Community Responds To Littered Streets


Part one of a continuing series

Litter near the bay. (Photo by Joanne Villani)

Garbage bags being left out on sidewalks overnight to be torn into by animals, garbage cans overflowing with trash and streets and Manhasset Bay littered with Starbucks cups and cigarette butts. Port Washington residents are tired of walking down Main Street, its surrounding areas and near the water only to find their community littered with items thrown out of car windows, straw wrappers dropped to the ground or gum spit onto the pavement.

Joanne Villani said she is a life-long Port resident and has seen a change in the community over the years. The town-walker explained she has identified areas including outside of Uncle Giuseppe’s, Smashburger and Dunkin’ Donuts as being some of the worst areas for strewn garbage and litter.

Garbage can on Haven Avenue with litter around it. (Photo by Christina Claus)

“I don’t know why the vendors are not encouraged to clean up,” said Villani. “Where are the workers? Businesses should take pride in their sidewalks. A week and a half ago I saw a water drain outside of Starbucks filled with garbage.”

Hildur Palsdottir, environmental activist and educator at Sol Center, held similar sentiments toward the hamlet’s litter problem.

“Ginny [Garofalo] brought it to my attention first,” said Palsdottir. “I enjoy walking outdoors and you don’t see as much now with snow covering the ground, but as we find ourselves further into spring, it’s going to be very obvious that we need to do better as a community. As we speak, I’m walking down Main Street and seeing plastic bottles on the sidewalk. We need to plan for weekly and/or monthly community cleanups, especially the beaches need to be cleaned.”

Garofalo, who has been in the community for 56 years, spends her dog-walking time collecting litter she finds on the route.

“It’s a problem for me because I walk around Port a lot,” said Garofalo. “I pick up the trash. I pick up the same Starbucks cup by the train station everyday. First I thought it was the garbage guys, but I think it’s just a lack of respect at this point. Years ago people swept in front of their stores. They took away trash cans on Main Street.”

Garafalo said she can’t keep up with all the trash she finds on the ground while walking, and sometimes her carry-along bag is overflowing.

(Photo by Joanne Villani)

“I think we need to re-educate people that we’re killing the planet,” she said.
When asked how the problem could be solved, Villani, Palsdottir and Garofalo said more education is a must.

“People tell me all the time that they recycle plastic bags,” said Palsdottir. “Town of North Hempstead, like most recycling facilities, does not recycle plastic bags. The consumer needs to be better informed about what is recyclable. Also, the main problem we are facing is that recycling is overall inefficient. Plastic lasts hundreds of years, so you can see why refusing single-use plastics, reducing plastic use where you can and reusing containers and bags is extremely important.”

Palsdottir explained she is part of the Sousa Reduce campaign, a three-month effort spear-headed by the Sousa Green Committee Chair Francine Furtado, with the aim for students to participate in reduce activities.

Litter in the LIRR landscaping. (Photo by Christina Claus)

In 2018, Residents Forward held a cleanup day, during which they tallied data of what type of litter they found and how much. During the course of the single day, volunteers tallied 331 candy and gum wrappers, predominantly on upper Main Street, and 1,521 cigarette butts, along with bottles, cans, caps, food containers, cups, napkins, utensils, receipts, bags and more. The local organization found four main areas that needed attention including from the train station to Yamaguchi, from Mackey to Monroe, From Port Boulevard to North Bayles and from Haven to South Bayles.

Residents Forward Board of Directors member Betsy Liegey is spearheading the Give A Litter Bit program.

“I think the litter is something we continue to be discouraged by,” said Liegey. “The litter comes from a myriad of things happening: trash falling out of cans, cans not being closed properly, people dropping things—definitely cigarette butts are the biggest.”

Liegey said that Residents Forward is always looking at new initiatives to beautify Port Washington. The nonprofit utilizes social media to remind residents not to litter, speaks with students in the area, presents their data to groups and holds the Clean Green Main Street initiative each year in hopes that it will remind residents not to litter as well.

“We need to make sure everyone is doing their part,” said Liegey. “Everyone can make a difference. We can’t rely on people to pick up after us. People need to be out there doing the right thing. We’re constantly continuing the dialogue with the town to see what else we can do and they are looking into everything they can to diffuse the problem. We’re working with the town and they’re a lot more open to doing more street sweeping and doing a pilot program with a cigarette receptacle.”

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