HILLSIDE, NJ – The 4th Ward of Hillside has a trash problem, at least according to one councilman that has been on a very long mission to clean it up. But after years of getting nowhere, the councilman is fed up and has taken his story to the streets. Literally.
On a recent stroll and drive around the Hillside-Elizabeth border with Councilman Gerald Pateesh Freedman, it was not hard to spot the abundant litter as it cluttered the sidewalks, gutters, front yards and alleyways on North Broad Street.
“I’ve been a councilman for 16 years,” said Freedman, “and I’ve been more than vocal. I’ve called code enforcement and I am always assured by them that they make a visit, but nothing gets done.”
Walking just a few short blocks down the thoroughfare makes it plain as day that despite there being several trash cans for the public to use, a mere fraction of the trash actually ends up in the bins.
Coincidentally, a resident who rents an apartment on the street was out with a rake and a trash can picking up large piles of garbage. The resident said she came out as soon as she had the time once the snow melted, but also said she was just doing it because she could not stand to look at it.
“I’m just a tenant. The landlord is old and I just wanted it cleaned up,” she said.
But this one resident is not emblematic of the bigger problem, as Freedman puts it.
“Once this becomes the norm, people feel comfortable throwing their bottles and trash on the ground,” he said.
A quick survey of the area found dozens of liquor bottles and general trash of all kinds. An old mattress was even wedged between two buildings, and a quick look makes it obvious that is has been there for some time. There is a church and a funeral parlor, both of which have well-kept grounds, but there are several residences where anyone can see the trash has settled for quite some time.
“It’s not just here,” said Freedman, “but this is one of your main strips of town.”
Freedman said a lot of people have told him the trash is the fault of the local businesses, but Freedman was quick to point out that the businesses have all kept their storefronts clean.
“If you got garbage on your property, pick it up,” Freedman said. “It’s not heavy stuff. And when people see bottles and debris, they feel comfortable throwing bottles and debris. It’s a quality of life issue. This is not a new phenomenon”
A quick drive around the rest of Hillside with the Councilman demonstrated his point. Much of Hillside is free from large amounts of garbage in the streets and on the front lawns. But for some reason, residents fail to remove the garbage on North Broad Street.
Freedman said people are also quick to blame Elizabeth, which is on the other side of the street, and not just the business.
The woman cleaning large piles of trash with a rake also suggested it could be from the two schools in close proximity, but if that is the case, there is a much bigger problem at stake based on the number of empty beer cans and liquor bottles dotting the sidewalks.
“You got to have a little pride,” said the councilman. “You don’t see this in South Orange or Summit.”
The councilman did not have much of a solution to offer other than common sense.
“If the winds blows the garbage onto your lawn, you need to pick it up,” he said. “There are trash cans all along the street.”