Harlem community frustrated after Sanitation Department removes corner trash cans

There are 23,000 public trash cans in New York City, but there aren't any in one central Harlem community

The Department of Sanitation removed all the cans from West 136th to West 140th streets, between Edgecombe and 8th Avenues, two months ago. It came as a complete shock to the members of the Dorrance Brooks Property Owners and Residents Association, who had reached out to the Sanitation department for help in dealing with the illegal dumping of household trash in corner trash cans.

“They sit and monitor cans and whoever dumps, they get a ticket," JoLinda Ruth Cogen, an association member and real estate agent, said. “After a while, a few people get a few tickets and the word gets out and no one dump.”

However, instead of sending enforcement agents, the DSNY removed all the baskets in the community, without giving any notice to residents or local officials.

“It seems counterintuitive that if you have garbage problems, you’re going to remove the cans so there’s no place to put the garbage," Keith Taylor, the president of the homeowners’ association, said.

A DSNY spokesperson explained removing chronically abused and misused baskets has proven to be effective at reducing illegal dumping. The spokesperson also noted that baskets are for commercial pedestrian heavy areas.

But residents say the baskets were in their residential area for decades. As for the claim that removing “abused baskets” reduces illegal dumping, the association says the dumpers are now using another location.

The Dorrence Brooks public square, named for an African-American hero of WW1, contains a few garbage cans that are maintained by the NYC Parks Department. The cans are now overflowing with illegally dumped household garbage and trash. The garbage has created a rat problem.

“We got rats crawling around and we can’t even enjoy this park, this historic park," Taylor said. “The rats are enjoying the feast. They’re having a field day.”

The dumping is not limited to the public square. On every block in the neighborhood we saw bags of trash left on sidewalks, tied to light poles, or tossed in the street.

“They dump everywhere because there are no cans," homeowner William Seraile said.

A neighbor down the block just received a $25 ticket from a Sanitation Enforcement Agent for a bag of trash someone left on his sidewalk.

Cogen applied to the DSNY’s Adopt-a-Basket program that provides bags and a broom to people who will maintain a trash basket in front of their property. Her application was rejected.

The DSNY says “For baskets to be adopted, the basket must currently be on location.”

Since all the baskets are gone, there are none to adopt!

“We want our cans back," Cogen said. “Not having cans is not acceptable. It’s unhealthy and it doesn’t make the neighborhood look nice.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has emailed DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia to protest the removal of the cans, but has not received a response. However, the DSNY has agreed to send representatives to a meeting of Community Board 10 on June 25. Also invited are local elected officials and the homeowner’s association. We’ll keep you posted on any developments.

If you’ve got story for Arnold Diaz, send an email to whatashame@pix11.com or contact him on Facebook or Twitter.