Bensonhurst teens grow like weeds to clean up street trash

November 12, 2013 Heather Chin
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In the battle between street trash and Bensonhurst residents, the people will always win.

That is in no small part due to the efforts of hundreds of local volunteers, most of them teenagers, who team up every month or two for the latest round of the “Speak Up and Clean Up” campaign, organized by Assemblymember William Colton’s office and now in its second year.

The 11th cleanup effort took place on Saturday, November 9, and saw around 450 people from several local high schools and community organizations put on work gloves, grab rakes and brooms and trash bags, and deploy their energy into beautifying a long stretch of Kings Highway, between Stillwell and McDonald Avenues.

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“It’s amazing,” said Colton of the turnout. “It shows that young people want to do things that help the neighborhood and keep the beauty. It also has double the dynamic impact because nearly 500 youth are sharing the importance of keeping the neighborhood clean with friends and family, and passing out flyers containing sanitation rules and guidelines.”

Colton noted that clean-up events have occurred for years, but only since 2011 has his office’s efforts drawn large crowds of volunteers. He credited the campaign’s success to aide Priscilla Consolo, 19.

Of the growing interest among youth in helping clean up, Consolo said that while “we never would have imagined that it would have grown like it has. . . it hasn’t gotten harder or easier [to organize because] after a couple of times, you get used to the amount of people and knowing the things that need to get done.

“[Our local youth] should serve as an example for our entire community,” Consolo added.

Bonnie Huang, a senior at Edward R. Murrow High School, said that on a previous clean-up effort with her classmates, “someone yelled to us from her window, thanking us for doing this.”

“Post-Sandy, there was a lot of trash” on the streets, noted junior Teresa Chan.

New Utrecht High School senior Vivian Lee chimed in that “we wanted to pick up litter [while not in school] but it would be weird if we did it on our own. It’s better if we’re with friends.”

Councilmember-elect Mark Treyger, who has worked on the campaign with Colton’s office, added that he hopes to continue such community outreach and collaboration when he takes office in January 2014. But in the meantime, the New Utrecht teacher said he is pleased to be teaching his students the value of community service and environmental stewardship.

“There is a benefit in keeping leaves from the sewers,” Treyger pointed out while scooping out the debris from a curbside storm drain. “A big problem here in Brooklyn is clogged sewers so we’re cleaning the catchbasins.”

Participating groups included youth from Our Lady of Grace Teen Group and Bensonhurst Cluster Youth Ministry, and high school Key Club members from Midwood, Brooklyn Tech, Murrow, FDR, Madison and John Dewey. Brooklyn Tech also brought hundreds of members from its Red Cross Club. Adult volunteers joined in as well, from the United Chinese Association of Brooklyn and Asian Community United Society.


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