Brooklyn Boro

OPINION: Overdevelopment is trashing our streets

March 5, 2019 By Andrew Cotto Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The comeuppance of rampant vertical development has reached ground level — in the form of too much trash. Photos by Andrew Cotto
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There’s a moment in the legendary Brooklyn-based, ’50s TV show “The Honeymooners” when the oversized Ralph Cramden saunters from the bedroom wearing a way-too-small suit and confidently asks his wife how he looks. Her answer, which I paraphrase, is basically: like a four-pound salami in a two-pound bag.

I think of this comparison when I see the tragic garbage receptacles of brownstone Brooklyn overflowing with trash. There’s far too much salami and not enough bag — and this time, it’s not so funny.

In 2010, I complained in this New York Times editorial about the onerous impact of Brooklyn’s development, especially with regard to the stealing of our sky and the blotting out of our light. And now, nearly 10 years later, the comeuppance of rampant vertical development has reached ground level in the form of too much trash.

Once the bins in front of buildings can’t be stuffed any more, their lids propped up like flags of submission, the additional bags are strewn around common areas, marring the environs of charming Brooklyn. Public cans on sidewalks and in parks overflow days before pickup, leaving a mixed detritus that clings to the curbs and floats down the sidewalks like urban tumbleweed.

On the upside, if I ever leave the house to walk the dog without a pick-up bag, I just grab one from the street or off a branch.

There’s a brilliant street artist who uses discarded plastic to thread messages on cyclone fences in a manner similar to the way Basquiat spray painted walls in the down-and-out ’70s of New York City.

The trash cans on streets can no longer close, their lids propped up like flags of submission.


Aesthetics aside, it’s also a matter of natural environment as our habitat shifts for the worse.

Have you seen the size of the squirrels these days? They are eating well — as are the abundance of rats who are living large off leftovers in Carroll Park. The pigeons are fat and far less timid than they used to be, except when visiting seagulls swoop in to bully their way to available edibles on our streets and parks.

If you think pigeon poop is gross, get a load of the drip-paint job seagulls do with their feces splatter.

Why does a raccoon live on my roof instead of in Prospect Park? I don’t know, but I’m not inclined to find out — because it is huge and indifferent to my dogs and my attempts at persuasion.

Nocturnal squatter aside, it’s not that we humans don’t have the smaller animals outnumbered. In fact, it’s our very volume that has nurtured these creatures and brought them into our neighborhoods.

It’s this volume that not only increases our ugly exposure to excessive garbage and all its rank manifestations (see: burly varmints and pooping Jackson Pollacks), but also clogs our streets, crams our schools, jams our subways and makes it nearly impossible to get a seat at any of our wonderful restaurants — unless you want to wander the garbage-strewn streets for a couple of hours first.

At what point does someone address the fact that we’ve become the four-pound salami in the two-pound bag?

At what point does someone say enough with the development already?

Andrew Cotto is the award-winning author of three novels and is a regular contributor to The New York Times. Andrew has also written for Parade, Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, The Huffington Post, Condé Nast Traveler, Italy magazine, Maxim, and more. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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