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Jamaica Residents Push to Clean Up Garbage Amid Flood of Violations

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | November 11, 2013 8:52am
 A group of Jamaica residents tired of seeing their streets filled with garbage have started an online petition to force the city to clean up the mess.
Jamaica residents fight to keep neighborhood clean
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QUEENS — Jamaica residents are pushing to clean up the neighborhood's trash problem, which has been marring the streetscape for years — starting a petition that asks the city to do a better job cleaning up the mess.

About half of the approximately 11,000 garbage tickets issued in Queens last fiscal year were given to home and business owners in Community Board 12, which includes Jamaica, South Jamaica, Hollis and St. Albans, according to data provided by the Department of Sanitation.

The violations were issued for conditions including dirty sidewalks, failing to clean parts of the street, illegal posting and other infractions.

The problem has moved a group of Jamaica residents, tired of seeing their streets filled with garbage, to start an online petition to force the city to clean up the mess, calling “the quality of life issues...deplorable.”

The petition slams the “mounds of garbage on our streets and sidewalks, improper storage of garbage, lack of sanitation enforcement, rats and other rodents all over." 

It also complains that "grass and trees grow out of control on city sidewalks, parks and other areas" and "abandoned cars are left on our streets and in front of our homes, vacant lots and abandoned homes have attracted illegal dumping.”

Joe Moretti, 55, a database manager, said that both residents and construction workers are responsible for the dumping.

“Contractors are dumping their materials and people toss their garbage onto the street,” he said. “When people see garbage all over the place, they just add to it.”

Moretti also said that a number of home owners “don’t clean up their property and they have the garbage cans with no lids,” which cause garbage to spill out. 

But the group also blamed local elected officials and lack of enforcement.

“The problem is not getting addressed and after so many years it’s just becoming acceptable,” he said. “Right now it seems to be the Wild Wild West out here in Jamaica where anything goes.”

The Department of Sanitation said that street sweepers pass through commercial areas six days a week and in residential areas according to alternate side parking regulations.

Out of 885 vacant lots that the agency cleaned during the last fiscal year in Queens, 253 were in Community Board 12. The agency also cleaned 51 lots with abandoned houses in the neighborhood.

So far this fiscal year in CB12, the agency has cleaned “a total of 96 vacant lots and 28 lots that had a structure on the lot."

Last year, the city received 6,624 complaints about garbage on the streets in Queens, 919 of which came from CB12. This year, out of 4,032 complaints about the issue in the borough, 419 were reported from the neighborhood.

But sanitation officials said that keeping the neighborhood clean has to be a joint effort with the community.

“Maintaining a clean neighborhood is a joint responsibility and takes the combined efforts of residents, merchants, building owners/managers, and visitors as well as the Department of Sanitation (DSNY),” said Kathy Dawkins, a spokeswoman for the agency, in an email.

The group of fed-up Jamaica residents said that the neighborhood has a good deal of potential, but trash on the streets might discourage more investment in the area.

“Nobody wants to invest in a community that looks like that,” said Moretti, who encourages residents to report the trash-related problems to the city's 311 line.

State Sen. Tony Avella, who recently came to Jamaica for a "Quality of Life" tour with the group, said he will try to help. “It’s another part of Queens that has been neglected,” he said. “Nobody should have to live like this.”

As of Monday morning, the petition had 44 signatures. Once it gets 1,000 signatures, the group is planning to send it to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the public advocate.