A group of Williamsburg business owners have banded together to pay for their own street cleanup and trash removal after the city refused to increase services.
Citing oft-overflowing trash cans and refuse that constantly blows all over the streets, the 42 businesses of the Northside Merchants Association bought a sidewalk sweeper and hired a crew to sweep the streets and empty overflowing trash cans on Bedford, Driggs, and Kent avenues, as well as North Sixth and North Eleventh streets.
“Driggs Avenue has no public trash cans anywhere,” said Paul Janeczko, owner of Eight & Driggs Wine & Liquors. “It’s pretty atrocious.”
The Northside Merchants Association is not a traditional business improvement district where businesses face a mandatory tax. Instead, it is a voluntary, all-volunteer organization that provides services such as putting up holiday lights, dealing with illegal vendors and advocating for better L train service.
Most business members pay between $175 and $375 a year, depending on how close to Bedford Avenue they are. The Brooklyn Flea, East River Ferry and real estate company Douglas Elliman have all agreed to pony up extra cash for the cleaning.
Northeast Merchants Association spokeswoman Caitlin Dourmashkin said Williamsburg has outgrown the services the city is willing to offer the neighborhood, especially on the weekends when events including Brooklyn Flea and Smorgaburg draw tens of thousands of tourists.
“This neighborhood suffers from infrastructure that doesn’t support the amount of people that are here,” said Dourmashkin. “They need to start treating Williamsburg like the major commercial corridor it is.”
Dourmashkin said the Northeast Merchants Association asked the city to add more trash cans to places where there were not any for several blocks, but the city told the business owners said they weren’t necessary.
“We asked the city to do a survey and they found that none of the blocks needed additional services,” said Dourmashkin. “That’s ridiculous. The trash cans are overflowing and any weekend night, there is trash covering the street.”
The least the city can do, say the merchants, is to add trash cans to areas where there aren’t any.
“There are many corridors that have no trash cans and then, on another intersection, you will find 12,” said Dourmashkin. “It’s haphazard.”
The private cleanups will run every Saturday and Sunday from now until September.Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@c