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A Fancy Trash Can Comes to Brownsville

What does the $7,225 waste bin say about New York City's investment in a neighborhood that experienced decades of neglect?

This past summer, the mayor's Office of Technology and Innovation installed a high-tech and pricey trash can in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville.

At a cost of $7,225, the "smart waste bin" acts as a trash compactor that can hold up to five times the amount of trash as a regular waste bin. It also connects to the internet, using solar power, in order to communicate when it needs to be emptied. The smart bin came with Brownsville's designation as an "innovation lab," an effort by the city to test tech-driven approaches to quality of life issues.

It was not because the neighborhood had a decades-old problem with trash, or that many residents list it as a current top concern. Still, the high-tech trash can demonstrates increased investment by City Hall, something welcomed by Brownsville residents if also viewed with some suspicion.   

"When the city or anyone invests in such a visible project in the neighborhood that has seen disinvestment for generations upon generations, there is sure to be some skepticism," said Erica Mateo, a Brownsville native and resident who leads neighborhood safety initiatives at the Center for Court Innovation. She also serves as one of several community advisers to the neighborhood innovation lab.

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