Trash bins overflow with cups, plastic bags and other garbage all along East Tremont street in the South Bronx. Dog waste and cigarette butts litter every street corner. Local officials announced on September 9th that the city would provide extra sweeping services to the borough. “We expected that our community will be cleaner and nicer just as other boroughs in our city,” said John Sanchez, Community Board Manager of East Tremont.
East Tremont Avenue is the busiest street in the neighborhood. Restaurants, delis and groceries line up on each side of the street where garbage has been a problem for a long time.
The city had contracted with Fedcap, a local sanitation company, paying $143,000 for extra sweeping services in the South Bronx. Approximately $30,000 of the total is slated for East Tremont, according to Sanchez. “There are big complaints about East Tremont right now. The Sanitation Department doesn’t pick up commercial trash, the small business along the busy commercial corridor of East Tremont must contract with private haulers to collect their garbage,” said Sanchez. “What the city pays for is extra sweeping which the sanitation department doesn’t do.”
According to the NYC Department of Sanitation’s regulations, businesses in New York City must hire private carting companies for collection and disposal services and to clean the sidewalks adjoining their property, as well as 18 inches from the curb at least twice a day. “We sweep the street every morning for East Tremont Avenue except Sunday,” said the superintendent of Bronx Sanitation Department District 6. “And we clean baskets everyday,” he added.
Tito Mecina, an employee of Star Communications, a cellphone store at the corner of East Tremont Avenue, complained about the endless sweeping. He said that he cleans the sidewalks every two hours from 8 a.m. in the morning until the store closes at 5 p.m, but he can never keep up. “People just litter everything on the floor, but there’s a trash bin at the corner,” added Mecina angrily.
Litter overflows from trash bins as well. “It’s always full, you know, every time I go back home from the market, it’s full,” said Alana Barker, a resident at 1904 Vyse Avenue who passes along East Tremont Avenue every day, pointing to the trash bin in the corner of Vyse Avenue and East Tremont Avenue. “And I don’t think those shops often clean the street,” Barker said she saw shopkeepers sweeping up a few times.
Store owners said rush hour poses a particular burden to them. Customers pour in and out of delis and grocery stores, leaving their litter along the sidewalks. “We can be very busy in the evening and you see we don’t have much staff,” said Mauricio, the owner of Big Al Deli at 109 E Tremont Ave.
Hiring private trash haulers can be every expensive for some small businesses. “We contract with Mid-Bronx Haulage Corp,” said Bilal Zafar, who helps in his father’s 99-cent grocery store at 816 East Tremont Avenue. He said they paid the company more than $350 monthly to pick up their trash. The fines for not picking up trash are $150 a day. Other stores that do not have a lot of trash can pay less. For example, the shop owner of A-Z Gift Shop at 726 East Tremont Avenue paid $25 per week for her private hauler. She sweeps the street in front of her shop by herself.
“It will help us a lot if they do that,” said Mecina when he was told that the city will provide extra sweeping services to his neighborhood. “I didn’t see them sweeping the street for a while you know, at least not today.”
Fedcap, which merged with the Wildcat Services, is a non-profit organization that hires the previously unemployed, homeless, as well as ex-offenders and disconnected youth for city jobs. “Because we just start right now, we only have six employees and one supervisor for the East Tremont area, but we are planning to hire another 12 employees,” said Mario La Rosa, the manager of Fedcap’s operations.
Sweeping services began on October 17, on East Tremont from LaFontaine Avenue to West Farms Road, Southern Blvd/Crotona Parkway Center Mall, and East 180th Street from Crotona Parkway Avenue . “It will be done approximately two times a week and it will be going on through June of 2017,” said Sanchez. Staff from the Bronx Sanitation Department said they had no plans to increase pick up time and sweeping time after the services stop next year for now.