Trash war! Merchants blast city for removing garbage cans along 18th Avenue

George Switzer points to household trash on 18th Avenue at a corner where a public can used to be — before the city packed them away to make the neighborhood cleaner.

Merchants along 18th Avenue say that the city’s removal of dozens of trash cans on one of Bensonhurst’s main drags has turned the area into a garbage dump, but officials are calling the test program — to reduce litter on the street by having fewer pails to attract it — a huge success that they will extend through the winter.

The city removed 44 garbage cans on 18th Avenue between 65th and 75th streets in June to keep residents from illegally dumping household trash in the public bins, which it thinks leads to dirtier streets because, with big bags of trash filling the bins, smaller items can’t fit.

And residents think that is ridiculous.

“It’s a foolish program,” said Antonio DaVinci, owner of DaVinci Pizzeria between 65th and 66th streets, who said that people now litter in front of his store because there are no bins.

Merchants say that litter and dumping are as bad as they ever were, and household garbage was seen on at least three corners where the public bins once were between 73rd and 74th streets when we walked the strip on Wednesday.

But the city says the removal of the cans has been a success.

“The program is showing positive results and we plan to continue the program for the next few months,” said Department of Sanitation spokesman Keith Mellis.

And members of the Community Board say since the cans have been taken away, the streets are much cleaner.

“It looks much better up there now,” said Community Board 11 District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia said. “[Now,] people don’t drop their trash on the ground. They carry it with them.”

It’s not the first time that Bensonhurst has tried can-less corners. In 2009, CB11 voted to remove cans from several locations, including the corner of Bay Parkway and Bath Avenue — making it the first neighborhood in the borough to attempt to make streets cleaner by removing public bins.

“There has been an improvement,” said Elias-Pavia at the time. “At locations with businesses on the bottom floors and residences on the top floors, the cans overflow and blow all over and make the streets dirty. When you get rid of the cans, that’s not a problem anymore.”

Other neighborhood got on the bandwagon with the counter-intuitive approach after the city massively cut the number of times per week it picks up garbage from public bins.

The city removed 14 cans from Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge between Ovington Avenue and 68th Street in April, but ultimately put them back in at the behest of state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) — riling locals who said that the area was cleaner without the cans.

Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@cnglocal.com or by calling him at (718) 260-4507. You can also follow his Tweets at @dsmacleod.

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