QUESTION OF THE MONTH
September's question asked readers to send us photos or write us letters about the "trashy stories" in their neighborhood.
Who's to blame for trash: the city or its citizens?
This trash has been sitting here for two months. It's behind the 400 block of N. Milton Ave. off Jefferson Street in East Baltimore.
The rats playing in this trash are big as cats. Children also play in this area.
Repeated calls for a clean up have been unsuccessful.
John Parrish Baltimore
When I saw the picture of a heap of trash sitting behind a group of rowhouses, it made me wonder: Why would a neighborhood not band together to clean it up ("The City That Reeks," editorial, Aug. 30)?
Must the city expend special resources to haul away trash that was apparently put there by neighborhood residents?
I would be ashamed to see my house as the backdrop to this horrible site and cannot believe someone would have the nerve to complain that the city had not done its job.
Joseph A. Giordano Finksburg
In regard to the trashy story on Bethel Street, I wonder who put the trash in the junk heap there? Is it the same people lamenting the rats and the smell?
This is the sort of trash heap that is cleaned up one week, but comes back the following week.
Mary Beauchamp Baltimore
I have a neighbor across the alley who habitually puts black plastic bags full of garbage on the ground -- only to have them ripped open by crows, dogs, rats or the weight of their own contents.
More than a year of complaint calls to housing inspectors at the Northern Neighborhood Service Center has brought no permanent improvement in the situation.
Adding insult to injury, as the city's sanitation workers toss the ripped bags into their trucks, the bags' foul contents pour into the alley, where they are left.
By not taking decisive action to enforce its sanitation code, then spilling loose garbage into the alley and not picking it up, I feel the city is as guilty as my neighbor of trashing the neighborhood and feeding the rats.
Herman M. Heyn Baltimore
I have experienced the failure of city sanitation workers to take all my trash on my pickup day.
I want to issue a plea to each and every trash-removal employee to see his or her job as fulfilling a duty to protect the public health and the city by doing a job of utmost importance.
If trash collectors fail to pick up all the trash, it allows birds and animals to tear the remaining bags and strew debris in the area.
This is not only unsightly but can lead to rodent infestation.
Barbara Kimbrel Baltimore
Trashing the place where they live seems to have become the past time of choice for many Baltimore citizens. Is it a game to see which neighborhood can look the worst or which street can present the worst possible image to those who drive on it?
Are points awarded for the person or persons who can most often ignore the city's few corner metal trash baskets that are not constantly over flowing because of lax trash collection?
Is there some sort of contest that rewards the one who fills the medians with the most trash, litter, rubbish and yard debris?
I have lived in the city most of my life and in Northwood for the past 14 years. It just makes me sick to see what is happening along the streets near my home.
During the past few years, Loch Raven Boulevard, The Alameda and Argonne Drive have become dumping grounds.
It is those who walk and drive the streets who make the mess.
We may demand that the mayor increase his administration's efforts to clean up after the careless and irresponsible, but there must be a change in the behavior of her citizens before Baltimore can become "The City That's Clean."
Mike Maguire Baltimore
Residents must take pride in their city
I read The Sun's editorial about the trash on Bethel Street and agree that trash is piled everywhere in the city ("The City That Reeks," editorial, Aug. 30).
While driving along Orleans Street, I couldn't help but notice the filthy alleys and streets, trash everywhere.
As a child and young adult, I lived in the city. The white marble steps were scrubbed every Saturday, the neighbors swept the front and back pavements, and all the trash was put in trash cans.
We never even thought of demanding that the city come and clean.
It would be nice if all the people living in Baltimore now would roll up their sleeves and do a little cleaning.
It's not too hard and the end results would be something to be proud of.
Donald Pakulski Joppa
For more than 35 years, I have commuted from Harford County to Baltimore and along U.S. 40 and the exit from it to Moravia Road. The necklace of trash there has always been visible and especially unsightly to tourists.
