Heights History (A Slight Return): Billy Goat Of Montague Street

On September 20, 1970, the New York Times reported on a new addition to the neighborhood. Nicknamed, “Billy Goat” a huge vacuum cleaner that promised to “gobble up… dirt, paper, bottles, tin cans, cigarette butts” and most of Montague Street’s other garbage patrolled Brooklyn Heights’ “Main Street” 3 hours a day, 6 days a week. 

It was financed by a fund raising effort by the Brooklyn Heights Association. Eighteen out of the street’s 90 businesses contributed $50 each towards purchase of the unit, which cost $700. Those who didn’t donate told the paper that they kept their sidewalks clean enough, but liked Billy Goat. Harry Gundersdorff was hired to run the cleanup machine. Some complained about the noise, while others growled about fumes.

BHA’s president at the time William B. Pennell touted that the fumes emitted by Billy Goat in a week were far less than one automobile driving down the street. John B. Wingate, chairman of the BHA’s “cleanliness committee” told the Times that Billy Goat may not be the ultimate solution to cleaning up Montague Street. “It’s discouraging when Mr. Gundersdorff works a couple of hours looks back and sees all the filth that has accumulated since he began the sweep.”

This piece originally ran on BHB in July 2007

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  • http://www.cognation.net/ deancollins

    we could do with it again….everytime I go to get my haircut on the UES I realize how dirty Brooklyn Heights is.

    Seriously where does all this trash come from?

  • MonroeOrange

    ask Joe A…he is in charge of throwing garbage around the neighborhood..at least according to his posts…ha!

    ….and before he comments on me…im in charge of letting dogs pee on trees!

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlsiLOnWCoI Arch Stanton

    I remember that giant vacuum cleaner, It was indeed loud but I don’t recall the fumes.