A mere 60 minutes after a city street sweeper has come down West Side Avenue dozens of plastic bottles, soda cans, old newspapers and other litter still lie in clumps at several street corners. It’s a scene that leaves resident Mindy Slater shaking her head.
“They don’t actually clean the streets,” she said. “They drive down the street much too fast to really clean anything. If they were serious about cleaning, they’d go down the street slower. You need to go slowly for those street sweepers to really get anything off the street. All they end up doing is moving the trash around. It goes from one part of the street to another. It flies up in the air and then it resettles. But nothing actually gets picked up.”
To prove her point, Slater takes the Reporter down a few blocks on West Side Avenue to point out what has not been picked up by the street sweeper.
A BEHAVIOR ISSUE – It would be better for residents to refrain from tossing old computer monitors along the street.
Slater isn’t alone in her frustration. One of Slater’s neighbors, JoAnne Scott, pointed to old tires and a TV set that have been sitting untouched on a sidewalk for weeks.
Taking the initiative, a group of resident volunteers is trying to improve street cleanliness along West Side. The effort, which is being spearheaded by activist Esther Wintner, will focus on both the street itself – which the city is responsible for cleaning – and the sidewalks – which are generally the responsibility of the many small businesses that dot West Side.
“The sidewalks on West Side are filthy,” said Wintner, who has enlisted the support of the Jersey City Incinerator Authority (JCIA) to ramp up street cleaning on this thoroughfare. The JCIA, she said, has agreed to “power wash the sidewalk. Since it is a stretch of distance, we may have to it on more than one day. Businesses are responsible for cleaning outside their stores. We will first go to the businesses [on West Side] and tell them they must have the area clean. Then the JCIA guys will come do the power wash.”
Wintner said the city is now trying to schedule specific dates when this power wash can take place, but it will be during weekdays, she said.
What about the streets?
The power wash, Wintner hopes, will at least remove the clumps of dirty old gum and other stuff that gunk up the sidewalks. But Slater and Scott say that the city streets are part of the problem as well, a problem recently echoed by residents of the Jersey City Heights, who held their own neighborhood-wide community clean-up earlier this year.
“All main thorough-streets are swept six times per week, and all secondary streets are swept four times per week, twice on each side,” said incinerator authority CEO Oren Dabney. “For example Tuesday and Friday we’ll do the north side and Monday and Thursday we’ll do the south side. Street sweeping takes place citywide and is broken down into 11 routes.”
In addition to the street sweeping schedule, Dabney added that the JCIA also responds to residential complaints each day regarding trash, both on city-owned and private property.
“Our Division of Environmental Compliance inspectors are assigned to different areas throughout the city,” said Dabney. “They take pictures and monitor locations such as abandoned properties, common areas, vacant lots, graffiti, and other violators who don’t maintain properties. From that point our Division of Property Maintenance responds by removing litter, debris, vegetation, and graffiti from these locations.”
But, according to Scott, “The city’s street sweeping program here is simply ineffective.”
Wintner agreed but said the city isn’t the only culprit here, adding that local businesses need to be taught to change their behavior and take more pride in their storefronts.
“When I was growing up, business took care of their storefronts and everyday they would sweep the sidewalk outside their stores. We need to get back to that. Businesses need to be taught to do that again,” she said.
Wintner said that part of the West Side Avenue clean up will include re-educating businesses about shop keep maintenance and will include volunteer-driven trash clean up days later this summer.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.