Garbage Mountains are Driving Some Bronx Residents Crazy

Updated, 1 p.m. Feb 23.

Residents at Soundview Houses, a housing project of New York City Housing Authority in Soundview, Bronx, have been overwhelmed, they say, by piles of street-side garbage bags and loads of litter. 

As pedestrians walked along Randall Avenue at Soundview Houses, it was nearly impossible for them to ignore the garbage mountain that invaded the sidewalk. Piles speckled with broken furniture, kitchen sinks, old mattress and even an entire door. Some bags were torn, and their contents spilled out on to the sidewalk:  all kinds of leftovers, empty shampoo and liquor bottles, and crumbled candy wrappers.

Garbage bags pile up along the sidewalk at Randall Avenue at Soundview Houses (Photo by Xiang Shen).

“It’s crazy,” said Krizia Paricci, whose mother has lived there for 20 years. “It’s all over the place.”

“As you can see, sometimes it’s weeks like this,” said Johaida Jose, resident of the Soundview Houses, pointing to mounds upon mounds of garbage bags towering over the sidewalk. “I moved here approximately 11 months ago, and it has always been like this.” 

Jose said the incinerators in several buildings are not working and were locked by the management. Residents, as a result, have to bring the garbage outside until NYCHA fixes the problem. A spokeswoman of NYCHA Soundview Houses responded that they are not aware of the issue and said that “if there’s a problem, it will be fixed.” 

“I don’t know how long it will take,” said Jose. “This is our life now.”

Trash scattered on the sidewalk at Soundview Houses (Photo by Xiang Shen).

Across the street from where Jose stood, a rectangular-shaped traffic island sits in between the two blocks of developments known as the Soundview Houses. After a heavy snowstorm in early February, antifreeze bottles, parts of broken drawers, plastic bags and old tires were visible on the island. Jose said NYCHA does take the garbage bags on the side of the street where the piles of trash are to a collection site, waiting for the Department of Sanitation to pick up, but it does so irregularly and infrequently. 

“It’s now covered by the snow, but as the snow melts, you can see garbage scattering around the island,” said Jose. “No one has ever cleaned it up.” 

According to the residents, the land has been poorly maintained since last summer, and they believe there might be two underlying causes. 

“It’s a ‘no man’s land’, no agency really wants to claim it,” said Cynthia Prisco, whose family lives in the housing project. “And buildings also go months without having access to the garbage compactor, so tenants have to put their garbage in bags.” And those bags have to go somewhere.

Random garbage bags, a glass bottle, plastic bottles and used face masks on the snow-covered traffic island (Photo by Xiang Shen).

Nekoro Gomes, a NYCHA spokesman, told NY City Lens that NYCHA licensed the land from The Department of Citywide Administrative Services on May 1, 2000. In early February, Gomes said that the responsibility for the lot fell on the city.  Since the story’s publication, a NYCHA spokesman said that NYCHA was responsible after all.  The lot has since been cleaned up and neighborhood patrols have been asked to keep an eye on the situation.

The Department of Sanitation responded that they recommend that residents report the issue online or by calling 311 and request immediate assistance for garbage pickups.

Brigitte Vicenty, a lifelong NYCHA resident and founder of an environmental group called Inner City Green Team, said most garbage compactors across the city, including the ones at NYCHA developments, are outdated and are prone to break easily. 

And this is not a new problem. In February 2020, the Brooklyn Eagle reported that NYCHA housing had built-up garbage and rodent issues due to aging compactors. They were often shut down for weeks or for months for repairs, which resulted in improper garbage disposal.

“The compactor thing has been on and off. It wasn’t even announced when they recently fixed it, they kind of just unlocked it,” said Prisco.

“My general hopes for something positive to come out of this are more routine pickups and for the city bureaucracy to stop passing the buck on this track of land,” she said.

Correction: In our original story, a NYCHA spokesman told NY City Lens that the city was responsible for maintaining the lot.  NYCHA, it turns out, is required to maintain the lot, according to a correction made by a NYCHA spokesman after the story’s publication.  The lot has been cleaned up as of Feb.13-14 and neighborhood police have been alerted to monitor the area.  The story has been updated to reflect the changes.