This morning I was walking my dog down Elmwood, between Summer (corner with 7-Eleven) and Bryant (corner with Rite Aid), and I could not believe how much litter was on the west side of the street. Honestly, this stretch of Elmwood is worse than Grant Street and West Ferry, both of which recently won “junkyard medals” for the disgusting amount of strewn garbage on the sidewalks, and in the streets. I was so aggravated with the sight of the garbage, that later in the day I decided to head back, armed with a grabber and a big rolling blue garbage can.
Just before leaving, Jeff Kress from Buffalo Branded and Buffalo Rising, reached out to me to see what I was doing. I told him that I was heading out to clean Elmwood, and he said that he would join me. So I went out and bought a second grabber, and the two of us set out to take care of the mess. We started at Rite Aid, which is always littered with trash. From there, we headed south, cleaning up the west side of the block, until we reached 7-Eleven, at summer. No, these are not the only two culprits, but they are the worst culprits. One could argue that they are only selling the products, from which containers and wrappers get strewn daily throughout the neighborhood. That said, if they are the ones profiting from the customers who are the litterbugs, then they should have a role in figuring out how to keep the surrounding neighborhood free of the debris that emanates from their businesses.
Jeff was amazed at the amount of garbage that we picked up – the sheer amount of cellophane straw wrappers was unreal. And straws. And Big Gulps, and cigarette packs, and lottery cards, and candy wrappers. Honestly, I don’t know how people can even live on that block with the amount of litter that we found in the tree wells, along the hell strip, and in the street. It’s disgusting. The litter is a daily conundrum along this section of Elmwood – we didn’t even clean the east side of the street, because it tends to be a bit cleaner. Why? The roots of the problem – chain stores – are found on the west side of Elmwood. But that doesn’t mean that the east side of Elmwood is clean. We saw plenty of litter… we only allocated an hour to the clean up. Maybe we will head back another day to take care of the other side of the street.
As we were picking up the trash, Jeff continued to ask me questions about the problematic litter. “Where are the City’s street cleaners? Why isn’t the City dealing with this? Where are the home owners? What is the source of the litter?” We talked about the various buildings that lined the street, which are mostly residential, but there are a handful of businesses. As we approached one house, a lady walked outside, and thanked us for cleaning up. Then she asked us if we had any cigarettes. We told her no. She then pointed to some trash in her bushes and asked if we could use the grabber to get it. I felt like saying, “Can we get you a cup of coffee and a sandwich while we’re at it?”
A number of passersby asked us why we were picking up the trash. Others thanked us for picking up the debris. One guy enthusiastically yelled from his car, “Great job!” So people are obviously aware that there is a major trash issue on this section of Elmwood, yet the problem persists year after year. Once again, what’s the answer? Where are the City street cleaners? Where are the people that need to be racking up community service hours? Where are the signs that spell out that littering is illegal? Why aren’t chain stores like Rite Aid and 7-Eleven being held accountable for the trash that they are essentially profiting from? Where are the public service ads on the radio and on TV that say that it’s illegal to litter? Who the heck is responsible for cleaning up the trash, which is left behind on a daily basis by ignorant slobs?
If I was the City, I would be embarrassed. The City talks about attracting tourists to streets like Elmwood, and this is what they see when they get here? Not only does this touted commercial street have litter issues, so do the surrounding neighborhoods. It’s an epidemic that needs to be addressed, and one or two street cleanups a year is not the answer.
Honorable mention for most disgusting Elmwood storefront goes to Tokyo Shanghai Bistro, which is located on the 400 block of Elmwood. Earlier in the day I walked down to pick up the debris that was littered all over the front of their sidewalk, and in the street. How can you be a business owner on a street like Elmwood Avenue, or anywhere else for that matter, and not care about the garbage in front of your building? It’s been that way for years, and it’s a real shame. C’mon Elmwood, it’s time to get your act together.