It’s Time for Trash Talk, Bushwick

Katy Golvala


If you’ve ever walked around Bushwick on a windy or beautiful day, you’ve probably taken particular notice all the trash littered about. You might even have thought, “Damn, this is gross.” 

Bushwick is one of the most littered places in all of New York City. In 2017, the neighborhood had some of the lowest rates of “acceptably clean” sidewalks and streets of any community district, according to data from the Department of Sanitation.

Ninety-two percent of sidewalks were acceptably clean — which sounds great — but that still makes Bushwick the community district with the third-lowest rate of clean sidewalks in the city. The rate of acceptably clean streets in the neighborhood is slightly lower at 90 percent; compared to the 96 percent in New York City overall, Bushwick streets are the sixth trashiest in the city.

But how do Bushwick streets score so highly when it’s apparent on any given day that there is litter everywhere? Doug Turetsky, the chief of staff for the New York City Independent Budget Office, explained the paradox in a post several years ago.

“…There are two key reasons the survey findings may not mesh with public perceptions. First, the streets surveyed and the rating scale were developed in the late 1970s, a time when there may have been lower expectations—at least compared with today—for what measured up as an acceptably clean street,” Turetsky said. “Additionally, the surveyed streets may no longer provide the most representative sample. Operations staff members acknowledge that public perceptions of what’s clean or dirty have changed over the years and are working to recalibrate their rating system as well as adjust which streets are surveyed.”

Ok, let’s forget the scorecards for a minute. Why does Bushwick have an issue with clean streets and sidewalks, anyway?

One reason could be that the neighborhood produces more trash per person on average than other parts of New York. In 2017, Bushwick produced about 40,000 tons of trash and recycling, which accounts for a little over 3 tons per person per year, which is slightly higher than the Brooklyn average of about 2.8 tons per person per year.

City sanitation services are also severely lacking in the neighborhood. If you walk the entire length of Bushwick Avenue between Halsey and Himrod Street, you won’t find a single trashcan. There are just six trashcans on Bushwick Avenue, which is about two miles long, and five of those trashcans can be found within a 700-foot radius.

Yuck, but that’s your Bushwick Fun Fact of the week. Have a question about the neighborhood that you want us to try and answer using data? Leave a comment below!

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Cover image from the Bushwick Daily archives

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