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Clean Bushwick Initiative: A Movement to Tidy Up a Neighborhood

The neighborhood group is starting a larger conversation about waste and community accountability
trash, trash can, rubbish
Photo: AlbertHerring/Wikimedia.

Illegal dumping, dirty sidewalks and missed garbage collections in Bushwick are becoming a massive neighborhood concern. Due to significant sanitation budget cuts, Community Board 4 has received a slew of complaints regarding the piling of trash, BKLYNER reports.

But one group is stepping up to tackle the problem.

Former-Bushwick resident Sarah Back started the Clean Bushwick Initiative in 2016 to clean up the neighborhood's streets. With dedicated community members such as Executive Director Nicole De Santis and Assistant Director Kristen Tadrous the group has thrived and continued to expand, and has been able to meet the current trash crisis with a loyal group of volunteers.

The initiative helps the surrounding community in a multitude of ways, and on top of its primary focus on reducing waste, it also does tree care. Through its Tree Stewardship program, the group works to clean and maintain tree beds to promote tree growth. It also looks after Bushwick's Irving and Maria Hernandez parks, collecting and recycling discarded containers as the parks do not have recycling programs.

"The cleanups may seem ineffective at times due to the sheer volume of waste in Bushwick, although Clean Bushwick Initiative's enthusiasm and community-centric efforts helped start larger conversations about waste and community accountability," Celestina Leon, CB4 district manager, told BKLYNER.

"The Initiative has willingly stepped up to play a part in reshaping that narrative, spotlighting how community members and stakeholders care about their blocks and how they look." 

The issue of trash in New York City is a never-ending battle, especially amid COVID-19. Although often complaints are centered on how trash pile-ups look and smell, and how they attracts pests, there is also grave environmental risks with not dealing with the issue. As litter degrades, chemicals and micro-particles are released into the environment and poisons can easily make their way into the soil, water and air.

Clean Bushwick is not only working to reduce the amount of trash in the streets, but now also strive to inform the community of some of the health effects of being surrounded by litter. 

"It's a positive experience during what's been a very difficult (time)," De Santis said. "I believe any work you do in communities to make them healthier and more livable for all residents is worthwhile."