A few weeks ago I took a Monday morning walking tour of West Beech Street with City Manager Jack Schnirman, Deputy Public Works Commissioner Joe Febrizio and City Manager Assistant and Manager of Operations Karrie Mollet. (See www.longbeachny.org and enter WEBA into search)
Over the course of almost three hours we covered the entire stretch of the West End business district, beginning at the "Welcome to Long Beach" pocket “park” on Nevada Avenue, continuing down the north side of West Beech to New York Avenue, and returning up the south side. It was a unique opportunity to focus a long-overdue spotlight on the sanitation, maintenance and code enforcement problems that have been plaguing the area for years.
Some issues got a quick fix: a phone call from Joe Febrizio brought out a team of workers to remove weeds and litter from city-owned parking lots. Other concerns were duly noted and promised for follow-up.
In April, Public Works Commissioner Jim LaCarrubba added a third, midnight-to-8 a.m. commercial sanitation pick-up route in order to remove the huge mounds of garbage that accumulate on the narrow sidewalks from bars and restaurants. But the most glaring, persistent issue on West Beech is the pervasive litter: carelessly discarded pizza boxes, paper plates, milk shake cups, beer bottles and, most of all, cigarette butts. Along the route, city officials pointed out the catch basins that were installed in 27 strategically located sewer drains to prevent litter from entering the bay. Now, less than halfway through the summer, many of the catch basins are already clogged with trash.
Most sidewalks are covered with the black spots of discarded gum. Weeds emerge everywhere. The ocean breeze carries faint, unpleasant odor from unwashed sidewalks, unlined trash receptacles and dog poop.
This summer two converging factors have contributed to the growing litter problem: first, the crowds on Beech Street are larger than ever, due to the unusually hot weather, and the interest in Long Beach generated by the surf competition. Secondly, more and more food businesses are extending their hours to accommodate bar patrons with a 4 a.m. case of the munchies.
It’s time for businesses, residents and city officials to protect the value of the commercial district and work together to keep this community clean.
First, businesses must recognize which sanitation responsibilities are theirs and which are the city’s:
Business (and property) owners are responsible for the sidewalks and gutters 18 inches into the street. That means gum removal and power washing as well as sweeping. The city has only one power-washing machine and no gum removal equipment. There are private companies who will provide this service (www.gumbusters.com). Perhaps the Chamber of Commerce or the West End Business Owners Association could work out a contract with a company so that these services would be provided to their members on a regular basis at a reduced group rate.
Weed removal and tree maintenance within a property’s boundary is also the responsibility of the business owner. Monthly treatment with weed killer will keep emerging weeds under control.
Every business should have a cigarette receptacle outside.
The city must keep the parking lots clean, free of weeds and freshly painted. Building, sanitation, littering and pooper-scoop laws must be strictly enforced. Sidewalk trash receptacles need to be replaced and all should be fitted with liners.
Summer sanitation protocol should include at least two “specials." These auxiliary workers would be equipped with a rolling garbage can, broom, cleaning supplies etc. and cover the entire commercial district from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (two shifts) on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning from Memorial Day to Labor Day. They would also keep trash receptacles from overflowing between regular garbage pick-ups and remove trash that often is left on ledges and in shrubbery. If you do the math, the cost for this would be about $15,000 per year, well worth the investment.
Residents and visitors must show respect for our community by adhering to rules concerning littering and animal waste. Often people who would not think of throwing litter on the sidewalk absently extinguish cigarettes on the ground or in planter boxes. This is an unacceptable practice. Yet according to the Keep America Beautiful website, “smokers are most likely to litter if the environment contains any type of litter, not just cigarette butts.” And this concept echoes that of the Broken Window Theory: “monitoring and maintaining … environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime”.
Let’s work together to promote the beautification of the community we love.