Whose dump is it anyway?

Volunteers pick up trash from Soundview Park. Photo: US EPA

Volunteers pick up trash from Soundview Park. Photo: US EPA

Plastic bags, diapers, unwanted refrigerators, and burned-out car parts: these items are just a small sample of the trash being dumped in the undergrowth at Soundview Park.

More than 6,000 items weighing in at 3,000 pounds were picked up by volunteers at the park’s Fall Festival last month as part of the International Coastal Cleanup, according to an analysis by the world-wide organizer, Washington D.C.-based Ocean Conservancy.

Abandoned food wrappers and plastic bags were the main culprits, making up almost half of the trash collected by the 40 to 50 volunteers on September 25.

One volunteer said she was not surprised by the amount of garbage. “This area used to be a city dump where people used to actually dump things, so it was accepted,” said Lucy Aponte, a local artist and community advocate from the Friends of Soundview Park. “I think it’s just something that continues from that.”

Bordering the East River and overlooking Hunts Point, the 205-acre park was constructed on what was a city landfill until the 1960s, according to historical data on the City Park Department website.

Debris from a burned-out car and random pieces of unidentified metal were among the stranger items collected during the clean up, said Robin Kriesberg, ecology director at the Bronx River Alliance, an environmental organization.

The trash suggested changing habits of people using the park, said Kriesberg. Fewer cigarette butts were picked up compared with the past two years the clean up had been done in the park, a reflection of the increasing cost of smoking, she said. There were also fewer plastic bottles than usual because of cash-back options, she said.

“To me it wasn’t shocking, it was just a lot of little stuff that cumulatively definitely adds up,” said Kriesberg.

Most of the trash was picked up in the undergrowth and in the woods, away from the paths where park staff regularly cleaned up, she said. The Bronx River Alliance, in association with Partnerships for Parks, a joint City Parks Foundation and City Parks Department program, was asking for more trash cans in the area, she said.

“I’m hoping that they can do some outreach and education, but again without the trash cans there — you’ve got to give people the chance to do the right thing. Make it easy,” said Kriesberg.

Partnerships for Parks Soundview coordinator Carlos Martinez echoed the need for more education about litter — especially as developments under way in the park would mean greater traffic.

Under Plan NYC, the park is due for an extensive makeover beginning next spring, including the development of a new playground, amphitheater and sports grounds.

“It’s a common trend for Soundview Park, people using the park for dumping construction materials and all the unwanted stuff,” Martinez said. “If you visit the park on Monday morning it’s a real mess because people use the park for picnicking and for drinking beer.”

All but one area of the park had acceptable levels of cleanliness in the most recent city inspections in March and June, according to the Parks Department website. Zone four, including the ball fields and lawns along Lafayette Avenue, were deemed to have an unacceptable level of cleanliness.

A spokesperson for the Parks Department said the most active areas of the park were cleaned daily, with large zones cleaned three times a week on a rotating basis. “We add trash cans every year.  We feel the current number is sufficient,” she said.

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