By Victor Porcelli
An infamous East Flatbush dump site got some more-than-needed attention from the Department of Sanitation today at the urging of local activists.
Trucks from the city agency loaded garbage and towed cars away from the stretch of Farragut Road from Utica Avenue to Kings Highway that has been a hotbed for dumping all sorts of trash. From shredded personal information to coconut skins to litter boxes, the site has been a hazard to local community members — especially kids — for over 10 years now, according to local Hercules Reid.
Reid has led efforts to clean the area as part of a series of actions for environmental justice he hoped would encourage not only community members, but elected officials too, to improve how East Flatbush deals with its trash.
“This is where we move through every day, this is our home,” Reid told Brooklyn Reporter. “One of the rules I learned growing up is ‘protect home first.’ And, when you think about that concept and you see things like this, you realize people’s focus has left home.”
Reid’s project coordinator, Robyn Green, said that she feels the lack of action by the city showed a preference for gentrified, tourist-attracting areas of Brooklyn over those with higher minority populations, like East Flatbush.
“You see what’s going on here,” Green said. “The issues that I have and that many of us have is you can see the difference between this part of Brooklyn and another part of Brooklyn. I know the residents do have a responsibility … but the city does too.”
Ownership of the property that makes up the dumpsite has made clean-up efforts more complicated. On the corner of Utica Avenue and Farragut Road is a car wash that burned down two years ago. The owner is dead, and his family has not shown any interest in taking responsibility for the property, according to Community Board 17. Abandoned cars, as well as trash, had littered the area — but because it is privately owned, it’s not generally within the city’s purview to clean.
Further down the site, closer to Kings Highway, is an area that lies near railroad tracks used by the New York and Atlantic freight railway. The railway is responsible for maintaining cleanliness of the right of way based on an agreement it has with the LIRR, according to LIRR spokesperson Aaron Donovan, who told Brooklyn Reporter that both parties are investigating the issue.
Despite the bureaucratic hurdle this causes, Reid and Green’s activism did catch the attention of City Councilmember Farah Louis, who represents East Flatbush and attended Reid’s most recent cleanup.
According to a spokesperson, Louis spoke with the Department of Transportation and Assemblymember Helene Weinstein reached out to the Department of Sanitation. To facilitate the cleanup, Louis designated additional sanitation funding to allow for more cleanup efforts by the department.
The additional funding may have been what allowed for a massive cleaning of the area done by city officials today. In the afternoon, multiple members of DSNY cleared out much of the garbage, and tow trucks came to take away abandoned cars. Local businesses were told that any property they had at the site should be moved immediately, according to Reid.
In addition to being cleaned, the stretch will reportedly be well-lit starting early next year, as Louis’s talks with the Department of Transportation resulted in a commitment to adding street lights along the stretch, according to a DOT spokesperson.