Litterbugs turn Bergen Beach into garbage dump

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Bergen Beach has become a refuge for refuse, but the city is passing the buck.

The swanky south side of Avenue Y between E. 69th and Royce streets has become a junk heap full of discarded bottles, toys and appliances, but the Department of Sanitation says it’s the state’s job to clean up the six-block strip because of its proximity to the Belt Parkway.

Bergen Beach Civic Association board member Michael Benjamin said that the Department of Transportation has claimed the territory, but only cleaned it “two or three times a year.”

Residents agree, claiming that they have seen beer bottles, Christmas trees, old analogue TVs and computer monitors, and even a gas barbecue tank, messing up their once-pristine enclave — but few broom-toting workers.

“I saw [Transportation] a couple of times last year, but not this year,” said Louie Passalacqua, a Bergen Beach resident and retired NYPD officer, who has also spied raccoons and other animals pilfering through trash bags.

And wind gusts only make the problem worse.

“Garbage gets blown around and nobody picks it up,” said Gary Hershkowitz, who lives nearby.

Sanitation spokesman Iggy Terranova, who spoke at the Civic Association meeting, disputed Benjamin’s claims that no one is cleaning up the area. He said that housekeeping along the crummy stretch was the responsibility of the Department of Transportation, but the Strongest helped out their sister agency whenever possible.

“It’s not our jurisdiction but we do assist,” he said. “There’s no set number but [Transportation] will go down there 100 percent more than two or three times a year.”

Benjamin backed down when asked how his grassroots group was tackling the grimy situation, even though community volunteers have teamed up with the Department of Transportation for clean-ups since the 1990s through its Adopt-a-Highway Program.

“The civic has always taken the position that to go out of our way to publicize a negative condition to the outside world is counter productive and counter intuitive,” Benjamin said.

That is likely little comfort to residents, who are now forced to take matters into their own hands.

“People have picked up some garbage, but they can’t keep up with it,” said Passalacqua. “They can’t take care of this big stuff that people are dumping there.”

Department of Transportation spokesman Monty Dean said his agency would team up with the Strongest for a clean up.

“[We] will coordinate with Sanitation on addressing concerns about litter at this location,” he said.

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Posted 12:00 am, January 27, 2012
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