It’s nearly impossible to avoid — the little pile of bills, tax forms, and other personal documents sitting in a pile on the kitchen counter or jammed into a little manila folder you’ll never open again. It can be dangerous to throw them away or recycle them, since identity thieves are known to go searching through trash cans, so the forms just keep piling up.
Flatbush residents took charge of their mounds of mail on Wednesday afternoon with a free shredding event hosted by Schneps Media and AARP. Neighbors lined up to safely shred their documents and learn more about the local Business Improvement Districts working to keep the neighborhood clean and friendly to residents and businesses alike.
As Flatbush residents safely discarded their old tax forms, pay stubs, receipts, insurance information, and more, Laura Elvers Collins, the executive director of both the Flatbush Avenue and Church Avenue BIDS, took time to check in with her neighbors about the improvements they’d most like to see come to the neighborhood. The event’s location, just in front of Erasmus High School on Flatbush Avenue, was perfect to draw people in, she said.
“This is kind of the center of Flatbush, Church and Flatbush,” she said. “So it’s a perfect location. And a lot of people are out just shopping and we noticed a lot of people who come by live in the community, which is great, and just giving people an opportunity to get rid of stuff, to clean up.”
“Any opportunity to get out and speak with people is always great,” Collins said. “And this is good because people are coming anyway. We’re right in the middle of the action and the information we get is actually going to guide the kind of the kind of measures we’re able to take to clean up.”
Wilson Guzman, associate state director of community engagement for AARP New York, told Brooklyn Paper’s sister publication amNewYork Metro that late April and May are ideal times to host shredding events because it’s just after tax season, when most people probably have a few new sensitive documents they don’t need anymore. Shredding is the best and easiest way to deter potential identity thieves, he said, who will go so far as to piece together ripped-up documents to pilfer some personal information.
“It is one of the main tricks of the scammer’s trade,” he told amNewYork. “Shredding community events will allow consumers to discard sensitive documents safely and securely. On the other hand, shredding documents yourself is time-consuming, and if you don’t do it properly, papers can still be pieced together.”
Desks and drawers weren’t the only things attendees could clean up. The BIDS have received an Avenue NYC grant from the city’s Department of Small Business Services to help make the community “cleaner and more beautiful.” That’s where the feedback about improvements Collins gathered during the shredding event comes in.
“Any opportunity to get out and speak with people is always great,” she said. “And this is good because people are coming anyway. We’re right in the middle of the action and the information we get is actually going to guide the kind of the kind of measures we’re able to take to clean up.”
The BID asked each person they spoke to about the top three things they think would make the neighborhood prettier and nicer to visit, she said. They also handed out free at-home COVID tests to anyone who needed them.
“Recently we’ve been speaking a lot more with shoppers as well as with our members to try to improve the neighborhood,” Collins added. “We have several grants to help us do this, but we’re also trying to engage the businesses as much as possible to really make this a better place to shop.”
Additional free shredding events are headed to Staten Island, Nassau and Suffolk counties, and Manhattan through May 20. Find out more and register in advance to attend a free event here.