Jamaica resident Joe Moretti has finally gotten his wish. After months of prodding the Department of Sanitation to pick up trash at several sites in the neighborhood, the agency has cleaned them up.
Moretti moved to Jamaica in November 2008, after spending about 30 years as a resident of Long Island City. He soon began his mission to clean up litter-strewn areas in his new community, photographing the eyesores and sending the pictures to elected officials.
On the concerned resident’s cleanup list were empty lots at the northwest corner of 170th Street and 90th Avenue, at 170-17 89 Ave. and at 90th Avenue between 170th and 169th streets; the Post Office parking lot and surrounding sidewalk at 163rd Street and 89th Avenue; an empty storefront that used to be Mr. Print at 170-34 Jamaica Ave.; and the west side of 172nd Street near Jamaica Avenue.
Kathy Dawkins, a spokeswoman for the DOS, said the agency had cleaned all the areas on the list where garbage was still present except for the postal location, which she said is the responsibility of the federal government.
“The department will continue to monitor these areas and take appropriate action as needed,” Dawkins said in an email.
Moretti said he was inspired to take on the trash problem because it is a shame for a place with such a rich history as Jamaica to have fallen into such disrepair. The neighborhood has been home to prominent figures such as founding father Rufus King and has more landmarked buildings than any other community in the borough.
“Jamaica seems to have lost its way and it never got back on track,” Moretti said.
City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said Moretti has been in contact with his office for the past year, and when the resident has complained about sites, the lawmaker has contacted the DOS and they have been cleaned periodically. The frustration comes from them not staying clean, Comrie said.
“When he says there are trash problems and eyesores, he’s right,” Comrie said. “People need to change their attitudes and behaviors. They need to put the garbage in the proper receptacles rather than throwing it on the street.”
Both men agree that to reach a permanent solution, the root causes of the problem must be addressed. Jamaica is a high-traffic area with many new immigrants and apartments and relatively few single-family homes.
It also has a lot of homeless shelters. As a result, people tend to not be as concerned as homeowners about the condition of the neighborhood, the men say. The foreclosure crisis has left many dwellings vacant, making them a prime target for illegal dumping. Empty lots owned by absentee landlords are also neglected.