2002-09-25 / Editorials


Let's Clean Up Queens

At the Community Board 1 district cabinet meeting last week one person declared that the street on which she lives is the filthiest she knows. Other area residents voiced similar concerns about their own blocks.

The problem of litter-strewn streets and sidewalks is not confined to the borough's westernmost communities. Throughout Queens coffee cups, paper of all varieties, food waste and in some places animal excreta blanket the landscape. Parks and playgrounds must be carefully patrolled by parents and care givers before children can be allowed to walk around, much less use swings, slides and other equipment. Drinking fountains and sprinklers are clogged with debris.

Litter is unsightly and unhealthful anywhere. It is especially deplorable in this borough, which holds LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International Airports, two major entry points to the city and the United States. Travelers making New York City their destination or passing through must shudder in disbelief and distaste when they see the condition the borough is in.

Property owners and business proprietors are responsible for keeping the sidewalks in front of their establishments and residential properties swept, and for the most part, they do an admirable job. They cannot be faulted for being discouraged, however, when they find those same sidewalks liberally carpeted with refuse not five minutes after sweeping them. George Delis, district manager of Community Board 1, noted that the problem is not confined to commercial properties. He cleans refuse of all kinds out of a tree pit in front of his Astoria home several times a day, he noted at the same cabinet meeting.

In all too many cases the excuse of there being no place to discard litter and rubbish does not apply. Litter baskets are found on nearly every corner. In many cases, the members of business improvement districts, chambers of commerce and local development corporations have demonstrated a willingness to use some of their stretched-thin budgets to provide refuse repositories and the manpower to empty them in addition to those the city of New York has put on public streets courtesy of the taxpayers. Subway platforms have at least one garbage can.

The litter containers are waiting to be used. The obvious and logical question, then, is: why don't the good people of Queens use them? Many times we have seen, or been told of, instances in which an able-bodied individual will drop litter on the ground rather than walk 10 feet to a garbage can. This is deplorable—and extremely inconsiderate.

Ironically, the people who engage in these thoughtless acts—unconsciously, we hope—are hurting themselves and their families as well as everyone else. Vermin attracted by refuse pose a health threat to everyone. Slippery banana peels are not just the stuff of vaudeville jokes—falls can cause serious injury, even death.

There aren't many people of our acquaintance too old, infirm or ignorant to be aware that litter baskets are part of the streetscape. Nor does figuring out how to use them require rocket science. Queens offers some of the most outstanding cultural, educational and commercial facilities to be found anywhere. To bury them in trash through ignorance or indifference is a crime.

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