Local leaders seek to curb Schenectady’s litter problem

Education, citations being discussed
Garbage along Crane Street in Mont Pleasant.
Garbage along Crane Street in Mont Pleasant.

A few city leaders are brainstorming ways to help Schenectady and its residents to clean up their act.

Residents have expressed frustration over the amount of trash left lying on city streets and sidewalks, saying it hurts the quality of life and the reputation of some neighborhoods. In an effort to address the issue, a few city leaders have proposed solutions that include tying litter pick-up to community service, and getting police more involved.

“Everybody has to pull together to make this work, but definitely enforcement is a big part of making any kind of dent in the problems we’re having,” Councilman Vince Riggi said.

City residents are divided on what the cause of increased litter in the streets and trash in yards might be. Many blame the uptick in recent years of landlords who don’t have the same pride in a neighborhood’s appearance as decades-long homeowners, while others have argued there needs to be more education so kids know not to litter.

Most agree certain neighborhoods — Goose Hill, Mont Pleasant and Hamilton Hill among them — suffer from a cycle in which passersby see litter on the ground, and are thus more inclined to think littering isn’t a big deal.

Bob Harvey, president of the Eastern Avenue neighborhood association, said he envisions a three-pronged approach to tidying the area: prevention, enforcement and cleanup.

“Prevention is tough unless you can change the culture some people seem to live in,” he said.

For enforcement, he said he’s hopeful the Police Department can implement monthly crackdowns on littering, or station an officer in certain spots where trash tends to accumulate.

He also suggested using surveillance cameras to capture license plate numbers when drivers toss trash out the window, and using that information to issue tickets later on, though he said he hadn’t talked to city officials about the concept.

In terms of clean-up, Harvey is planning to submit a proposal to the court system to tie litter pickup to community service, he said. His plan includes partnering with Vale Cemetery Inc., a local non-profit, which would supervise clients who need to fulfill community service hours.

Those individuals would be directed to the dirtier parts of the city, Harvey said, and can complete their hours based on how many bags they fill or blocks they clear of debris.

“You’ve got to look at different angles,” Harvey said. “If an area looks clean, people are hesitant to throw trash out. If it already looks trashy, people will throw their trash out, too.”

Riggi, who spoke with Harvey about some of his ideas, met with Police Chief Eric Clifford this week to discuss the issue of litter. The councilman echoed Harvey’s ideas, saying some kind of unified campaign might be useful to raise awareness of the problem and its solutions.

Clifford acknowledged litter in the city is a quality of life issue that needs to be addressed, adding that officers can make a point to monitor it while out on patrol.

He said he’d support Harvey’s idea of using community service requirements to cleanup the city. For the department’s part, Clifford said he’s looking to streamline the citation process, which would make it easier to hold individuals accountable for violating the city code, as opposed to the current, more complicated process, which involves identifying the offender, filing a report and booking them.

The city code states individuals caught littering face a $250 fine for a first offense, and a $500 fine for a repeat offense. For offenses related to waste disposal, those in violation face a $250 fine for a first offense, then a $500, $750, $1,000 and $1,500 fee for each subsequent violation.

The department will be part of a campaign in schools and at neighborhood meetings to raise awareness of the new process, Clifford added.

“[Litter] affects some neighborhoods more than others, but ultimately it’s a quality of life issue that affects everyone,” Clifford said. “Like any other law, voluntary compliance is our goal, but we will issue citations if warranted.”

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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