Trash talk: Sheepshead Bay wants area garbage men to join the 21st Century

Sheepshead Bay is drowning in garbage — and futuristic solar powered trash compactors could be the neighborhood’s salvation.

The waterfront community known for its sweeping views of Jamaica Bay is getting buried by trash as the number of public garbage cans — and pickups — remains at a minimum, according to area residents outraged over the condition of their sullied streets.

Each and every day one can find month-old newspapers scattered on the ground, empty pizza boxes left strewn in alleyways and the stench of rotting fish permeating the air, residents say. At the same time the neighborhood’s main commercial artery has been turned into a giant dumpster with tossed-out sandwiches and brown banana peels among the items found littering the streets.

“The trash cans become so overfilled that there’s nowhere to put the garbage,” moaned Yelena Melnikov, who says she rarely sees Sanitation workers on duty in the neighborhood.

Many residents are pointing fingers at their neighbors, claiming that they’re the ones messing up the area.

“People don’t sweep, and they also put their own household garbage into the public cans,” said Muriel, a waitress at Wheeler’s Restaurant on Sheepshead Bay Road. “Store employees do this as well. It’s very annoying.”

But residents are only partly to blame: the Department of Sanitation ended regular pick-ups of public trash cans two years ago, when street picks ups happened more than 20 times a week — three times a day, every day. Currently, corner trash cans are only emptied when trucks making residential runs happen to drive by — about twice a week.

If the city won’t empty its corner garbage cans more frequently, residents say they want to see larger, more secure cans on their streets.

“I’d like to see trash cans that are closed on top,” said Susan Blumenthal, a Brighton Beach resident who often visits the area.

Yet some claim that the city’s “corner can” practices are too archaic to begin with.

Steve Barrison, president of the Bay Improvement Group, wants to see BigBelly machines — mini solar-powered trash compactors — on Sheepshead Bay street corners.

The units are a little bit bigger than the corner trash can and come with additional receptacles for plastic bottles and paper recycling. Since the machines crush all the trash that goes into it, its capacity is five times greater than regular trash cans — meaning fewer collections are needed, Barrison claims.

“It will save manpower, minimize air pollution and generate huge savings because solar energy is free,” Barrison explained, adding that Philadelphia reduced its operating costs by $900,000 in one year after implementing BigBelly.

“New York has got to get with the program,” Barrison said.

But the city says its already tested the BigBelly machines on borough streets — and the trash compactors failed miserably.

“[The machines] are very cost prohibitive, one compactor costs thousands of dollars while a DSNY wire basket costs around $125,” explained Department of Sanitation spokesman Matthew Lipani. “The compactor couldn’t handle certain types of litter like umbrellas and people weren’t sure what to make of them. Some even thought it was a mailbox.”

Until a better solution comes along, Lipani said the Department of Sanitation was doing what it can to keep Sheepshead Bay — and the rest of the borough — clean. Yet residents keep thwarting the city’s plans by putting household garbage into corner cans, he explained.

“We service corner baskets as often as possible, but [the garbage cans should only be] for pedestrian litter,” Lipani said, adding that if someone is caught placing household or commercial waste in corner baskets they could receive a $100 fine.

If residents want additional baskets, they could call 311 or contact their community boards and request them, Lipani said.