Jun 14, 2012

The Litter of Allentown

On Monday mornings, from the amount of litter on 6th and 7th Street, you would think that there was a parade over the weekend. Back in the day, Allentown was known for it's cleanliness. Women in babushkas would compulsively hunt out any errant scrap of paper, and remove that offense to their pride. Allentown has changed. In 2006, the SWEEP program was put into place to milk center city property owners, fining them for tenants putting the wrong color container on the porch, at the wrong time. In 2011, the program burped $228,000.00 from the hapless owners. Now, with Allentown's Transformational arena coming, Allentown passed an ordinance quadrupling the littering fine from $25 to $100. "It's really difficult to see someone littering and actually catch them in the act," said Ann Saurman, director of recycling. "You see litter on the street, but you don't often see people littering." Actually, you can see them littering. Park near any center city market, and watch the wrappers drop like leaves off a tree in the fall.

photo:Denise Sanchez/The Morning Call


Anonymous said...


Ti is plain to see that there are few in Allentown who understand the importance of litter removal. West park has managed to maintain its community integrity and attract quality owners and homeowners to the neighborhood through diligent litter removal. Our current all- star is Harry Crasper, he is the main reason one see almost no litter on our streets.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

All part and parcel of life in A CITY WITHOUT LIMITS.

monkey momma said...

The litter is one example of folks taking absolutely no pride in themselves or their surroundings. Unfortunately, just about the only people who can teach personal pride are parents, and we have seen a complete destruction of the family unit. Particularly in Allentown, families nowadays are often extended matriarchal groups, with husbands nowhere to be found. There is a general feeling of laziness in Allentown that seems to be contagious. It's not apparent in just the litter - take a look at the pajamas people wear out of their house, or the poor landscaping and house maintenance we see all over. Or the inability to get kids to school every day. It's pathetic.

I'm all for the littering fine - but I don't expect enforcement to work.

michael molovinsky said...

for many years the litter in the west park neighborhood was picked up by scott armstrong

monkey momma., unfortunately you're correct. i've seen much litter dropped by children, parents and grandparents in front of each other.

Anonymous said...

I've seen Scott out there picking up litter for many,many years and really respect him for his humble work and excellent example.
My hats off to you Scott.

Whethervain said...

"It's really difficult to see someone littering and actually catch them in the act"

Now might be a good time to ask for any legal definitions of the term "citizen's arrest". IS there really such a procedure where someone can actually DO something - right on the spot - to effect legal consequences on a person caught in the act of littering (or double-parking too!)

YES, I realize that I'm talking about Allentown and NO, I don't want to be listed in tomorrow's obits.

Canary_In_Coalmine said...

My parents live in the West Park area and it makes my blood boil when I visit and see my mother, who is well into her 70s, picking up large volumes of litter on and near her property. I believe much of the litter is left by Allen High School students.

If the "Broken Windows" theory of policing is correct, a crackdown on littering would lead to a reduction in more serious crimes too. I wonder how an enforcement campaign might work. Perhaps citizens armed with video cameras catching people in the act? Scott Armstrong and Harry Crasper deserve medals for their volunteer efforts, but I wonder if any innovative solutions exist which would get to the root of the problem.

Anonymous said...

Michael -

If I might ask, what happens on Monday with the litter on 6th and 7th Streets? And why (presumably) isn't litter a problem on other weekdays?

Does the city come and clean it up? Do the street sweepers clean 7th Street several times a week? If so, maybe the city is "enabling" the problem (and ALL the taxpayers are picking up the tab)

If the City is serious about dealing with littering, maybe they need to have the SWEEP people out there on the weekend.

monkey momma said...

I do not recommend approaching a stranger about their litter habits. Citizens arrest is really taking your life into your own hands. Along with widespread laziness in this town is an outrageous amount of self-grandeur. Folks are very into themselves here, for reasons I cannot fathom, and telling them that THEY are doing something WRONG or offensive does not generally go over well at all. If you "disrespect" someone, expect retribution. It's not right, but that's the way it is.

Anonymous said...

"Approach" someone at your own risk. We live in weird times. The police will give this advice.

The problem was well stated with "the only people who can teach personal pride are parents, and we have seen a complete destruction of the family unit." The littering is symptomatic as are drop out rates, drug use, single-parent households...the list goes on. Littering is like a bodily function for some people. I see it in my car as people toss anything out the window as they drive. Set up and watch a bunch of kids walking from school, but after they stopped for snacks. Let me know where the wrappers, cans, bottles end up.

Voice of reason

Anonymous said...

I live in downtown Allentown and it is a constant battle of cleaning up litter in front of my place. I clean it up and more blows on to my property.
I can say that a trash can was placed about a quarter block from my property and the amount of trash I find has been cut in half. Most people will use garbage cans if they are available.
I see people litter all the time and it makes my blood boil! I occasionally approach them, just the other day I watched a boy about 9 years old throw a wrapper on the ground. I picked up his litter, caught up to him and told him there was a garbage can right up the street and that I'd walk with him and show him where it was. During our walk up the street we introduced ourselves to each other and I took the time to explain the him the importance of not littering and why and that he should remind his friends not to litter either. He was very sweet and hopefully I got through to him.
Anyway I'd like to see the fine be more like $500 and you should automatically get one if your out with a dog and don't have a bag on your person....because there is also a major dog poop problem along with a litter problem.

michael molovinsky said...

@5:17, back in 2007 i wrote about the litter. an OAPA member responded.

I live in center city and love it.... My block is clean. Very little litter. We all take 15 minutes a week and sweep our sidewalks....My mom grew up in Allentown (West End) and frequently tells me of the myth that the city used to be clean and perfect. There have always been problems. It's about time everybody admits this...Allentown is far from perfect and there are certainly significant problems to report, but I've found that the best way to make change in this city is to get out there,... Complaining about things or writing stories does little to accomplish anything. Hope to see you out in the community.
Dear Anonymous friend from 2007. How is that river called denial. Your street still clean? Are your neighbors picking up after their pit bulls? BTW, that was no myth your mother was talking about. The city was cleaner, much cleaner, 100 times cleaner.

Anonymous said...

So i am downtown the other day on 9th St. headed south. I come up on Chew St. and I see this young dude get into his tricked out street jalopy. He closes the door and then immediately opens it to toss out a big ole McDonald's bag full of trash right there on the street.

This is the code of the Urban Ghetto. Trash it. Do not take pride in your neighborhood. The shi**er it looks the better. It must be some form of "getting over on the man to piss off some nameless authority figure the boys from the hood know is out there".

Hang around any high school or middle school in fair ole Allentown and you will see the same habits being practiced. Just toss the trash on the street. No regard or pride of place. Sad sad situation that is only getting worse.

Canary_In_Coalmine said...

In California the fine for texting while driving is $600, because the state is broke and because it's politically tenable to set the fine so high. I wonder if Allentown would be well-served with a fine of that size for littering. The issue of course is enforcement - police are likely overburdened. What's a way for citizens to contribute to enforcement without risking their safety?

Anonymous said...

If every teacher in every class (K through 12th) here in Allentown wouls start the class by
saying don't litter, our schools may accomplish one thing.
Repetition is the key.

michael molovinsky said...

canary @7:54, to me the obvious answer is the parking authority. they're everywhere downtown, giving parking tickets all day. they must turn a blind eye to much littering.

Anonymous said...

Anybody but the Parking Authority.
They have not improved parking issues so why would they be effective with litter.
It would also serve to line the pockets of undeserving private employees.
Better to clean up after the offenders.
Although, If the parking agents carried brooms and garbage bags.....