By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
With help from an army of young volunteers from local high schools, two of Bensonhurst’s elected officials conducted a thorough cleanup of one of the neighborhood’s busiest commercial strips on Saturday morning.
Assemblyman Bill Colton (D-Gravesend-Bensonhurst) and Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst) held a “Speak-Up & Clean-Up” event to get rid of litter on 86th Street and surrounding areas.
Dozens of volunteers, equipped with brooms, shovels, plastic bags and gloves helped the lawmakers sweep up papers, cigarette butts, coffee cups, fast food wrappers and other litter clogging the sidewalks. The volunteers then dumped the trash in the plastic bags for collection by the Department of Sanitation. The agency donated the cleanup supplies.
Colton first started holding “Speak-Up & Clean-Up” litter sweeps in 2011 and the periodic cleanups, which the assemblyman holds a couple of times a year, have become tremendously popular with neighborhood residents and business owners.
The target area covered 86th Street from 25th Avenue to 16th Avenue, as well as other spots, including 18th Avenue from Benson Avenue to 82nd Street, and the streets surrounding Bensonhurst Park on Cropsey Avenue and Bay Parkway.
Participants also passed out fliers and spoke to residents and businesses about sanitation rules to encourage them to “do their part” to help keep the neighborhood clean.
“This campaign is about much more than just physically cleaning up our streets and parks. By volunteering in this event, our youth are being excellent examples for the rest of the community to follow. However, this isn’t enough. Not only do we want to inspire people, but we want to educate them as well. Thus, we are spreading awareness about the importance of keeping our neighborhood clean,” Colton said.
Saturday’s event marked the 13th time since 2011 that Colton and his volunteers have brought brooms and shovels to the streets of Bensonhurst.
Priscilla Consolo, who founded the “Speak-Up & Clean-Up” campaign with Colton, said the volunteers were amazing. “Time after time again, they participate in our events. Their commitment to this campaign and its greater cause is truly extraordinary and something unlike I’ve ever witnessed before. What started out as one event has grown into a local movement,” she said.
The volunteers included: members of District 9 High School Key Club, students from New Utrecht High School, members from Our Lady of Grace Teen Group, students from Midwood High School’s Key Club, students from Brooklyn Technical High School’s Red Cross Club and Key Club, students from Edward R. Murrow’s Key Club, members from Bensonhurst Cluster Youth Ministry, students from Madison High School’s Key Club, members from Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School’s Key Club and members from John Dewey High School's Key Club.
Treyger, who helped plan and organize the clean-ups even before he was elected to the City Council in November 2013, said the litter sweeps are an important educational tool. “One of the best civics lessons we can provide our youth is the chance to roll up their sleeves and give back to their community. Having clean, welcoming streets makes a huge difference for our businesses and residents who take pride in their community and deserve a great quality of life,” he said.
By end of the day, the volunteers had gathered dozens of bags of trash. They earned a reward. Colton treated them to free refreshments.