In Red Hook, the numbers just don’t seem to add up: Three years, tens of thousands of dollars, and still no new trash cans along Van Brunt Street.
Meanwhile, since 2006, when the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation (SBIDC) won the first of three $200,000 state grants, trash continues to accumulate along the neighborhood’s major commercial roadway, local residents and activists said.
“The money was provided for garbage cans to be placed on Van Brunt Street over two years ago, ” said John McGettrick, the co−chair of the Red Hook Civic Association.
“But much to the frustration and dismay of both residents and businesses, it has not happened,” he added. “Whether this is indicative of incompetence or indifference on the part of a government−sponsored organization, we’re not sure.”
McGettrick said he attended a meeting two years ago, where locals were told the cans would arrive in three months’ time.
“They made a big statement about getting the finding, and then it’s delay after delay — and the street is dirtier than ever,” he said.
Elizabeth Demetriou, SBIDC’s director of revitalization and development, said it has been working hard to bring the trash cans to Van Brunt Street, but the wheels of government don’t always move swiftly.
She said the largest percentage of the money, from the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal’s Main Street grant program, goes to building and property owners to renovate their storefronts. Ten projects are in progress currently, she said. From each $200,000 grant, $25,000 is allotted for streetscape enhancement, of which the trash cans are a part.
But the state requires SBIDC to spend a certain amount of money on building construction before the streetscape money can be spent, she said. “We kind of got people together prematurely to discuss the streetscape enhancements,” she conceded.
Over the last year and a half, her not−for−profit organization has been working with Linda Tool & Die, a local company, to manufacture the trash cans. The city’s Department of Sanitation then had to test a prototype to ensure it met the agency’s criteria. The manufacturer is in the process of making changes to the design suggested by the agency, Demetriou said.
“It has taken longer because we took a different route because we were getting them made locally,” she said. “We expect the cans to be on the street in the fall.”
Demetriou agreed that Van Brunt Street is dirty, and said the hope is to use some of the streetscape money for a clean−up, and to plant trees.
“It will be really cool when it’s done, but it takes a bit of time,” she said.
Local resident and business owner Erin Norris said that without SBIDC, her new restaurant Grindhaus may not be set to open in October. The group dispensed $45,000 from the grant program to help her renovate 275 Van Brunt Street, once a derelict husk. “I refer to them as my fairy god−people,” she said. Norris said she was disappointed to hear that civic association has been critical. “This stuff doesn’t happen overnight — and John of all people should know that.”
Lifelong local resident and business owner Sue Esposito said she is forced to be on constant trash patrol for fear of getting ticketed by the city.
“People don’t care where they throw their litter, and property owners are getting tickets,” she said. In the last month, she said she received two $100 tickets for trash on her property.
Esposito wondered how long it would take SBIDC to follow through on its promise. “Where’s the money? Where did it all go?” she asked.
In lieu of the pails, Esposito has taken to scolding truck drivers and others who litter with impunity. “When you’re brought up in Red Hook, you’re not afraid of a lot of things,” she said.