STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Kissam Avenue in Oakwood Beach was once a quiet tree-lined street with over a dozen bungalows and beach homes — until Hurricane Sandy ravaged the area, destroying most of what stood, and the state buying back the remnants in the ensuing years.
Ten years after the superstorm, only two of those homes still stand at the very beginning of the street, leaving behind a nearly a half-mile stretch of virtually unmonitored and un-patrolled land, making it prime real estate for illegal dumping.
The Wanderers visited the street as part of the 10th anniversary of the infamous superstorm, and much of the same debris they spotted, including coolers, empty bottles, and discarded construction materials, are still visible almost a month later.
Potentially adding to the issue are monstrous potholes on the road, prohibiting any regular cleanup efforts.
Department of Sanitation spokesman Vincent Gragnani stated they are aware of the illegal dumping, and the area is under NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY) surveillance.
RAMPED UP SURVEILLANCE
Sanitation has recently ramped up its surveillance efforts, which included issuing a $4,000 fine and impounding a vehicle to a Staten Island dumper caught by Sanitation Police earlier this year.
Gragnani added that the program’s early success has led to expanded funding from the city.
“Mayor [Eric] Adams and Commissioner [Jessica] Tisch announced a $14.5 million cleanup initiative that includes a quintupling of our efforts to combat illegal dumping,” said Gragnani. “This initiative adds $1.4 million this fiscal year — and nearly $400,000 annually thereafter — for expanded camera enforcement against the scourge of illegal dumping. This will add 200 additional cameras to our current 50 cameras.
“Illegal dumping is a theft of public space, and with such steep consequences for violations, we consider dumpers to be among the stupidest criminals in the city. Illegal dumpers are on notice that more than 200 new cameras are coming to neighborhoods across all five boroughs. We will impound all vehicles caught in this crime, and those responsible face fines that start at $4,000,” he added.
Fines for illegal dumping can be as much as $18,000.
Additionally, monetary rewards of up to 50% of the fine collected are available for those who complete an affidavit after witnessing illegal dumping. The lawbreaker is fined, according to the DSNY website.
GUERRILLA WARFARE ON TRASH
The dumping even caught the attention of elected officials, including Borough President Vito Fossella, who implemented his “Don’t Trash on Me” initiative in March, where cleanup efforts are deployed systematically on the ground level by cleanup crews. This included a team member who was observed recently cleaning up Goethals Road North in Mariners Harbor, the same location the Advance reported on in September.
“There are sites we’ve cleaned and it stays immaculate for a while and it’s encouraging because all it needed what a little love and attention,” said Tiffany Arguello, spokesperson for the “Clean Team” as they’ve affectionately come to be known. “But there are other sites where we could clean and a half hour later it could be it’s destroyed again for a lack of better words.”
“It feels like it’s 100 against one,” she added. “It’s discouraging because right there it means there is a larger issue.”
Arguello suggested residents utilize her office as the starting point for reporting potential trouble areas, citing that complaints might hold weight with Fossella’s office involved. The office can be reached at statenislandusa.com/litter.
“I feel like we’re a good centralized office. We’re really focused on Staten Island first and foremost, and we have those connections already to city, state, and federal agencies,” she added. “We’re all partners in this. Once it’s on our radar, we can let the appropriate agency know where the problem areas are.
“I personally hate this because it is a self-made problem, and I feel like it’s 100% avoidable. I think it’s important that we recognize that we could do something about it. This is an excellent opportunity to work together and make us the cleanest borough. And I think that would be a great way to brand ourselves.”
Are there other illegal dumping areas that you’d like to see cleaned up? Email JPaderon@siadvance.com with the subject line, “Staten Island Dumps.”