Garbage time: Fighting the city to this day

Mayor Ed Koch stood at the site where more new housing was offered for Coney Island families ready to move in. Subsidized private housing: a novel idea for Coney Island, already loaded with too many tall public housing projects. He pointed to the rows of new private homes when a question arose about the big Sanitation garage across W 21st Street.

The mayor had an answer at the ready, plans to relocate the garage to a more appropriate site were in the works.

That became the task of our Community Board and its Sanitation Committee Chairman. We had two; the late Frank Pane and your columnist, Lou Powsner.

One afternoon in 1980, we went hunting the entire district with instructions that if Community Board 21 found a site, we must share it with the Sheepshead Bay area,Community Board District 15, also in dire need because the Sanitation Department was destroying residential streets with garbage-stenched trucks.

Our only disagreement came about which side of Stillwell Avenue would be more feasible. I found a spot just north of the Stillwell Bridge, but the Sanitation representative negated it, saying, “there was inadequate height for cleaning the trucks.”

But quickly and easily, unanimity was reached.

And when we said “easily” we meant that all hell broke loose when this paper photoed an angry Luna House resident in Lou’s face hollering “Not in my backyard where our kids go to school.”

But the councilman assured the crowds that it would be on the opposite side of that infamous creek that reeks and might now be cleaned up.

The late Jack Botchan, a Sanitation committee member, cited that the land where the gas tanks had burned coal into gas, might be polluted. A test was ordered. A New Jersey firm did find that the soil was densely polluted and in dire need of a cleaning. Now, the Jean Val Jean-type pursuit began, and I was put on the committee to make sure the clean-up got done. So me and the late Frank Pane never stopped the “Les Misreables” of Brooklyn Union Gas. One afternoon, a lady representing that gas company complained to our Community Board 21 district manager, “Will that Low Powsner ever stop haunting us?” We did not hear Chuck Reichenthal’s response, but to this date, Lou Powsner, now enjoying the cleanliness of those waters, has not yet quit trying to move our community board into action.

Knowing the area some 80 years since boyhood, we know where car wrecks were dumped at Stillwell Avenue; where old school buses were photoed on those pages, about to dive to their burial waters; where asmall yellow submarine was probably doused; and where Villa Joe’s restaurant was cited “at sea” after Mayor John Lindsay ordered it removed.

We saw the detectives show our dad one of his store’s caps peeled off the head of a “crook in the creek.” We stood in City Hall when the NYC Board of Estimate ordered approval of that new sanitation garage that was promised to new home-owners 30-some years ago — under the law.

Why can’t this city obey its own laws?

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