When it comes to keeping the community clean, Laura Spalter is a fighter.
That means pushing to reduce single-use plastic bags, and tackling decades of trash buildup on old railroad lines. But it also means figuring out what happened to all those garbage bins that, over the last few months, mysteriously went missing.
That includes two of the wire mesh variety from Giles and Cannon places near the Jerome Park Reservoir, and another four along the Henry Hudson Parkway — at West 227th, 229th, 232nd and 235th streets.
Losing the trash bins is bad, said Laura Spalter, chair of Community Board 8’s environment and sanitation committee, because residents are now complaining about litter in those areas.
“It is extremely troubling that calls to 311 are ignored,” Spalter wrote in a March 5 email to the city’s sanitation department. “The response has been this busy area does not qualify for baskets. The baskets have been there for many, many years.”
The two baskets missing at Giles and Cannon were actually removed by the sanitation department while Con Edison conducted underground repair work in the area, sanitation department superintendent Chris Agazzi told Spalter ahead of a recent meeting.
But those bins also were on a residential street with light foot traffic, Agazzi said, which often results in bins being abused by businesses and residents dumping their trash in and alongside them.
Typically, baskets are placed on corners of major commercial streets and near major transportation facilities in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic, according to Henry Ehrhardt, director of sanitation’s community affairs bureau.
But along with abuse and low-pedestrian traffic, there are other reasons trash baskets vanish, said Belinda Mager, city sanitation’s digital media and communications director, including temporary removal for special events or — like with ConEd — because of construction.
Then again, they could indeed be stolen. Lincoln Square’s business improvement district in Manhattan has reported trashcan theft. It’s believed they’re being targeted for scrap metal.
There are about 23,000 sanitation department-owned garbage baskets of various designs throughout the five boroughs, Mager said. The wire mesh baskets weigh about 32 pounds and cost $125.
Of around 10 of the city sanitation department’s wire mesh bins removed locally since late last year, roughly half have been returned, Spalter said, including one near the Riverdale Monument at West 239th Street and Henry Hudson Parkway East. Others, including those along the parkway from West 227th to West 235th streets, remained missing as of March.
“It’s a fluid situation. You look one day and (a bin) is there, and you look another day and it’s not there,” Spalter said. “I’m depending on residents in the community to keep in touch with the board as to the status of the cans. We’re trying to monitor it based on the cleanliness of the streets.”
“We’re not accepting this,” Spalter added. “We have written letters. It’s not the end.”
Spalter acknowledges people have a responsibility to keep neighborhoods clean, but having a container to throw trash into certainly makes it easier.
If there’s a sign of hope, Agazzi promised he’d give Spalter and her committee a heads-up before any additional baskets are removed in the future.
“We call up, we don’t know why it’s gone, whether it was stolen, whatever, (or) if one’s coming back,” Spalter said. “And some have come back, but it’s a continuing battle.
“We just want it to be clean all over. We’re not giving up.”