Greenpoint Gazette

DSNY Reverses Stance on Big Bellies, Replacing Mesh Cans with Solar Powered Bins

BY Tanay Warerkar

Last week, local residents woke to find large black trash compactors, emblazoned “Big Belly,” dotting neighborhood corners where mesh trash cans once stood.

As part of the latest pilot program to be rolled out in North Brooklyn, the City’s Sanitation Department’s (DSNY) began placing solar powered “Big Bellies” throughout areas encompassing Community Board 1. The yearlong pilot program will test whether the solar powered trash compactors are feasible to be installed throughout the city.

192 bins, in all, will be installed in the community at a cost of $4,000 apiece.

The installation marks a turnaround for the city, which in 2010 had rejected the Big Belly program after a year of piloting it, despite several business improvement districts in the city having installed them successfully. A representative for the DSNY said at the time the agency was working with two earlier models produced by Big Belly Solar, whereas this time around they’re testing new and improved models.

“The Big Belly Solar compactors pilot occurring along heavily trafficked pedestrian areas in Brooklyn North is the Department of Sanitation’s latest test of an innovative technology to keep our sidewalks clean and our neighborhoods healthy and safe,” a spokesperson for the DSNY said.

According to DSNY, the Big Bellies pickup cycle will remain the same as with the mesh cans, with the new receptacles being serviced three times a week, allowing trucks previously used on a separate recycling pickup day to complete their routes the same day as the Big Belly pickups, thereby eliminating one pickup day weekly.

The sudden appearance of the new bins hasn’t gone down well with everyone in the neighborhood.

Community Board 1 issued a sternly worded letter to the DSNY arguing that it was not informed of the decision prior to the installation. In addition, the letter also argues that the Solar Bins pilot program adds to the already existing trash burden, along with a reminder that the neighborhood just recently became the site for the city’s pilot organics program.

“I’m writing to express Community Board No.1’s extreme outrage at the DSNY’s most recent idiocy,” wrote Chairperson of the Board, Dealice Fuller, to the Commissioner of the Sanitation Department Kathryn Garcia. “Unfortunately, Williamsburg and Greenpoint is viewed by the City as its prime testing ground for anything that the city dreams up.”

But the organics collection program and the Big Belly initiative have their supporters in the community as well.

“This innovative program will decrease the amount of waste North Brooklyn contributes to landfills and help to protect our streets from litter and rodents,” said Councilmember Stephen Levin upon the launch of the Organics Program.

Meanwhile, the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce is using its Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF) Grant for its Curb Your Litter initiative, a comprehensive study of how trash is processed in Greenpoint. A proposal to bring Big Bellies to the neighborhood was included in the program and the Chamber says it will go ahead with its initiative, focusing on underserved parts of Greenpoint like Franklin and West Streets.

“There is support for new trash cans and because of overflowing trash in our traditional litter baskets solar powered Big Bellies are worth experimenting with because they hold much more trash,” said Elaine Brodsky, the chairwoman of the Greenpoint Chamber Board. “We’d like to work closely with DSNY and Community Board 1 on community outreach and education to get our residents and businesses to embrace the new infrastructure in our community.”

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