Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Coals and craziness

The public is allowed to grill, braai, barbecue in Prospect Park. A common and oft-voiced problem for park stewards is that the hot coals are later tipped onto the ground when people pack up and leave. This kills tree roots.

But for two weeks (picture above is two weeks ago) running I have seen this specially designated coal bin overflowing. This is on a Tuesday, presumably after a weekend of grilling.

Simple question. Why are they not emptied regularly? Perhaps even on a Monday. And why is there not another one, beside this one, which is obviously well-used for what it was designed? And as for not throwing your trash away in them, perhaps a real trash can would be helpful.

More on trash soon. I am amazed at learning yesterday that there is no paid crew of employees that regularly sweeps the park for litter, on foot, with grabbers and bags. Amazed. Like...amazed.

I have been spoiled by the privately funded Pier One part of Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is highly trafficked but spotless. Employees of the John Doe Fund patrol that park constantly.

No one is actually employed to pick up trash in Prospect Park (except volunteers...)? This is nuts.

[12.39pm - Update: the Press Director of the Prospect Park Alliance has contacted me to tell me that yes, there are paid employees who pick up trash. More as I have the information. See below]

The only trash collection is vehicular, and targets actual trash bins, and I will confirm how often that happens.

A designated team of employees to housekeep the park is essential. Why not be part of work creation program? And don't tell me there is no money. Borrow some from the multi million dollar ice rink being constructed.

Trash collection is one of the most basics necessities of maintaining a public space.

I am stunned. Really.

Here is Eugene Patron (Press Director of the Prospect Park Alliance)'s response to this post:  Underlining is mine.

"Every day maintenance crews first begin cleaning up around playgrounds, ball fields, picnic areas and restrooms (we target those areas first since they are the most heavily used).   They are on foot and  pick up and then bag trash.  Then crews move to other areas of the Park.   The # of people varies by season depending on the number of seasonal/part-time workers made available to the Park (usually more in summer, less in winter). BUT there are always people year-round whose job is it is to clean the park daily (once they are done cleaning, they may do other maintenance tasks).  

The garbage bagged is picked up by packer [truck] every day.   And packers empty trash cans around the park every day.  You note that you have seen park employees doing other things right next to overflowing trash cans.  That is likely because until an empty packer can come by, there’s not much staff can do with the trash (this also speaks to the popular suggestion that we just  “get more cans.”  The problem is servicing the cans.  You need trucks, and driver’s with the right license - and union – and then you need to be able to take the trucks somewhere; sometimes the Brooklyn dump is closed and the trucks can’t dump or have to drive to Queens).

Re: the Alliance crew [an ad hoc paid crew], they come out every Sunday, and then back again Monday mornings.  This is being done to try and deal with the litter from busy summer weekends.  They also come out sometimes on other days to attend to areas needing extra attention (like today: we brought in extra workers  to cleanup a lot of litter at the Lake left by a party of inebriated people that NYPD had to deal with).  The # also varies; more for Sunday’s of big holiday weekends; less on a weekday cleanup like today.

Re: “borrowing $s” from the ice rink to use for cleaning; unfortunately it is apples and oranges.  Money that government, philanthropies and corporate donors make available specifically for “capital” projects cannot be used for anything else.  That’s not up to us.  Most non-profits struggle with the problem that $s for operating costs are not as plentiful as $s for new facilities (hence why you see donor names on museum walls and not on the uniforms of museum guards).   That’s why $s raised from members and fundraising parties are so important because they are unrestricted funds; we can use the $s as needed."


1. This sounds effective. Then why is there so much litter?

2. Note to self, start getting more sides of the story from more parties involved. This is an excellent kick in the pants.

3. Now that I am in possession of more facts, is one of the root problems the fact that there is no permanent core team of park housekeepers or sanitation workers who do nothing else but patrol for and collect litter?

As I understand it now, all employees are expected to pick up trash, on top of their other duties, such as park ecology, restoration, horticulture, lawn care, tree care, aquatic maintenance, and on and on. It is spread too thinly. You do a little of everything.

Possibly if employees are assigned specific sections of the park such as the zone gardeners are in Central Park, it would be easier to maintain, monitor and actively curate specific parts of Prospect Park.  Take litter off the plate of these curators...

Back to the woodland, for instance - it is not just bunch of pretty trees and shrubs and plants. Many of them are invasive and need to be removed. The trampling off-path caused by cruising has made it impossible for native perennials and groundcovers to thrive or even to exist in many areas. They have been destroyed. Soil has been compacted to the point of concrete. Time and attention are needed to restore these areas.

Complicated. But not insurmountable.


webb said...

Marie, i really do like this blogsite - especially the photos. I saw just a few days ago something about a woman in California who became worried about a stretch of beach thru an urban area that was ending up awash in trash every day [wow! that's a run-on sentence!]. Anyway, she started picking up trash for 20 minutes a day and blogging about what she picked up. There are now hundreds of other volunteers who each spend just 20 minutes a day cleaning the beach.... and voila! a clean beach and an initiative that is spreading along the California coast.

I hope you are even partially that successful at Prospect Park! but I think you have what it takes to do it.

Marie said...

Thank you webb - and I really like that story...