Last week, Borough President Eric Adams joined the Cornelia Street Block Association, Community Board 4, the Clean Bushwick Initiative and Bushwick Youth Coalition to launch a series of neighborhood cleanups.
The announcement comes after recent budget cuts to the Department of Sanitation (DSNY), which has resulted in an increase in complaints about overflowing trash cans throughout commercial corridors.
The cuts reduced the number of trucks emptying litter baskets every week from 736 to just 272 vehicles. According to the borough president’s office, complaints about dirty sidewalks to 311 reached 2,922 in July and August, up 14 percent from the same period last year.
“Communities across our borough are contending with a major rise in sanitation issues, which has affected the bottom lines of already-struggling small businesses and quality-of-life for our residents,” Adams said. “Letting New Yorkers’ trash complaints fester in the trash pile of bureaucracy is unacceptable at any time, and it’s even more dangerous amid a pandemic and economic recovery effort.”
Earlier this month, Governor Andrew Cuomo went as far as proposing to send the National Guard to New York City to help address the sanitation issue. Adams said he would welcome such assistance, but also called for an overhaul of the way the agency collects trash and engages with the community.
He highlighted a report issued by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli finding that DSNY uses Scorecard Ratings to monitor cleanliness, a practice dating back to 1973. He said the system fails to account for more updated sources of data.
“We can’t continue employing an eight-track mindset in a smartphone age,” Adams said, “especially at a time when our resources are already stretched thin.”
Adams proposed a five-point plan to change the way the agency responds to community concerns. First, the mayoral candidate wants to modernize DSNY’s cleanliness assessment and integrate 311 complaints and violation summons data.
He would also overhaul cross-agency coordination, enhance community education on litter prevention and expand participation in the city’s Adopt-A-Catch Basin initiative.
Finally, Adams would recruit public-private partnerships to invest in better quantity and quality of local trash cans.
“Quality of life takes government playing its part, businesses playing their part and residents playing our part,” he said. “This kind of civic engagement must supplement the reforms we are calling for at DSNY to make our borough and city more livable for all residents.”