Sidewalks lined with litter are nothing new for Brooklynites, but one Crown Heights resident says the lack of public garbage bins along Eastern Parkway is taking the familiar problem to an extreme.

Michael Corley, president of the Union Hill Block and Civic Association, says the bins along the pedestrian mall between Utica and Classon avenues were removed shortly before the West Indian Day Parade in 2017 and never returned. Despite contacting the Parks Department, 311, and the offices of Assemblywomen Diana Richardson and Laurie Cumbo, Corley says he still hasn’t received an explanation for the missing bins.

“For the life of me, none of us can wrap our minds around why the garbage cans were never returned. It’s something no one is giving us an answer about,” Corley said.

A pile of trash sits on a corner of the Eastern Parkway pedestrian mall. Photo: Alex Williams for BK Reader

Since the bins were removed, Corley has watched the tree-lined footpath where he walks his dog several times a week morph into a dumping ground for not only bottles and cans, but busted appliances and junkyard debris as well.

“There’ve been televisions, whole kitchen cabinets, auto parts, a refrigerator on one occasion. It’s gotten a little out of control,” Corley said.

According to a Parks Department spokesperson, the trash cans are removed annually before the parade to accommodate crowds and NYPD, and then replaced. However, a foot canvassing of the area confirmed it’s possible for a pedestrian to walk several blocks along Eastern Parkway without encountering a single bin.

The Parks Department representative also noted that the number of cans and their locations are deliberately limited to discourage the illegal dumping of household trash.

The low number of bins and the resulting litter isn’t an issue that’s isolated to the Parkway. This litter basket map published by Open Data NYC shows that the public bins in Crown Heights are mostly clustered along major avenues, whereas just north in Bed-Stuy, there’s a bin on nearly every corner.

Litter piles up in a corner near the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Bergen Street. Photo: Alex Williams for BK Reader

According to Frank Esquilin, president of the Crow Hill Community Association, he’s been fielding complaints about a lack of litter baskets in the neighborhood for years. But Esquilin suspects a culprit other than city agencies – thieves snatching the waste baskets to sell for scrap metal.

“Every year or so, the Sanitation Department replaces the bins, and within a week or two they’re gone,” Esquilin said.

The concern over the missing baskets comes at a time when Brooklyn’s rat infestation is getting worse, a problem the New York City Department of Health has said is best solved through better sanitation. According to statistics compiled by RentHop, Crown Heights residents called 311 for rodent complaints nearly 600 times in 2017.

When it comes to solving the litter problem by simply replacing the missing trash cans, Frank Esquilin isn’t optimistic. “They can only give us so many bins,” he said. “What good is it if they’re just going to be stolen?”


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Alex Williamson

Alex Williamson is a Brooklyn-based reporter whose work has appeared in Brooklyn Eagle, Queens Eagle, Gothamist and elsewhere.

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  1. I’m not sure why you say there’s a garbage can on nearly every corner in Bed-Stuy, that isn’t the case at all, I live here and there aren’t–We’ve been asking for years that they put some on several corners near my block and we never get them.

  2. Believe it or not removing garbage cans reduces litter. It’s a proven fact. The photo provided in this article that depicts a pile of crap on Eastern Parkway in fact includes a trash can. Trash cans are magnets for people to throw their garbage at and walk away without any regard for whether the trash stays in the can or if the its the type of trash that should go in the can. Tokyo, Japan, probably the cleanest major city in the world, has hardly any trash cans on the streets. The solution is for people to take responsibility for their trash, take it with them, and dispose of it by some sustainable means. Having a trash can on every corner literally turns our entire living space into a dumping grounds. Furthermore, the author of this article should have researched this topic before writing a love letter to trash cans – newsflash they don’t work.

  3. To reply to the last person that commented on this artical, I hear what you are saying in regards to self-disapline. But unfortunatetIy not everyone has it. People are busy. They are trying to get places. Some may care about the community, but lets say I am heading late to work for a meeting. I ran out of the house with a banana, just ate it and am getting on the train. I want to quickly get rid of it as I have my briefcase in my hand and putting this peal in my bag does not work for me. It’s a banana. I don’t want to get it on my clothes or papers. Not going to finish that but I know some would say just hold it. But in the heat of the moment, sometimes convenience is what people are seeking. I have a meeting! Unfortunately the environment is not the first thing I am thinking about. I just returned back to living in Crown Heights in October from Bed-Stuy where their are trash cans on nearly every corner. Within a few days noticed how scarce the trash cans are in comparision to when I lived here in 2012/2013. I was in the process of writting a petition to draft and send to elected officials as well as gathering signitures in support of more trash cans. Before doing this, I wanted to google this issue, to see if I was the only one noticing it. And wow, I see I am not. That leaves me with to wonder, should I still move forward with this fight for more cans. Are people really stealing the trash cans? If so, that’s sad and devastating that people are contributing to the distruction of their own neihborhoods. But here’s a solution. How about an upgrade in the trash cans? In Bedford Stutyvesant, the size and material of the trash cans, are not the type that people looking to get cash for scrap metal can use. You know, the ones that say recycling on them or the ones that have foot petal to open them? I think this is a fit worth taking. Can it really be that people in Crown Heights are less disciplined than those in Bed-Stuy? If so, taking away the can or never replacing them is not the answer. People who do not care about the environment and not going to care with or without the cans. So what happens is those who do care have to suffer by coming home to a landfill. Change the types of cans and stop with the excuses.

  4. Sorry, but Bed Stuy is not the model for trash can placement. To be truthful about it, the better model is Clinton Hill/Fort Greene where the local politicians make sure the entire community, not just certain blocks in their community, are served. In CH/FG you will find the better trash cans – and trash cans in general all over the neighborhoods. In Bed Stuy you see the better trash cans and better sanitation services on what is considered the “better blocks”. These are facts you can check yourself. Contact your community board, it might help if you have representatives concerned about the entire community, not just a few select blocks. Good luck!

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