WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan – It's the first of its kind in New York City: A public drop box for used needles.
It's colorful and shaped like a sculpture of a daisy, just around the corner from a children's playground. It is bolted, locked and part of a pilot program aimed at cleaning up around public parks.
"We've been collecting syringes ever since we started," explained Sarah Deutsch of The Corner Project, a non for profit organization helping those suffering from substance abuse.
The organization is behind the new initiative. The location, near the Haven Park Underpass at 177th, was carefully chosen for the pilot program because it's near the George Washington Bridge, just above a zig-zag of pathways leading to several paths beneath the bridge.
Deutsch said it is one of the areas with the highest number of improperly disposed syringes.
"Since 2009, we've been accurately tracking the numbers that we pick them up and the locations that we pick them up from and then in 2014 we began tracking more specifically with GPS," Deutsch said.
It's an idea that gives walkers like Tony Pletcher some peace of mind, especially when he's with his dog Roscoe.
"It makes sense to give them a place to put it and that way if they are using needles or something it's not ending up in a place where it's hurting somebody else," Pletcher said.
The effort is a collaborative one between Corner Project, the city's Parks Department and the NYPD. The pilot program is expected to last about three months with the hope it will expand to other parts of the city. While Corner Project staff will check the drop box's daily, they will also gauge how many are collected.
So far, their statistics from earlier studies show the Highbridge Park neighborhood will be the next area with a need for this kind of a box.