October 12, 2007

C-Town Council Addresses Growing Garbage Problem

Print More

“The streets are filled with red drinking cups and cigarette butts,” said Matoula Halkiopoulos, a landlord who owns seven houses in Collegetown.
Last night, the Collegetown Neighborhood Council met to discuss the growing littering problem in both public and private properties. In conjunction with the University, landlords, business owners, and the city of Ithaca, the CNC stressed the importance of re-evaluating the effectiveness of current trash regulation and their enforcement, emphasizing its commitment to the Collegetown Vision Statement.
Co-chaired by Mary Tomlan ’71, (D-3rd Ward), and Gary Stewart, assistant director of government and community relations, the meeting acted as forum for several community members to voice their opinions.
Tomlan said, “It is not only buildings in the public that need to be maintained, but also private property that is visible. Both private and public buildings reflect and contribute to city pride.”
Given the current appearance of Collegetown, many speakers contested that the city is not doing enough to provide adequate resources and information to college students who may have other priorities than recycling waste in the proper bins.
Halkiopoulos argued that both the city and local landlords need to take a more proactive approach in dealing with the abundance of trash plaguing residential streets after weekend parties.
She stands in stark contrast to other landlords who simply say to their new tenants “figure it out.”
This happened to Nicole Mangiere ’08, vice president of university and community relations for the Pan-Hellenic Association, who was also present at the meeting.
One of the chief complaints voiced by commercial and residential property owners and residents was the lack of trash cans adorning the streets of Collegetown. The sheer lack of trash cans and the absence of a recycling center make it much easier for patrons to improperly dispose of their trash on the streets.
Rick Ferrel, assistant superintendent of public works for streets and facilities, pointed out that putting additional receptacles on the street is a complex problem because too often, people dispose of trash that should be tagged. Moreover, businesses do not want trash bins in front of their property due to their unsightly appearance.
“In the end, residents end up paying for this abuse either way. The Commons employs the use of several trash cans and people still abuse the system.”
However, many members expressed that students were not the only ones at fault for generating trash. Rather it was a culmination of the lack of information and resources available to students and the failure of property owners and the city to plan appropriately.
Recently, community beautification coordinator Chrys Garderner, who was not present at the meeting, organized several trash pick-ups by Cornell students throughout the year.
But Garderner, cautioned “I don’t think we should rely solely on good-hearted students to come out twice a year to pick up litter. After a big clean-up event Collegetown looks good for about a week, then the litter starts to build up again.”
There was also disagreement over whether the residents of Collegetown, primarily college students, should have to shoulder the responsibility of properly disposing waste as some individuals do not consider students to be mature adults. Others contended that most property damage occurs at the hands of intoxicated students.
Mike Niechwiadowicz, deputy building commissioner, elaborated, “Whatever your age, you can’t litter. You don’t let a five year-old drop their trash on the street and neither should college students.”
Despite this, Niechwiadowicz conceded that the city is equally as accountable for the trash problem in collegetowns as the students because trash is not a number one priority for them either. Other problems come up and demand urgent attention.
“We write a lot of tickets for littering and exterior property maintenance, but most cases are dismissed as it is a civil penalty. There is a lot of reluctance to even prosecute these cases because no one follows through.”
Additionally, there was some skepticism over the effectiveness of tickets and fines, given Collegetown’s high resident turnover rate after two years. While the ticket may stop one student from littering, the city would need to continually devote the same amount of resources to educate another student just a few short years later. In this case, the cost exceeds the benefit.
Svante Myrick ’09, vice president of university and community relations for the interfraternity council, advocated the Three “E’s” as solutions to reducing the amount of litter in Collegetown. The first solution was enforcement; the second, education; the third, engineering a solution. Myrick is also campaigning to present the 4th-ward.
The last proposal was well-received by the attending community members as it incorporated elements of the first two.
“The city really needs to make a presence when dealing with individuals who violate littering and exterior maintenance laws. Voluntary compliance is the most cost effective and efficient method to instilling responsibility on the part of everyone involved,” Niechwiadowicz said. He suggested that business owners take accountability for a block with the incentive that the overall amount of trash in the city would be significantly reduced.
Kraftees owner John Ryan has taken this to heart by providing an example for the other stores on Dryden Road.
“The volume of trash is immense, but it is significantly less than it was five years ago.”
Ryan is trying to create a merchant group that will deal with effective ways of managing trash from the business side.
“The amount of trash in Collegetown becomes apparent as a person crosses the bridge from Cornell. The University had clearly found an effective solution to deal with the trash produced by 20,000 people, so Collegetown should be able to too,” Ryan added.