Thursday, June 7, 2012
Mr. Clean is not giving up so easily
Dear Councilman Leroy Comrie, Councilman James F. Gennaro, Councilman Ruben Wills, Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall, Senator Malcolm A. Smith, Assemblymember Rory Lancman, Assemblymember Vivian Cook, Iggy Terranova, Valerie Stevens, Community Board #12 Members and Other Concerned Individuals:
I hope by now that most of you have my attention in regards to the major garbage/litter/dumping problem that has been plaguing Jamaica, Queens for some time and seen or read some of the coverage. Putting together a music video showcasing this problem in just a five block radius of my home (89-00 170th Street) caught the attention of WPIX, Channel 4 News, Queens Chronicle and the Times Ledger (Jamaica Times Edition).
Below in case you did not see or read it, are the WPIX segment with Monica Morales interviewing me and the Queens Chronicle article on this issue. Next Thursday the Times Ledger (Jamaica Times Edition) will print the interview that one of their reporters, Rich Bockmann, did with me in front of another notorious dumping/garbage problem areas, the empty corner lot at Merrick and Foch Blvd across from Roy Wilkins Park. Monica Morales has expressed interest in doing another segment depicting another garbage/litter/dumping area in Jamaica, which there are plenty, unfortunately and Channel 4 wants to do a future story on this ongoing problem.
After a phone call from Monica Morales and before the WPIX segment even aired on May 29th, the Department of Sanitation made a very quick appearance to the 170th St LIRR tunnel and cleaned it up. Also the DOS came out and cleaned the sidewalk outside of the empty lot (SW corner of 170th St & 90th Ave), but, without the owner coming out on a regular basis to clean up, by next week trash will once again pile up on the sidewalk and a bigger BUT, the inside of this lot still has garbage bags, a huge Casio keyboard and other assorted litter in it, which has been there since June of 2011, not to mention the height of the grass/weeds on the surrounding sidewalk. I had been complaining countless times since 2011 regarding some these problems and it took a reporter to expose this to get some action from the city. It should NOT have to work this way. The city should have been on this problem from the get go, listening to their constituents and doing their jobs.
So now that just a very few of these spots were cleaned (but for how long), how are you going to:
1. Address this major garbage/litter/dumping problem in Jamaica (how about putting some people to work to help clean up Jamaica such as what the Doe Fund does in Manhattan, placing litter/dumping fine signs in places where this is a problem, more trash cans on the sidewalks where litter is a big problem).
2. Find solutions to prevent this from happening on a continuing basis.
3. Deal with the many property owners of these vacant lots and make them responsible for cleaning their property on a regular basis (how about hitting them with much higher fines than are already in place, the city certainly could use the extra revenue).
4. Respond in a quick and efficient manner when a constituent makes a complaint regarding this issue.
5. Deal with these vacant lots that have multiple complaints against them.
6. Deal with individuals who toss litter on the ground (I saw 10 various people on a ten minute walk throw some kind of litter/garbage on the ground, so how about placing DOS people on the street to fine individuals who litter, again extra revenue to the city).
7. Deal with some of the more notorious dumping grounds in the community (170th LIRR Tunnel, empty lot at SW corner of 170th St, empty lot at corner of Merrick and Foch Blvd - how about monitoring these well know problem areas and there are others).
8. Stop the over development of Jamaica (tearing down 1-2 family homes to put up the countless cheap, mini-projects that house 15- 20 families where the owner/landlord tends to be pretty much absent and the tenants pretty much do whatever they want. These are not only an eyesore to the neighborhood and not particularly clean and well kept but also attract some questionable people to them. They are just mini versions of the notorious projects of the 60's and 70's and we all know how well that worked out.
It is time to finally put this issue to the forefront, address it and begin to resolve it instead of keeping your heads in the sand and ignoring it or putting it on the back burner. As a tax-payer who actually cares about his community (and there are many of us here in Jamaica who want to see changes), I will continue my quest on this major problem and will continue to document it via photos, video, etc until this issue gets addressed. Some people have told me to just give up and move to another community, that Jamaica is hopeless. Well, I do not believe it is hopeless, YET. With it's rich history, 15 landmarked buildings (more than any other area in Queens), arts community, easy access to various public transportation/highways and various parks, I feel that with enough effort Jamaica can be a place to be proud of and a place that quality people and businesses want to come to, READ - QUALITY. Remember, Williamsburg, Long Island City (where I lived before it was developed), Hells Kitchen, Harlem, Alphabet City, Lower East Side, even SoHo, were once considered undesirable places, but that changed. I believe Jamaica has such potential, but it will not happen by doing very little or nothing and not addressing the issues. Maybe our leaders need to take a look at Newark for a template, such as the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, which has been widely cited as a catalyst in the revitalization of Newark.
Jamaica will not attract quality people and businesses with the garbage/litter problem but also will not attract quality people and businesses with another umpteenth dirty 99 Cent Store, umpteenth wig place, umpteenth fast food place, umpteenth cheap furniture store, hardly stocked unclean umpteenth deli, I could go on and on, you get the picture. By the way considering that the hugest population in Jamaica is African Americans, how many businesses are actually black owned that serve the black community (the wig stores, the beauty supply stores, etc.) and are some of these non-black businesses actually helping the community of Jamaica and adding to the quality of life in Jamaica. Pakistani & Other Middle Eastern people make up such a small percentage of the population but tend to own many businesses within the community. Not too criticize one group over another but there certainly seems to be a disparity in Jamaica when it comes to businesses.
We need more places of quality, like Sangria Tapas Bar & Restaurant, O' Lavrador Restaurant & Bar, Bellitte Bicycles, VP Records, Annam Brahma Vegetarian Restaurant and we need black owned businesses as well. Although Apple Bees and GNC are a step up on Jamaica Avenue, we need to make sure that we keep climbing those steps and not take 3 steps backwards. Don't even get me started on Hillside Avenue (from Queens Boulevard to 173rd), which is ugly, filthy, dirty storefronts and garbage/litter all over the place, I step out of the subway and I have to make sure I did not land in some third world country. Just disgraceful. But I digress from the garbage/litter problem, but this all plays into what is going on in Jamaica and the garbage issue is just the tip of the iceberg, which badly needs addressed.
Be on the look out for a future sequel to the music video that I did last week regarding the garbage/litter problem, but this time covering a much larger portion of Jamaica.
To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, "Ask not what your community can do for you, but what you can do for your community." I am doing something to put the spotlight on this major problem, but what are you doing to address and resolve it.
Queens Chronicle article
Times Ledger article