February 15, 2008

C-Town Council Discusses Garbage Removal

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For the time being, residents of Collegetown will have to tolerate walking among overflowing mounds of styrofoam and rotting food. The Collegetown Neighborhood Council was unable to reach a decision yesterday during a follow-up meeting to discuss viable solutions to the mounting problems tied to high levels of garbage in Collegetown.
“I walk through Collegetown everyday and I see vomit on the sidewalk,” said Donna Fleming, president of the Bryant Park Civic Association. “I want it to be a more family friendly neighborhood.”
“These problems in Collegetown are not new, and they will probably never disappear,” said Mary Tomlan, co-chair of the CNC. “But we can take some steps towards improving the ambiance of Collegetown.”
Leo Riley, a recycling specialist with Tompkins County, noted that the CNC needed to start at the source of the problem with trash. [img_assist|nid=27824|title=Pilin’ up|desc=Collegetown Neighborhood Council members air grievances and discuss solutions to litter and garbage problems at their meeting yesterday.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“We need to identify a root cause,” he said, “and here, the root cause is that the receptacle is overflowing. We may need a larger container; we may need more frequent pickups. We should determine if there might be illegal materials being deposited.”
The issue, however, is not a new one.
“Trash containers in Collegetown have been a problem for years,” agreed Rick Ferrel, assistant superintendent of public works for the City of Ithaca. “Our crews are constantly fighting illegal deposits.”
Joanna Trutko, vice president of the Bryant Park Civic Association, suggested the restaurants in Collegetown as a potential source of problems.
“Eighty-five percent of restaurants in Collegetown have large carry-out containers,” she said. “With these containers and take out bags, it’s a single use and then they’re in the garbage can.”
Phyllis Radke, Ithaca building commissioner, spoke of the city’s efforts to maintain the area.
“Our policy is that in all the areas the day after garbage is picked up the exterior maintenance inspector goes out and checks all the pickup points,” she said. “Once he’s done that, he goes and takes care of complaints in problem areas, particularly Collegetown.”
“We have the whole city for that one person, we depend heavily on complaints,” she added.
Members of the Council also noted the problem, at least partially, laid with Collegetown residents.
“All tenants are reminded of where garbage bags are and when recycling day is,” said Sharon Marx, property manager of Ithaca Renting Company. “I did have one problem when we reviewed a number of citations and it was cheaper to send our maintenance to pick the garbage up rather than received the fee … the cost doesn’t seem to matter [to the residents] sometimes.”
Gary Lindenbaum, president of the Tompkins County Landlords Association, also talked of his experiences with his tenants.
“I go to their properties once each week and if garbage is there I remind my tenants to put it out. If they don’t put it out, I purchase the necessary tags and put it out myself,” he said. “I think most students are okay, they just get caught up with other things and don’t want to buy tags.”
Kimberly Fezza, coordinator of the Off-Campus Housing Office, noted that her office consistently gave information about the sanitation system in Collegetown to students inquiring about off-campus residence.
“We start from the second semester of freshman year giving information about off campus housing and campus rights … Cornell is taking a big stance when it comes to educating,” she said.
Fezza also noted that the container designations were often confusing for people to read and offered a suggestion for improvement.
“In many other places around the country there are visually different containers, and that’s a fantastic idea,” she said. “If they see different colored containers, they’ll know what goes where.”
“Flyers that are sent out are really helpful,” added Tomlin. “There need to be good ways to distribute them however…maybe door to door.”
Tomlin and Fezza’s suggestions were some of many put forth by various members of the council in an effort to revitalize the sanitation system, but to some attendees, the efforts were not prompt enough.
“These are great,” said John Ryan, manager of Kraftees. “But it is not going to help in the next few weeks … a couple of new trashcans will.”
In the end, the CNC did not manage to reach a consensus on what should be done about the sanitation problem that had befallen Collegetown, but many emphasized that it was an urgent problem that needed to be dealt with.
“We’re at the ideal level,” said Tomlin, “We have to look into the reality … we have a lot of ideas, and a lot of work ahead of us.”