July 22, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
Several garbage cans have been installed at Hunters Point South Park that aim to tackle the waterfront’s unprecedented litter problem.
The Hunters Point Parks Conservancy announced that four “Bigbelly” garbage cans were put into operation Tuesday and three more are expected to arrive early next month.
The trash cans can hold five times as much garbage as a standard trash can and use solar energy to compact the garbage, according to Mark Christie, a local resident and the vice president of the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy.
Christie said the bins then communicate volume status to collection crews to inform them when they need to be emptied. They are the first smart garbage cans to be installed at the park.
The installation of the trash cans comes after local residents complained that Hunters Point South Park and Gantry Plaza State Park failed to cope with a sharp rise in garbage levels.
People flocked to the parks in record numbers earlier this summer due to the good weather and the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions.
However, park-users stuffed garbage cans with trash that caused them to overflow. Others dumped their trash next to the overflowing bins. The rubbish then blew across the parks and into the East River.
The trash was also a magnet for rats and animals.
Christie said that the four new trash cans, which cost HPPC $24,000 to purchase, will help alleviate the problem and help clean up the park.
“The litter problem is one of the main concerns for many residents and that’s going to be rectified with the new garbage cans,” Christie said.
“We are delighted to be getting some new resources for the park and hope to get years of usage from them,” he said.
Three bins are located around the periphery of the park – two at Borden Avenue and Center Boulevard and one on Center Boulevard between 50th and 51st Avenue – while the fourth is located inside the park to the northwest of the Oval green.
Christie said that the four bins were purchased by the HPPC before the summer but the three additional bins were bought in light of the rising trash levels and after the group secured additional funding.
Each garbage unit is fully enclosed and come with a hands-free foot pedal. The bin’s compacting feature helps reduce the amount of space garbage takes up inside trash cans, therefore reducing the probability of overflowing cans at the park.
This also lowers the chances of litter being blown across the park by strong winds and means rodents and animals are less likely to be drawn to the area either.
Christie said that the garbage cans are for trash purposes only and are not for recycling. Christie hopes HPPC will be able to purchase smart recycling cans if it can secure more funding in the future.
Christie said that NYC Parks are responsible for collecting the trash from the Bigbelly bins at Hunters Point South Park and the next delivery of three bins will also go down at that park.
No bins will be installed in Gantry Plaza State Park because the New York State Parks Dept. – which is responsible for garbage at that park – does not have vehicles capable of servicing the new bins, Christie said.
Nevertheless, Christie said the litter situation has already improved at both parks over the last few weeks.
“The weather has just been too hot and many people have returned to work so we saw a big difference in the numbers of people using the parks,” Christie said. “The number of food vendors operating in the area has also dropped.”
Christie said that incessant late-night noise and anti-social behavior – which was rampant weeks ago – has also subsided. He said a bigger police presence in the area has deterred many of the perpetrators.
Christie said he hopes that those issues – along with the litter problem – are a thing of the past for residents and park users.
“We are a grassroots organization and we are doing our best to make our waterfront the best in the city, and it is the best,” he said, referring to the HPPC.
“We are here as the eyes and ears and to care for this park,” he said.