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Trash talk: Locals demand city step up efforts to pick up large junk

Junk yard: Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights residents including, left, Josephine Beckmann, the district manager of Community Board 10, and 70th Street resident Janet Marini are fed up with the city ignoring large junk on the curb for weeks at a time.
Brooklyn Daily
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It’s becoming the trashy part of town.

The Department of Sanitation must switch over to an appointment system to pick up large junk piling up on Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights streets, say angry locals.

New garbage trucks rolled out into the area last fall as part of the city’s organics program, but the waste haulers’ separate compactors for recyclables and garbage mean less room for bulky items — which are accumulating on curbs. And the city’s lack of response is turning the area into a garbage obstacle course.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, who has had two hunks of junk festering on her block for weeks. “It’s completely inundating our district and our staff. It is truck availability — it is all due to the organics expansion.”

From October 2016 to mid-June, 311 has logged more than 760 missed pick up complaints for “bulk” trash — anything bigger than four feet by three feet — on top of nearly 200 calls to Community Board 10’s office from residents grousing about garbage.

But the city could nip the situation in the bud if it implemented an appointment system where residents could request curbside bulk pickup, similar to the department’s electronic waste pilot program, which at the moment is only available in Staten Island.

And the problem is actually worse than city data lets on, because 311 will not accept calls about missed bulk collection until the following Sunday before a given block’s last garbage collection day of the week. This reporter was told by a 311 operator that she could not log a complaint about a sofa — that had already been on the curb for nearly two weeks — on Thursday because policy is to wait until at least 8 am on Sunday.

It is a cockamamy procedure, and it only serves to cover up the issue, said Beckmann.

“I believe they don’t accept the calls because it adds to the data that shows that this is a problem,” she said. “Another theory is they just assume that the truck will pick it up, but I’m telling you, I’ve had two pieces of bulk on my block for almost three weeks.”

The city replaced its fleet of junk haulers with so called “dual bin trucks” in October 2016, which are divided into separate compartments for trash and biodegradables. In theory, the vehicles are supposed to streamline the process of gathering rubbish by grabbing garbage and organics — from mini-bins residents cram with food scraps and yard waste — in one go, but the split has only been wreaking havoc on the process.

A divided compactor means there is less room for trash and the garbage side fills up faster, which forces the trucks to leave bulk items on the curb. But sanitation workers have left the junk rotting in the elements for weeks because the leftovers are only collected if workers remember to manually log the rubbish and pass the info onto a supervisor, according to an agency spokeswoman.

Officials claim they began notifying residents months ago to place their oversized trash out for pick up after 4 pm the night before their block’s last weekly garbage collection to accommodate the downsized fleet, and feel the situation is largely under control, according to a letter from the agency’s director of customer relations.

“The Department has been monitoring missed bulk collection complaints and making adjustments to procedures,” wrote Henry Ehrhardt, director of customer relations in a letter to Community Board 10. “We appreciate your suggestion regarding establishing an appointment system for bulk items and we will keep that in mind as we continue to diligently monitor the district.”

But if this is how the district looks when the agency is closely watching the issue, locals shudder to think of what the streets would be like if residents weren’t making a fuss, said one Bay Ridgite.

“How is all this filthy garbage rotting in the rain for weeks and creating a health hazard acceptable to them?” asked Bianca Domingo. “What changes? Just look at the street — it’s like a wasteland.”

A Department of Sanitation spokeswoman would not answer questions on why there is a delay for residents to log a complaint on missed bulk collection, or what the agency is doing to address the issue.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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