A handful of Jamaica residents marched on some of the neighborhood’s ugliest eyesores on Saturday, all as part of an ongoing effort to remove trash and eliminate illegal dumping.
Organizer Joe Moretti admitted to being disappointed with the turnout — the march started nearly an hour late as the hoped-for crowds of between 25 and 50 people turned out to be seven, not including a few candidates for office who stopped by — but said residents must continue to do things large and small to secure more dumping enforcement, and more cooperation from residents and business owners to clean up Jamaica.
“It is primarily an enforcement issue,” Moretti said. “There isn’t enough enforcement down here, and the fines for dumping and polluting aren’t big enough.”
Moretti has been attending public forums, posting photos on line and sending them to politicians and the media for about two years seeking more help from the Department of Sanitation, which has its own inspectors and which also relies on referrals from the city’s 311 hotline.
The march began at Merrick Boulevard and 109th Street and wound its way north to 90th Avenue and 168th Street.
Along the way the group passed overstuffed and illegally filled baskets, dumped construction debris and properties with boarded-up houses that are overflowing with refuse dumped and accumulated over time.
Pamela Hazel, coleader of the march, cited an abandoned park across from an apartment complex at 109-15 Merrick Blvd.
“It used to be a playground for these apartments, but they got a new owner,” she said. “Now it has garbage and rats and snakes. It’s ugly but it’s also unhealthy.”
Moretti pointed to the fence along the western side of the park where chunks of concrete were simply dropped on the sidewalk.
“Because of all the trash, people think they can come in with construction debris and just dump it,” he said. Two other piles of lumber and construction material were found along the way.
Leading their small group with a bullhorn, Moretti and Hazel laid much of the blame for the trash condition in Jamaica at the feet of elected officials, particularly Borough President Helen Marshall and Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans).
“This would not be allowed to happen in Forest Hills,” Moretti shouted. “This would not be allowed to happen on the Upper East Side. This would not be allowed to happen in Chelsea. This would never be allowed to happen in white neighborhoods. Why is it allowed to happen here? All our elected officials are people of color.”
Comrie, in a sitdown interview with the Queens Chronicle a few days before the march, said the city does what it can, but cannot always act as quickly as the activists would like.
He said Moretti does not seem to grasp some of the legal and logistical difficulties that can be involved.
But he also said it takes more pepole like Moretti complaining to 311 and city officials.
“They complain more than we do,” Comrie said of Manhattanites. “This is a very data-driven administration ... we need more complaints to get the resources and the equipment we want out here.”
Hazel termed what she saw as a lack of concern on the part of elected officials “black-on-black environmental crime.”
Department of Sanitation officials and personnel have been targeting Jamaica for a cleanup and enforcement in recent months. They have stepped up patrols, particularly at night, in dumping-prone areas, and have been publicizing the DOS reward program for information leading to catching dumpers. Absent witnesses they must trace the source from the material.