Schenectady lawmakers seek to address littering

Litters rests against the grass on a sidewalk on Duane Avenue in Schenectady Monday
Litters rests against the grass on a sidewalk on Duane Avenue in Schenectady Monday

SCHENECTADY — A group of city lawmakers last week introduced a plan seeking to crack down on littering — an issue that has long plagued the city. 

City Council members John Polimeni, Carmel Patrick and Doreen Ditoro last week introduced the “It Starts With Me” anti-litter action plan, a four-pronged strategy, that aims to improve the quality of life by reducing the amount of trash strewn along city streets.

“This is not a quick fix,” Patrick said during a meeting of the City Council’s Development and Planning Committee held last week. “This is not something that will happen tomorrow, but we wanted to present it to folks and see what reactions were.”

The 10-page plan lays out a series of steps the city can take to reduce littering across four areas of focus: education and outreach; infrastructure; community partnerships and laws and enforcement.

“We understand that modifying behavior isn’t easy,” the plan reads. “But if all Schenectady residents become actively engaged in implementing the anti-litter actions recommended in this proposal, we hope to reduce the amount of litter in Schenectady by 50% within the next five years.”

The plan calls for adopting an anti-litter campaign, including developing a branded logo along with informational materials, videos and other graphics to deliver the message about the negative impacts littering has on the environment and the community as a whole.

Education is a key component of the proposal, which recommends applying for grant money to develop anti-littering and environmental education materials in partnership with the Schenectady City School District, Clarkson University graduate teaching program and miSci.

The plan also calls for forming partnerships with community stakeholders to support neighborhood cleanup efforts, and establishing a litter task force and youth ambassador program to raise awareness about the impacts of littering.

Partnering with local businesses to install trash receptacles and smoking stations, along with purchasing equipment to make cleanup easier for city crews are also laid out in the proposal.

Council President Marion Porterfield said the city should also reach out to city workers to gain their input on how to tackle the issue.

“I think the people who do this work every single day should not just be informed but included,” she said.

Polimeni said the impacts of littering go beyond environmental impacts, and can reduce property value and even stunt economic development. The city, he noted, also spends thousands each year to clean up improperly disposed trash.

“There is a big toll here with littering beyond just the sight and the smell and those are things that we should take into consideration,” Polimeni said.

Neighborhood groups for years have hosted cleanup events, but littering and illegal dumping has remained an issue throughout the city. Union College also deploys a small army of students each year to help with community cleanups.

Lawmakers sought to tackle the issue in 2017 by streamlining the process for issuing offenders an appearance citation for a future court date. The law, however, was never implemented due to issues with the ticketing process.

Polimeni said he hopes the issue can be worked out so the legislation can be enforced, but the plan also calls for evaluating littering and illegal dumping fines and using any fees collected to bolster future prevention efforts.

“Yes, there’s a section that is enforcement … but there’s some other things like are we charging too much for a ticket or not enough,” Polimeni said. “Those are things we kind of need to look at.”

Lawmakers have yet to adopt any legislation or submit any legislative proposals. The hope is to collect additional input from residents.

Mayor Gary McCarthy said that addressing littering seems like an easy issue to address, but noted changing people’s behaviors can be a difficult process.

“I think this is all good,” he said. “It’s an ongoing process.”

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold. 

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