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Trash Buildup from Local School Plagues Residents of Boerum Hill

 For years, neighbors have complained about the trash pile-up in front of PS 261 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.
Trash at PS 261
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BOERUM HILL — Terry Reilly’s daughter was only 8 or 9 years old when she would refuse to walk on the P.S. 261 side of the street.

Years have passed since the Boerum Hill mother’s now 21-year-old daughter would see the piles of trash bags in front of the school and fear that insects or vermin would crawl out from under it.

More than a decade later, the problem persists. Residents who live near P.S. 261, located at 314 Pacific St., have complained for years about the school’s trash. 

Garbage bags, often containing food or paper waste, are dumped in front of the school almost daily during the school year on a tree-lined Dean Street block and left there for days.

Flies can be seen buzzing around the bags, which sometimes break open and leave a trail of garbage and dirty fluid on the street, which has left parts of the sidewalk discolored. 

“The sidewalk just gets nasty on that side of the street,” said Walter Sarafian, 39, who has lived on Dean Street since 1998.

“It’s the food waste that really makes it particularly offensive,” he said.

But the paper trash can also be nuisance for residents. Sarafian has regularly cleaned up pieces of paper that blow onto his front stoop when a bag rips open, he said.

Last weekend, he saw a rat on the block, which he believes to be linked to the garbage. 

While the school is not in session during the summer, it remains open for youth programs.

“The school is supposed to be able to accommodate the trash to the population of that school,” said Claire Angelica, a local resident who has made several complaints to the school and local officials regarding the issue. “[P.S. 261] does not have a real system to manage the trash.”

Residents also questioned why a trash management system or facility was not incorporated into a newly constructed $1 million playground with “green infrastructure” that was unveiled last fall. The new yard can manage nearly half a million gallons of stormwater annually, according to a statement.

”You’re supposed to teach the kids, 'do as I do,'” said Angelica who has lived in the neighborhood for about three decades. 

Parent coordinator Gerald Piper referred request for comment to Principal Zipporiah Mills, who did not respond to requests for comment.

The city’s Department of Sanitation recently responded to complaints about the school, spokeswoman Belinda Mager told DNAinfo in an email.

A deputy chief from the city agency recently spoke to one of P.S. 261’s custodial staff members about the “proper procedure for placing garbage out for collection after the trucks have already serviced the school,” she said.

Last weekend, DSNY had a “positive response,” she said.

However, the school might be forced to leave its trash on the sidewalk for collection since it lacks its own storage facility for the refuse, said Howard Kolins, president of the Boerum Hill Association.

City schools have a curbside trash pick-up system instead of dumpsters because the receptacles requires special equipment to unload.

DSNY cannot provide “containerized service” to the school, Mager said.

Garbage is collected from the school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with separate schedules for regular trash, organics, paper recyclying, metal, glass and plastic recycling.

"The DOE's Facilities Division will work with the school to ensure the trash bags are picked up in a timely fashion," Marge Feinberg, spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said in an email. 

While residents acknowledged that the school had taken some steps toward a cleaner sidewalk, including purchasing a pressure washer and using brown organic waste bins, the trash remains an eyesore on an otherwise manicured Boerum Hill block.

“Obviously they’re not unaware of the problem,” Kolins said.