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DGS Takes on Sanitation in College Neighborhood

April 15, 2010

by Rich Aviles

ALBANY- Garbage collection is a challenge in any city. Just making pick-up schedules is time-consuming and expensive. This challenge is made even more difficult when you add thousands of party-going college students into the mix.

Now that spring is here, the students in the area have begun to think about one common event: the end of the semester. Many students either move out of Albany all together after graduating in May, or they pack up and move to a new apartment for the following school year. Moving generates a slew of garbage, and a special spring clean up day is slated for the neighborhood on Wednesday, May 19.

Whatever the situation, when the students move out they have loads, and loads of garbage that has to be disposed of and they have to work with the Department of General Services to make sure the process is clean, and easy for both sides.

Weeks before the semester is over for Saint Rose and University at Albany, the

A stairwell is full of trash Thursday in front of a home on Ontario Street between Hudson Avenue and Hamilton Street. (Rich Aviles)

students, along with the rest of the citizens of Albany, receive a notice about spring cleanup. The notice designates days for different areas of the city where garbage trucks will be collecting people’s spring-cleaning trash.

As for the rest of the year, garbage collection can be an extremely difficult task in areas that are crawling, for the most part, with careless college students.

A few streets are heavily populated with students, particularly Hamilton Street and Hudson Avenue. On any given weekend the sidewalks are littered with plates, endless red cups filled with dried up beer, and even broken bottles every so often.

“The biggest problem is that the garbage rules aren’t being followed,” said Sue Kimble, assistant commissioner of the city’s Department of General Services. Landlords are given constant reminders about the city codes for garbage collection and are expected to inform the tenants of their properties. Garbage producers are fined or ticketed when they violate any of six laws when it comes to collection, including putting garbage on the sidewalk too early in the day.

If tenants violate the code, landlords are fined and also receive a bill for cleanup on top of the monetary fine. In 2009 alone, the department brought in about $150,000 in fines, according to Tom Kelley, chief labor supervisor at General Services.

A filing room in the Department of General Services filled to the brim with trash-related citations. (Rich Aviles)

The real question that needs to be asked is who is to blame for the garbage found on the streets? The answer, though, is not an easy one. Is it student-residents who make up a large portion of the Pine Hills population, or can the finger be pointed at the numerous food establishments in the area?

“You can’t place the blame on one single group of people, it’s a problem involving all of the members of the area,” said Michael Paolucci, a student from Hudson Valley Community College student who lives on Ontario Street.

The opinion of those who work for the DGS is on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. “A lot of the time (students) won’t put their trash in garbage containers,” said Kelley. “They won’t even walk out to the curb line, they’ll throw it out there, then it creates an awful mess.”

There also are a lot of businesses in the Pine Hills area, some of which serve take out food that the students eat and in many cases any trash left behind gets tossed on the street. There are remedies out there on both the business end and the customer end to keep the area clean.

The city of Albany has put public litter baskets on corners all over the area, especially in the Pine Hills. On the corner of Ontario Street and Madison Avenue there is a wastebasket on each of the four points where the sidewalk meets the street. This is representative of the entire area, in fact, there are an estimated 280 of these baskets on the street corners of Albany.

These cans are meant for individual trash items, such as plates or candy wrappers, in an effort to reduce the amount of trash on the streets. They are placed strategically, not only by the orders of Commissioner Nicholas D’Antonio.

“They’re placed where there appears to be a need for them,” said Kimble. “And they are

Department Assistant Commissioner Sue Kimble, left, and Chief Labor Supervisor Tom Kelly, right. (Rich Aviles)

strictly for the litter that you are dropping when you are walking down the street, not for household trash.”

On the other end, businesses are told that they need to make sure they clean the outside of their properties otherwise they will be subject to a fine. General Services recently developed a two-page flier that will be sent to every business in Albany. The flier reminds business owners of their responsibility to keep the area clean, and also reminds them of the city code for business sanitation, city code 313-51.1.

Along with garbage collection, the Mayor Gerald Jennings implemented a citywide recycling program aimed at reducing the amount of trash going into the landfill. Under the “Go Clean, Go Green” plan, all residents of Albany receive two complimentary recycle bins for their home.

The green bin is meant for all types of paper and cardboard including shredded paper and phone books, and the blue bin is for glass, metal cans, and plastic containers. The bins are supposed to be put out along with your trash containers and will be collected on neighborhood collection days. Most of the information about the city’s garbage collection programs can be found directly on its website, -30-

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