Litter in Jersey City; Talking to: Scott Garibaldi

Scott Garibaldi is a local resident of the West Side, who has lived here with his family for about three years. Frustrated with the litter situation in his neighborhood, Scott  – who has a full-time job and two young kids – has taken it upon himself to go and pick up garbage at least once a week. 

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Litter that Scott and I picked up this Sunday.

Have you seen the litter along Duncan Ave? It’s bad. We’re not talking about some fussy thing where we’re complaining about someone occasionally dropping a candy wrapper. We are talking literal piles of garbage – liquor bottles, drug paraphernalia, dirty diapers – abandoned on the sidewalk, that residents have to dodge on their way around their community. Throughout this article, I’ve included several “best of” (or maybe “worst of”?) pics of how absurd this situation is. It’s not just Duncan Ave, either – it’s also West Side Ave and lots of other streets in Jersey City. The condition of our streets is abysmal. 

 

This Sunday, I went out for about an hour and picked up litter along Duncan Avenue with Scott, for four blocks between Mallory and Delaware Avenue. Together, we picked up a huge bag. That was just in four blocks – and believe me, we had to really squish the garbage into that huge contractor bag just to close it. So I talked to Scott about his impressions of this issue, and his thoughts about solutions. 


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Not a great pic of Scott, but just for size comparison. This was about 3/4 of the way done with our trip. 

Why did you start picking up litter along Duncan Avenue?

Well, when we moved here in the winter of 2014, it was a bit of an adjustment. We used to live downtown, on 5th street between Monmouth and Coles in a small apartment. My daughter was starting to get bigger and we knew that we were going to have to find another place soon. Some friends of ours suggested we’d be better off buying, so we began a search for our next place. We were looking primarily in the Heights and here on the Westside. Ultimately, after a year of searching we found our home. I couldn’t really grasp at the time what the true up close make up of the neighborhood was. We had walked around certain areas of the West Side, mostly all the streets that line the front of the park, but not many of the side streets. So it wasn’t till after we really moved in did I get a grasp of what it was like on the streets in terms of the trash.

At first, I was moved to clean up on my street, branching out from immediately in front of my home, to including the addresses to my immediate right and left and then the whole street. After a couple of months in the house, and time spent walking up Duncan to Journal Square for my daily commute did I begin to just get disgusted with what I saw. The amount of litter was just obscene. It was everywhere – on the sidewalks, on the curb line, in the street. It was sickening and depressing. So I took it upon myself to start extending my coverage range to include Duncan avenue. Eventually I got further and further up Duncan to the point I was nearly reaching West Side Ave. At this point, I knew I couldn’t keep this up myself, so I was directed to my councilman at the time [Ed: Chico Ramchal], who I made many a desperate plea to for help. He in turn not only heard me, but put me in direct contact with the head of the DPW, which gave me a chance to express my concerns and issues directly with the department responsible for handling such manners. To this day, I still email them multiple times a week to inform them when the street is in real need of attention.

But that really reads more like a history than a real DIRECT answer to the question. The reason I started picking up garbage is because it was disgusting here. Like truly embarrassing. I was not proud of this neighborhood, I was embarrassed for friends or family to see where I lived, and I myself couldn’t stand the sight of it anymore. If nothing was being done I HAD to take it upon myself to do it.

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Litter along West Side Avenue.

There has been a recent administration change in the Department of Public Works (the appointment of the new director, Paul Stamato). Do you notice a difference? Have services in our neighborhood become better, or worse, or not changed at all?

Well, to be honest, I’d have to say no I don’t see a change. If anything it sometimes is a little more difficult because I had established a kind of relationship with the previous head of the DPW, he knew me ( I had been over to the facility), he knew my problems and I didn’t have to do a lot of explaining or make too many repeated requests to see things get taken care of.

What about the garbage men – meaning, the guys who haul away garbage and recycling three times a week? How would you rate the service they provide?

If the streets are bad before either garbage or recycling night, they are usually even worse after they come. I find more garbage strewn everywhere, plastic bottles, broken glass after they come through. I know being a garbageman may not be the most glamorous job in the world, and I can imagine there are times where it just sucks, but I don’t think it ever warrants someone doing a poor job. I often times feel like if an area has struggled either in the past or currently is in regards to litter/cleanliness it kind of gets no respect from anyone -INCLUDING waste management. When an area perpetually looks like crap, it gets treated that way, like crap.

What could the city do to improve Duncan Avenue? Other than sending crews to come and clean it

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More garbage on the West Side.

up, what other things could the city do to improve the condition?

The way I see it, there are a few things that can be done in regards to addressing this issue. Number one, the obvious answer, is send cleaning crews more regularly and often. I know sometimes this is not possible – the city is big and from what I am told the resources in this particular department are “scarce” and there are many problem areas – but all I can say to that is, prioritize those resources to areas that are the worst. Some areas right now just flat out NEED it more than others. I can guarantee the trash that builds up on some streets would double or triple what happens in other places.

Secondly, I would suggest more trash receptacles. More places to put garbage are better than less and they WILL get used. Yes it means more cans to empty or attend to, but isn’t that better than that trash being on the ground?

And third, enforcement – and I don’t mean just warnings but real fines for not just businesses but home owners. I know most people will cry that it isn’t their garbage that has settled in front of their homes, but I would say to that, listen – you own property in this city and part of that experience is attending to the upkeep of your property. It sucks, it really does. I am cleaning up not only in front of my home but essentially an entire neighborhood. None of the garbage I have ever picked up is MINE – but this is my NEIGHBORHOOD, and I think people here should not have to be threatened with fines to want to take care of it, they should just want to because they love their neighborhood!

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Any thoughts on “Stop the Drop” (the city’s official anti-littering program)?

I think the program, in my experience does very little, at least around here. I see plenty of homes with the STOP THE DROP placard on their fence, but sometimes the sidewalk in front of their properties is just as bad as every other one around it, if not worse sometimes! The only place I think any kind of education could be effective would be in schools where children can be broken of what can only be a learned cultural indifference when it comes to not littering. When you find the same kind of litter day after day, the only conclusion one can come to is that the people perpetuating it either don’t think they are doing anything wrong or just think it’s normal to drop your trash on the sidewalk or in the catch basin. Children should be taught to respect their neighborhood, and their planet for that matter.