The Street View: A Dog-Owner’s Lament

Metropolis’s senior editor, Kristi Cameron, is contributing semi-regular posts on issues regarding livable streets in a feature we’re calling The Street View. Click here to read previous posts in this series.

Before I moved to New York, I told people I wanted to live here so that I could walk to the corner for the newspaper and an aspirin. Twelve years later, my priorities have changed: now I want to be able to walk to the corner to throw out a bag of dog poop. Half of the residents in my eight-unit East Williamsburg building have dogs, and we routinely complain about the lack of trash receptacles in the neighborhood. I went to a community-board meeting to ask for additional bins, and while they seemed to think the request was reasonable, none ever appeared. In fact, a passing comment from a fellow attendee should have alerted me that resources aren’t so easy to come by. “Yassky doesn’t even know that’s a residential area,” she said about my semi-industrial street.

I decided to document the situation by creating a Google map, so I spent several days noting the number of trash cans at every intersection I pass through in my thrice-daily rounds. Much to my surprise, the map makes it look like there is fairly reasonable coverage. That’s when I realized that, to members of the planning and sanitation departments, there probably doesn’t appear to be a problem. The two main arteries, Graham Avenue (pedestrian) and Metropolitan Avenue (vehicular), have bins every block or two. But there is nearly as much foot traffic on the side streets, and we dog walkers tend to choose the scenic routes, comfortably far away from the sonic rattle of trucks on Metropolitan.

In short, who expects to have to travel four or five blocks, sometimes completely out of the way, to find a garbage can in New York? Case in point: if I choose the most direct route to any one of the three parks in my area, I don’t pass a single bin along the way. (McCarren, the farthest, is 3/4ths of a mile away.) Soon after discovering that the Google map didn’t really convey the walking experience, I noticed that my canvassing notes do a better job of it. Check out the number of empty corners I might pass in a stretch:

Lorimer & Bayard 0
Lorimer & Richardson 0
Lorimer & Frost 0
Lorimer & Withers 0
Lorimer & Meeker 0
(north side of BQE)
Lorimer & Meeker 0
(south side of BQE)
Lorimer & Jackson 0
Lorimer & Skillman 1
Lorimer & Conselyea 0
Lorimer & Metropolitan 3
Lorimer & Devoe 0
Lorimer & Ainslie 0
Lorimer & Powers 0
Leonard & Powers 0
Leonard & Ainslie 0
Leonard & Devoe 0
Leonard & Metropolitan 3
Leonard & Conselyea 0
Leonard & Skillman 0
Leonard & Jackson 0
Leonard & Withers 0
Leonard & Meeker 0
Manhattan & Meeker 0
Manhattan & Frost 0
Manhattan & Withers 0
Manhattan & Jackson 0
Manhattan & Skillman 0
Manhattan & Conselyea 0
Manhattan & Metropolitan 3
Manhattan & Devoe 0
Manhattan & Ainslie 0
Manhattan & Powers 0
Graham & Powers 0
Graham & Ainslie 0
Graham & Devoe 4
Graham & Metropolitan 7
Graham & Conselyea 4
Graham & Skillman 2
Graham & Jackson 0
Graham & Withers 3
Graham & Frost 2
Graham & Richardson 2
Graham & Meeker 0
Russell & Meeker 0
Russell & Engbert 0
Russell & Driggs 1
N. Henry & Richardson 0
N. Henry & Herbert 0
N. Henry & Meeker 0
(south side of BQE)
N. Henry & Meeker 0
(north side of BQE)
N. Henry & Engbert 0
N. Henry & Driggs 0
Monitor & Driggs 0
Monitor & Engbert 1
Monitor & Meeker 0
(north side of BQE)
Monitor & Meeker 0
(south side of BQE)
Monitor & Herbert 0
Richardson & Monitor 0
Kingsland & Richardson 0
Humbolt & Herbert 0
Humbolt & Richardson 0
Humbolt & Frost 0
Humbolt & Withers 0
Humbolt & Jackson 0
Humbolt & Skillman 0
Humbolt & Conselyea 0
Humbolt & Metropolitan 1
Humbolt & Devoe 0
Humbolt & Ainslie 0
Humbolt & Powers 0
Metropolitan & Bushwick 0
Metropolitan & Orient 0
Orient & Olive 0
Maspeth & Olive 0
Kingsland & Maspeth 0
Skillman & Kingsland 0
Woodpoint & Conselyea 0
Woodpoint & Skillman 0
Woodpoint & Jackson 0
Woodpoint & Withers 0
Woodpoint & Frost 0

Out of the 81 intersections I typically cross, a paltry 14 have garbage cans. Of those 14, only three are on streets other than Graham or Metropolitan–and all three of those have a single bin. According to the numbers, it’s going to be almost six blocks (5.7, to be precise) before I come upon a can. In this case the numbers, not the map, are the truest representation. I’d love to hear how many blocks my fellow New Yorkers–especially you folks in the outer boroughs–have to travel with trash in hand.
Metropolis’s senior editor, Kristi Cameron, is contributing semi-regular posts on issues regarding livable streets in a feature we’re calling The Street View. Click here to read previous posts in this series.

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