The Dumpster Project

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The Dumpster Project, as we call it, short for ‘The Dumpster Shed Project for the Office of the Mayor of New York City’, showcases the flexibility of the Incubator as a design consultancy. Deb Johnson has mobilized a dexterous team of Pratt alumni and students for this exciting initiative. The goal of the project is to create functional and affordable housing for small to medium dumpsters and to streamline the process of obtaining a permit to store dumpsters on the city’s sidewalks.

Shops, restaurants, manufacturers and retail stores alike need dumpsters to store their garbage. In most areas of the 5 boroughs, dumpsters are not allowed on the sidewalk, forcing businesses to either store their dumpsters inside, risking unhealthy and possibly dangerous conditions, or else leave the dumpster on the sidewalk resulting in a fine from the city. As inside storage is not an option for some businesses, and as the current process of obtaining a permit for a shed is expensive and can take over a year, recurring fines are an unfortunate reality. So much so that some are taking their businesses to other cities.

Mark Forbes, representing the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as part of the Mayor’s Industrial Policy to encourage New York City’s small business base, approached the Incubator with this considerable proposition. Seeing the project as an opportunity to help local businesses, while at the same time transforming and obsolete system through design, the Incubator eagerly accepted.

To start, the team decided to focus on the area of North Williamsburg in Brooklyn. A project organization was formed with Lilian Shieh, a Pratt Alumni, as research director. A twelve-person team split up, investigating legal issues, surveying neighborhoods block by block, on bikes or on foot, taking photos, digging into garbage, and conducting numerous interviews, with waste carters, small businesses and residents. This phase lasted 8 weeks and resulted in a healthy understanding of needs and criteria.

Based on this research, the design phase kicked off and is currently moving towards its completion. Pratt alumni and professor Jose Alcala leads the design process. The team will build life size sheds on Pratt campus and thoroughly test them, in order to come up with the best solution, resolving all the issues that were identified in the first phase.

Mayor’s Project Team
Jose Alcala
Danny Alexander
Jeannie Choe
Sam Cochran
Bernardo Guillermo
Valerie Haynay
Jude DeLeo-Heslin
Kevin McElroy
Lillian Shieh


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