The people who came to a town hall meeting with Councilwoman Julia Harrison (D-Flushing) are right. The streets of Flushing all too often are disgusting. But they are blaming the wrong people. Instead of pointing the finger at Harrison and the city Sanitation Department, they should be looking at the community that makes the mess. That's where the problem begins and, if there is going to be a solution, that's where it must begin.
At the meeting, Flushing resident Maurice Pinzon compared downtown Flushing to Times Square, which has experienced a dramatic rebirth in recent years. Let's take a closer look at the revival of Times Square. The city clearly played a major role in the revitalization of 42nd Street and the theater district. The city drove out the seedy porn shops and peep shows, the pimps and the pushers. At the same time, it created economic incentives for investment in the area.
But that's not why Times Square is clean, or at least cleaner than it has been in decades. Credit for this belongs to the businesses that have worked together to form the Times Square Business Improvement District. The BID has crews working night and day to empty trashcans and pick up litter. To cover the cost, every business operating in the area must contribute to the BID.
Some, like Mr. Pinzon, may argue that such cleaning is the responsibility of city government. But it is not likely that Pinzon or any of the people attending the meeting with Harrison would welcome higher city taxes. It is also not certain that this is a problem that the city is well-equipped to deal with. The filth and litter in Flushing are a Flushing problem and only the people of Flushing can make their streets clean.
The residents, restaurants and other businesses should come up with a plan to beautify the area. Although these businesses may not be willing to fund a BID similar to the one in Times Square, they should be willing to put up enough money to hire a handful of full-time street cleaners. This would also be a smart investment.
The larger businesses could borrow a page from the city's Adopt-A-Highway program in which companies pay to keep the roadway free of litter in exchange for billboards that trumpet their public spirit.
The anger voiced at this meeting should be focused on the people who create the mess. There are cities where nearly no one litters. The community won't tolerate it. That, of course, is not the situation in Flushing. Students and others waiting for buses think nothing of throwing their litter on the pavement or in the street. Store managers who keep shops spotless often create a mess on the sidewalk. There needs to be a stigma attached to littering. No matter what culture people are from, a culture in Flushing must be created in which littering is unthinkable.
None of this is the direct responsibility of Harrison or city government. Flushing is a pigsty and only the people who live and work there can change that.
Cunningham Park is going to the dogs. At least part of it. After years of barking at park officials, the dog owners of eastern Queens will get an official dog run in Cunningham Park. The enclosed run will provide 5,000 square feet of space where dogs can run freely.
Until now, park users had to keep Fido on a leash or risk getting a ticket from Park Rangers. As part of the deal, the pet owners will have to take responsibility for keeping the run clean. Fair enough.
If this run keeps tails wagging - and not tongues - the city should consider opening more runs in other parks.
©2000 Community News Group
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