A small army of 22 young people and a handful of adults marched into NYCHA’s Glenmore Plaza Senior Center last Saturday. Their mission was to clean up what has become a trash dumping ground – one of several hot spots in the Brownsville and East New York area.
When they arrived at the site, the group discovered discarded pieces of furniture, wood and other types of debris. It wasn’t the typical household trash, Camara Jackson, the founder and CEO of the youth mentorship and anti-gun violence nonprofit Elite Learners Inc., told BK Reader.
For several months, residents have called into Community Board 5’s virtual monthly general meetings to complain about illegal dumping in the community.
Indeed, illegal dumping has reached a crisis point in some parts of New York City, which Acting Commissioner of Sanitation Edward Grayson has blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic.
City Councilwoman Darma Diaz, whose District 37 lies partially in CB5, told community members at the January meeting she was working to address the problem.
Diaz, who participated in the Saturday cleanup, told BK Reader she divided a portion of the funds budgeted to councilmembers for additional sanitation services to organizations in the district to assist with cleanups.
She also spent $35,000 to pay for overtime Sanitation Department trash pickups beyond their weekly scheduled garbage removals.
“To me, it’s pretty sad that $35,000 had to be spent this way. It could be used for youth afterschool programs and senior programs or many other needs for the community,” she said.
Who’s dumping and why?
Diaz said she was trying to figure out who exactly is behind the increased dumping in the area.
“Is it individuals who don’t want trash in front of their home? Is it restaurants that can’t afford carting service, so they take it in their car and dump it somewhere? Is it from people forced to remove their stuff from storage facilities who dump items they don’t want somewhere?” she questioned.
One of the hotspots is the median on Atlantic Avenue, from Euclid Avenue to Logan Street, Diaz said. Sanitation workers recently hauled away 14 tons of rubbish in three hours from that area.
While working alongside Elite Learners on Saturday, the councilwoman learned that private carting companies and contractors had been dumping at the Glenmore facility.
“They are coming into our community to dump their trash,” she said with a mix of anger and disbelief.
Diaz said she was looking into beefing up sanitation enforcement. The lawmaker recalled there was a time when sanitation inspectors issued tickets if they opened a trash bag at an illegal dumpsite and found mail addressed to the likely offender.
Where’s the anti-dumping enforcement?
Jackson and her cleanup crew returned to the Glenmore site four days later to continue the work they started. To their surprise, there was another pile of rubbish in the same spots they cleared days earlier.
“I was hurt,” Jackson said disheartened. “We removed furniture and other debris from directly in front of the building, and on Wednesday, there was furniture and debris right in front of the building again.”
She suspected “somebody identified Glenmore” as a place to dump trash. The facility’s parking lot is a temptation. It’s easy to access without fear of getting caught because there are no outdoor cameras or a parking lot gate arm to keep nonresidents out. “Anyone can drive a truck into the parking lot,” she noted.
Jackson is optimistic that Elite Learners is training a generation of youth who will have a positive impact in the community.
“We have been teaching the young people that we have to take ownership of our environment and work in partnership with the sanitation department,” she said.
Going forward, Elite Learners plans to organize community cleanups twice a month.
The Sanitation Department has a reward program for tipsters who can provide information and license plate numbers of those dumping garbage illegally. The department will pay up to 50% of the fine collected, and the tipster’s identity can remain confidential.
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