Trash war on Dean Street

Trash war on Dean Street
Jeremy Herb

Residents of Dean Street are caught in the middle of a battle between the Department of Sanitation and the Department of Education that has left the area near PS 261 so filthy that some neighbors are tossing the school’s garbage bags back over the fence into the yard.

“The bags break open and leak garbage, and that garbage [gets] scattered up and down Dean Street,” said Walter Sarafian, who lives across from the elementary school. “It’s just constantly dirty.”

Here’s the problem: The Department of Sanitation doesn’t start its afternoon pickups until 4 pm — but the school says health regulations require it to put out the trash immediately following breakfast and lunch.

Locals are not unsympathetic to the school, but feel that they’re left holding the bag.

“The school is being pinched between all these different guidelines, but the community feels like the school is just leaving this mess on the curb,” said Joel Potischman, vice president of the Boerum Hill Association.

Sanitation Department spokesman Matthew LiPani said budget shortages make it virtually impossible to grant everyone’s wish for trash to be picked up quickly after it’s put out.

Meanwhile, Sarafian and others are taking a different approach. At least 10 times this spring, he and others have resorted to garbage vigilantism, throwing the trash back into the school yard nearly 10 times so far.

“It attracts rodents, rats and pigeons all around it,” said the refuse refusenik. “It also attracts quite a bit of illegal dumping. I’ve witnessed it many times, people just dumping their garbage there.”

The trash sits on a dirt patch between the sidewalk and Dean Street on the backside of the school, just past the fenced-in school playground. When parents and students leave after school through the back entrance, there’s nearly always more than a dozen black garbage bags piled up several feet high.

PS 261 Principal Zipporiah Mills said the school has doubled in size over the past decade, and its 800 students are producing more garbage than ever before. The school is trying to combat leaky garbage by placing buckets near trash cans for students to toss liquids, she said.

Unfortunately, Mills said, even in these green times, 5-year-olds don’t always remember to correctly dispose of milky cereal bowls.