stretch of Bedford Avenue where there are now 43 — an 81-percent increase.
The Sanitation Department said that the can congestion is working.
“Multiple corner baskets placed along Bedford Avenue were placed there due to overflowing baskets and high pedestrian volume, as well as a few complaints of overflowing baskets,” said agency spokesman Matthew LiPani. “It has helped alleviate overflow.”
But merchants believe that the can glut detracts from the street.
Ann C., a vendor who’s worked the corner of N. Seventh Street and Bedford Avenue for seven years, finds herself competing for space with 12 garbage cans at the intersection.
“One time we showed up and there were five pails here on this one corner — people couldn’t even walk,” she said.
The erratic placement of bins isn’t the only thing the city is dropping the ball on trash-wise, say residents of Williamsburg — a Times Square of sorts in terms of the numbers of visitors.
To combat the problem, the East Williamsburg Valley Industrial Development Corporation had to raise almost $10,000 from businesses to provide private sanitation pickups all weekend this summer.
The program was such a success at keeping the streets clean that they plan on doing the same next summer, the latest example of private agencies and business groups supplementing declining city services.