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CBS2 Demanding Answers: Why Is New NYC Compost Program Causing A Stench?

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New Yorkers have been asked to compost some of their garbage, and there have been complaints that it is creating a stinky mess.

CBS2's Meg Baker was demanding answers Friday evening as to why the program could not be implemented more smoothly.

For many years, there have been green bins for regular garbage and blue ones for recycling. Now, there are also brown composting bins and residents of Greenpoint, Brooklyn are none too pleased with them.

"The city's always complaining that there is a rodent problem that exists in New York, and yet they are putting out the welcome mat by putting out these composts," said Greenpoint building owner Marzena Golonka.

Golonka said her neighborhood stinks, and it is the city's fault.

Walking down Guernsey Street, you can barely breathe through your nose due to the stench, Baker reported. And neighbors say the brown bins for composting are not working – Baker found one that was not securely closed, and had maggots spilling out.

For years, residents could voluntarily compost by dropping off waste at sites such as one in Monsignor McGolrick Park. Meat, fish and dairy products are not allowed in the compost there – they take too long to break down and are way too smelly.

But for some reason, Baker reported, the residential curbside pickup plan accepts the odorous items.

"It smells like a dead animal. It smells like when a rat gets trapped in a wall," said Tim Lozada of Greenpoint.

Diapers, medical waste, cigarette butts and dead pets are not allowed in the compost, but some thought it smelled like those things. FedEx worker Alex Tolentino said he could barely stand to finish his route.

"Those brown garbage cans stink. They smell really bad. And it's not only here – it's all over Greenpoint," he said.

Most residents in Greenpoint support the environmental effort behind the compost plan. But they said the bins have to be emptied more than once a week.

CBS2 went to the Department of Sanitation to demand answers.

"In some areas, we pick it up as often as we do refuse. In other areas, we pick it up less often," said department Commissioner Kathryn Garcia. "We are still experimenting with what is going to be best for the city of New York."

Baker asked Garcia if there were any thoughts on picking up the compost in Greenpoint more often.

"Not yet," she said. "They just started program, and to be honest, there is a learning curve how to do it right so you don't end up with vermin issues."

One local leader in Queens told CBS2 the program works better in neighborhoods with single-family homes, which are responsible for their own individual bins.

In regard to the insect problems seen in some bins, Garcia said it is the responsibility of the buildings to keep the compost bins clean just as with other garbage, or face a $100 fine.

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