For the past four years or so, North Woodmere resident Lily Buziashvili has taken it upon herself to pick up trash and debris that collects along a 1.5-mile stretch of the area called the Nassau County storm basin, which extends from Branch Boulevard to Hungry Harbor Road in that community.
“I pick up everything that’s on land, but cannot get into the water,” she said. “It’s all there, stuck in the sticks [and] shrubs. “Lots of plastic, food containers, you can’t imagine. Disgusting. Everything I pick up I put in plastic garbage bags and toss over [the] chain link fence. It hangs there until our sanitation guys can’t ignore it anymore.”
Sanitary District 1 is responsible for residential and commercial pickups in North Woodmere, Superintendent George Pappas said. Buziashvili said she has called all the government agencies she could think of.
“Usually I get the royal runaround and not much else,” she said. “Though once they came and cleaned some trash off dry land. As you can see” — she indicated the photos she has taken — “there’s much trash in the water. I’ve been cleaning this area by myself for a couple of years.”
On Saturday, this reporter drove along University Place, off Branch Boulevard, on the west side of the basin, and saw trash and debris on both sides of the fence and stuck in it. The area where people sit, stand or fish by what is called Doxy Brook Park was relatively clean.
“If ever you’ve driven on Hungry Harbor here and saw full garbage bags hanging on the chain link fence, that was my work,” Buziashvili said. “I knew that eventually sanitation guys will take it. Of course, more manpower is needed, as well as proper equipment. Maybe boats to access it from water.”
The county said it does schedule what it called “consistent street sweeping on county roads to collect trash.” “This is a large body of water that received storm water drainage from county, village and town roads,” officials said in an email, referring to the basin. “Any debris that falls on roadways may end in this waterway following rainfall. The county looks to explore opportunities to work with civic groups on community cleanup projects involving shoreline trash removal.”
Several North Woodmere residents organized by Bob Feldman, including Buziashvili, have also collected trash by the waterway behind the locked fence on Park Lane; by Rosedale Road; opposite Jewel Drive; and around the corner from the Key Food shopping center on Rosedale Road in recent years. At least one of those cleanups included supplies donated by the county.
“I wish I could say that public efforts weren’t needed, but this likely needs to be an all-hands-on-deck approach,” Feldman said on Monday. “The same way humans do many things I wish they wouldn’t, polluting and indifference towards others is merely one more on a long list. Just yesterday I walked by the waterway I have previously cleaned, and it is unbelievable how polluted it is.” Feldman added that a fall cleanup is a possibility. “The sight of a large swan, perched atop its nest, with hundreds of plastic bottles and other garbage, is frightening,” he said.
Town of Hempstead bay constables are responsible for patrolling the waterways under its jurisdiction. It is part of their mission to look for debris and pollution. Town officials said that when the constables patrol, responding to emergencies and constituent requests, they do clear debris, especially when it poses a hazard to boaters.
“The environment is a top priority for the Town of Hempstead,” town spokesman Greg Blower said. “Maintaining our pristine waters and a clean environment is what we continue to strive for every day, and our bay constables are a key component of that effort. We encourage residents to report issues related to waterways to our bay constables, who are willing and ready to assist residents, including referring them to appropriate agencies when needed.”
To report a problem to the bay constables, call (516) 431-9200. Trash and debris on town roadways can be reported to the Department of Highways at (516) 489-5000 ext. 3471. If it is an urgent matter on a weekend, call Public Safety at (516) 538-1900.
Have an opinion on the cleanup of debris and trash across the Five Towns? Send a letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.