New sanitation initiative aims to clean up Coney Island as trash overwhelms streets

Trash has flooded the People’s Playground this summer, littering the sidewalk and clogging sewers.
Photo by Erica Price

A new sanitation initiative launched by a Coney Island business group will clean the streets along the neighborhood’s amusement district, which have seen a record-breaking amount of litter this summer, locals say. 

“It’s disgusting,” said Brighton Beach resident Craig Hammerman, who claimed the People’s Playground has “definitely” seen more trash build-up than last summer. “It’s so sad to see the garbage that’s left on the beach.”

The Supplemental Sanitation Services, sponsored by the Alliance for Coney Island, will sweep the streets between W. Eighth and W. 21st from Surf Avenue to the boardwalk from Friday to Monday. Workers will also clean the tree beds — extracting fallen leaves — and empty the garbage cans throughout the district.

The cleaning initiative, which the Alliance for Coney Island has provided every summer since 2013, will likely improve the condition of the amusement district’s roads, which have seen a surprising amount of litter this year, said the Alliance’s director. 

People seem to be more careless this year with their trash,” said Alexandra Silversmith.

The Alliance usually kicks off the program at the beginning of the amusement park’s season in April, but funding shortages due to the coronavirus outbreak have delayed the initiative’s start and limited the days that sanitation workers will sweep the streets, Silversmith added. 

“We’re not at full capacity, so I do see that unfortunately it doesn’t meet the need as much as we would like,” she said, but added that the program will still help the streets’ condition, despite its limitations. “It does make a difference.”

The sanitation initiative comes as locals report widespread trash buildup across the People’s Playground, which one local leader attributed in part to a shortage of Parks Department workers. 

It’s hard to clean up still because sanitation is short manpower,” said Eddie Mark, the district manager of the local community board. “There’s not your standard routine happening out there.”

In addition to shortages within the Parks Department, which is responsible for maintaining the boardwalk and beach, Luna Park’s closure may also contribute to the buildup in trash, since their workers also tend to keep the public areas clean, Mark said. 

“Their staff people usually [clean] the rides and the outside area, but because those amusement rides aren’t open, there’s no one to clean up,” he said. 

Trash accumulates outside the gates of the Thunderbolt rollercoaster on W. 15th Street.Photo by Erica Price

The boardwalk and the amusement zone have seen the largest buildup of trash, with face masks, bottles, and food straps overflowing out of the garbage cans, one local said. 

Last week, I was out there, and the garbage cans were overflowing. It was a breezy day, and the trash was all over the amusement zone,” said Orlando Mendez. “That particular day, I was pretty much in shock of how much trash I saw.” 

Brighton Beach has also seen its fair share of litter, particularly on the beach, prompting one local to clean up the trash he saw whenever he made a trip to the shore. 

I’m out there every other day or so, and on my way back as I’m leaving, I fill plastic bags with garbage,” said Hammerman, who noted that he’s seen other beachgoers start to follow suit. “It’s not just me picking up the garbage anymore. Lately, I’ve seen more people getting into the habit of doing that.”

And while the sanitation program won’t clean the boardwalk or the beach, Mark said that its helped significantly improve the district’s appearance in years passed. 

“It’s good for the neighborhood,” he said. “It would definitely help the area.”

Coney Island locals claim that the area has seen more trash this summer than it has in years.Photo by Erica Price