And it’s a sad reminder of just how inconsiderate some Staten Islanders can be.
However, the simple truth is that the vast majority of borough residents do not litter, and as widespread as it appears, this problem is caused by a relatively small number of individuals who simply aren’t concerned about their community or their neighbors. They are ignorant, uncaring, or both, and their laziness harms the quality-of-life for the rest of us.
It is, frankly, embarrassing when people visit me from out of town and mention our litter-strewn streets and highways. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is – and I remain determined to do something about it. As I said, the overwhelming majority of Staten Islanders are not part of the problem. A cadre of inconsiderate jerks, from all walks of life, are.
We were hopeful, but realistic, about our ability to win hearts and minds simply by asking for cooperation, simply by appealing to the better instincts of those who may not have been aware of the impact of their actions on our borough. Unfortunately, this has not worked, so now I am asking the NYPD, the Parks Department, and the Department of Sanitation to resort to stronger measures: issuing more summonses to individuals who are caught littering. I don’t relish taking this approach, believe me, but I am hopeful that the summons and fine method will finally get through to this small group of selfish individuals.
Having said that, we cannot forget that we all have an important role to play in keeping our community clean. I am calling it the “I AM MY BOROUGH’S KEEPER” approach.
Although we are not all the cause of the problem, I would like to see us all be a part of the solution. This means taking it upon ourselves to pick up litter from the ground near our residences; it means going the extra inch, foot or yard, even if the law only requires us to clean 18 inches from the curb. It means having a serious conversation with our friends or neighbors when we see them littering. It means taking the initiative to set a positive example on our block to the best of our abilities, instead of just shaking our heads and angrily blaming government. It means volunteering to join a cleanup effort, or organizing our own.
Until the time comes when we live in a litter free borough, each and every one of us has a role to play in the cleanup effort. I know it’s frustrating to pick up after someone else, because, in a certain sense, it is simply unfair for those who do the right thing to fix the problems created by those who don’t.
However, if we all start accepting the role of being our borough’s keeper, responsible in our own way for its upkeep, maintenance, and beauty, we will inevitably see this in a different light. When we realize our simple actions are multiplied by the actions of others doing the same thing, when we know that our efforts are having a real effect, we will further encourage others to do the same.
Litterers got us into this mess one gum wrapper, one can, one bottle, one bag at a time. We need to get out of it the same way. If enough of us take care of our little corner of our borough we can beat this.
Government cannot solve all problems – we know this. Concerned citizens taking responsibility for their community are much better at it, as we saw in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, when concerned citizens took the initiative and fed, clothed, and comforted those affected by the storm far better than government did.
I am asking everyone to join me in this “I am my borough’s keeper” campaign and take whatever steps you can take to help keep our borough clean. All of us working together can have a real and positive impact.
Your Council Members and we here at Borough Hall have “Clean Teams” responding to litter complaints on an almost daily basis. Volunteer groups will be out there during the summer. Enforcement agencies will be summoning litter offenders who have turned a deaf ear to our pleas for cooperation. We will continue working together to educate our youngsters about the damaging effects of litter on our quality of life, hometown pride, and self-esteem. And finally, if you, your friends and your neighbors will step up and be your borough’s keepers, you will be the force multiplier I believe that will put us over the top.
There needs to be a paradigm shift. For a hard-core group of individuals, asking politely is simply not working. Begging, pleading, or cajoling has no impact on them. It is now time to try another method – hit them in their wallets.
Finally, to you good folks out there who choose to get involved, who choose to see themselves as their borough’s keeper, you have my thanks and my pledge to help increase your numbers and to recruit new borough-keepers every day. Let’s work together and watch this effort snowball. Don’t wait to see if others are willing to get involved – it begins with you.
Please join us in this battle. It is OUR borough, and it is worth it.
Finally, I ask that anyone wishing to start a volunteer cleanup effort contact staff member Anthony Esposito at AEsposito@statenislandusa.com. We’d like to know about your volunteerism, and if necessary will help to supply you with gloves and other materials needed for your effort.