Take a walk down Bronx Boulevard and you’re sure to be greeted by food wrappers, used toothpicks and most notoriously, dog feces. In fact, at the Montefiore Medical facilities between East 234th and East 236th street, lab tests placed in outside pickup bins, sit just a few feet from piles of dog waste.
There are very few public litter baskets in this North Bronx community, so pedestrians tend to throw personal garbage right on the sidewalk. Although residents have the right to request public litter baskets, a September request for a litter basket was denied by the Department of Sanitation (DSNY). “It’s a low trafficked area and placing a litter basket there would attract further dumping,” James O’Connor, a Community Associate at DSNY informed Bronx Narratives.
However, with the presence of a cardiovascular facility, an OB/GYN and Geriatrics center, along with the Metro North Railroad Woodlawn Station just two blocks away, many would argue that the area receives a moderate amount of traffic – enough traffic to deserve a garbage bin.
Although street cleaning happens here six days a week, sidewalks are not included in that process. Business owners and employees on that street gave cleanliness a poor rating. Pedestrians have also spotted rats in the daytime. “[The Department of Sanitation] should come clean the sidewalk, but they don’t,” says Tanairy Gonzalez, a medical secretary at the OBGYN facility on the block.
And that’s where finger pointing and the blame-game come to play.
Tamar, a Customer Service Representative at NYC’s 311, says the DSNY is not responsible for sidewalk cleaning. They are only held responsible for garbage removal, street cleaning and snow removal. “Residential property owners must clean the sidewalks adjoining their property and 18 inches from the curb into the street.”
As for the neighborhood’s animal waste problem, there are no “Curb Your Dog” signs to remind dog walkers of their responsibility. In fact, since 2013, there has been a cutback on more than 1,000 dog waste signs, in an attempt to clear up sign clutter across NYC. At the time, former DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told the New York Post that, “New Yorkers know they need to clean up after their dogs, so I don’t foresee any problems....” Four years later and residents feel dog waste continues to be an ongoing issue.
Employees in the neighborhood also agree they have witnessed the DSNY police hand out more fines for parking violations than for dog waste.
According to the city’s Pooper Scooper Law, property owners are expected to clean up animal waste, even if the animal doesn’t belong to them. So when a dog litters on your sidewalk, if the dog walker doesn’t clean up, that waste becomes your responsibility. However, property owners do have the right to report any dog walkers who fail to pick up after their dogs. Property owners can call 311 or file a Dog or Animal Waste Complaint online. Violators are subject to a $250 fine. This law does not apply to Service Dogs being walked by those who have special needs.
Since Bronx Narratives began researching this story in late September, sidewalks have become visibly cleaner, proving that, neighborhood cleanliness is not just one party's responsibility. When the DSNY, property owners and pedestrians each do their part to pick up trash and properly dispose of litter, residents experience a cleaner, more improved Bronx.