Somewhere in the piles of garbage lining the streets of Bushwick, residents might find Mayor de Blasio’s word.
It’s been six months since the mayor promised to pump more money into the city’s street-cleaning efforts. And the trash problem has only gotten worse.
De Blasio in September announced initiatives to reallocate Sanitation Department funding to bolster litter-basket pickups in communities hit hardest during the pandemic, including Bushwick in Brooklyn. But according to the official mayoral report of “acceptably clean city streets,” street cleanliness there plummeted to 33.3 percent in January, compared with 86.1 percent the month before.
The same neighborhood scored 95.4 percent a year ago.
“It’s impossible to look at our streets and say we’re delivering the services residents have come to expect,” said City Councilman Antonio Reynoso, a Democratic candidate for Brooklyn borough president who chaired a hearing last week for the Committee on Sanitation and Solid-Waste management with the mayor’s newly appointed acting sanitation commissioner, Edward Grayson.
“We are still working to try to figure out where we are going to land,” Grayson said, blaming the pandemic for the reduction of street cleaning to once a week.
Grayson said the department was planning to continue with the same financial and personnel resources it has been working with throughout the pandemic. In other words: staying the course.
“The cuts we have seen are still in place,” he said. “We are trying to build a plan to adapt to that headcount moving forward.”
Reynoso said the city would create a public-health crisis on top of the current one by trying to do more with less when it comes to waste management.
“They’re OK with a dirty city so long as they’re saving a couple of bucks,” he said.
Community groups in Bushwick, such as the Clean Bushwick Initiative, which was formed in 2016, have been plastering social media with pictures of dirty streets clogged with litter and debris, with captions like, “Under no circumstances should this be acceptable!”
Christian Cotrina, editor of the hyperlocal media project This Bushwick Life, said the community was on the upswing before the pandemic hit last year but the piles of trash festering on its sidewalks have halted that progress, creating bigger issues, such as worsening rat infestations.
“In 2021, Bushwick feels like ‘The Walking Dead’ stage,” Cotrina said.
“The neighborhood is full of trash and rats. You cannot walk around Bushwick without spotting overflowing garbage cans, mattresses, furniture, large bundles of garbage bags waiting to be picked up. The longer the garbage bags sit at the curb waiting to be picked up, the worse it gets.”
De Blasio’s 2021 budget slashed more than $100 million from the Sanitation Department in an attempt to close an estimated $9 billion deficit, bringing the number of litter-basket routes across the city down from 736 to 272. The cuts were so drastic that then-Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia included them in her scathing resignation letter last year.
The problem was underscored in September, when state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office released an audit that found two-thirds of the city streets it sampled were filthy. In October, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a Democratic candidate for mayor, organized his own community cleanup in the area.
Gov. Cuomo even suggested sending the National Guard to the city to help clean things up.
For all the bluster, nothing has changed — New York’s streets are filthy.