Astoria’s busiest streets are nasty with trash, officials say.
On Tuesday afternoon Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), state Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Democratic primary winner for Vallone’s seat, Costa Constantinides, gathered at 31st Street and Ditmars Boulevard to ask the Department of Sanitation to increase their trash can pickups from once a day to twice a day.
“Trash cans are overflowing from morning to night,” Simotas said.
Dirty streets cause property values to decrease by 5 percent, she added.
Additionally, the assemblywoman would like to propose legislation that would give business owners monetary incentives for teaming with their local business improvement district or neighborhood groups to keep their streets clean.
On top of more pickups the area needs more enforcement, officials said.
“It’s like a game of Jenga where people stack garbage on top of garbage,” Constantinides said.
Vallone put bills through the City Council that increase fines for people who put their businesses’ or family waste in the public bins; however, without enforcement the laws mean almost nothing, he said.
One idea he has to fight the trash would be to better publicize the “adopt a trash can” program. Through the city, businesses get a certificate and free liners and in return they must empty the cans.
“Let’s go further and take my name off the trash cans and put a plaque with theirs on it,” Vallone said.
But as much as the politicians want businesses to help, they don’t want them to be overly penalized with “ticky-tack tickets,” Gianaris said.
Constantinides said businesses need to be like “garbage ninjas,” making sure a piece of trash doesn’t blow in front of their establishment and warrant a fine.
Jack from Pizza Palace on the corner of 31st Street and Ditmars Boulevard pays a “guy” to empty the public trash can outside his business once a day.
“I had to do it,” said Jack, who wouldn’t give his last name. “It’s been messy for years.”
“It takes a toll on the whole neighborhood,” he added.
Pastor Paul Milholland from Trinity Lutheran Church on the corner of 37th Street and 31st Avenue said the city wouldn’t put a can on his corner because they thought it would be stolen. He told stories of trash going uncollected for several days and children playing in the mess.
However, beyond calling on politicians and the Department of Sanitation, the pastor asked residents to chip in too.
“We as neighbors have to show a little respect for each other,” Milholland said.
A passerby yelled to a photographer documenting the mess that “there’s plenty of trash. Don’t worry about missing it.”
Sanitation has 314 litter baskets in Astoria. The ones in the neighborhood’s business districts are serviced six days a week, DSNY spokeswoman Kathy Dawkins said. When there are extra workers they are assigned to additional basket collection, she added.