But recently the trash has become horrendous and has turned into a yoke around the city's entrance.
It's a disgrace and colors every visitor's impression of "Charm City," coming and going.
Anne J. Mackenzie Bel Air
Here are three initiatives that we Baltimoreans can participate in to help eliminate the disgusting problem of litter in the city:
"Don't Litter the Street Where I Sleep" -- Get third-grade and fourth-grade Baltimore public school children involved in a campaign where they tell others not to throw trash and garbage on the very streets on which they reside.
"Baltimore You Are So Beautiful" -- Offer mayoral citations to units of blocks where homeowners take special care in maintaining their properties. Recognition could be made monthly in the Maryland section of The Sun or on one of the local TV stations.
"Baltimore You're Busted" -- Allow juvenile offenders "to work to rebuild some of the city's vacant and abandoned properties as a community service initiative in Baltimore.
Gwendolyn M. Jones Baltimore
Why did The Sun ask for a trashy story? Isn't that depressing to everyone?
The Sun should have asked about specific neighborhoods that are clean. How about some good examples?
I suggest that The Sun ask Baltimore residents to take charge. Do not wait for someone else to clean up, take responsibility.
Have each neighbor have a "Keep Maryland Beautiful" mentality. Have a weekly street and alley check.
We must start with ourselves, then the community. There should be pride instead of shame.
The city's health department should cite violators. Trash breeds and feeds disease and rats. Residents should be advocates for the health department.
And how about recycling abandoned buildings?
Let's knock down all the city's abandoned buildings and salvage all usable materials for resale to help pay for demolitions.
I've lived here all my life, I love Maryland and want the best for her. My great-grandfather carved the doors of City Hall. And I do my part.
I think it is shameful for us to have beautiful ballparks that are too expensive for many folks to attend, located near trashy neighborhoods.
Where are our priorities?
Margaret L. Kiel Baltimore
How can we clean the mess?
I live on the 3800 block of Fairhaven Ave. in Brooklyn and am sending in pictures of the middle of the alley in back of my house.
I have called the city to ask that someone come and clean the alley. Officials told me they will see what can be done. Nothing happened.
I called again. City workers came, all right, but just picked up the big stuff such as cabinets, old TVs and nightstands. They left all the other garbage there.
The children playing in the alley have already set two fires. The firetrucks came, but still no one cleaned up the alley.
The trash has decayed and smells, but the children break glass and drag things out to be thrown all over the alley.
I cannot take my car up the alley to wash it because I'm afraid of getting a flat tire. And every time I open my gate, I have to pick up and sweep before I can get out.
Anna M. Smith Baltimore
I am a resident of the 1600 block of Clarkson St. There are several trashy areas in the neighborhood.
The vacant lot on West Heath Street (in the 100 block) is a neighborhood dumping ground.
A house in the 1600 block of Race St. has been vacant for several years. The front yard is full of weeds, which are as high as the fence.
The rear yard is also a dumping area for neighbors' unwanted trash and other things they don't want.
The third problem is a burned-out house in the 1600 block of Clarkson St.; it has been that way for one year.
After repeated calls all summer (one call a week), the trash problem at the Race Street house remains unsolved.
Yet city workers were in the neighborhood on Sept. 12 and 13 citing residents for problems such as trash bags sitting in yards, dog waste in several yards and, in one case, because a neighbor had cardboard in her yard.
Linda Lowther Baltimore
The back of the 4200 block of St. Georges Ave. runs up to the back of the 4200 block of Ivanhoe Ave. During the past years, people have dumped trash and old furniture in this area, behind the St. George's Apartments.
The problem has been brought to the attention of the city police and sanitation departments.
A police officer told me this area has been a dump as long as he has been on the force and that he could do nothing about it.
The city sanitation inspector told me that the only thing he could do was to write the property owner a citation for the trash on his property.
As of the writing of this letter, no action has been taken.
My concerns now are how to get this cleaned up and then stop the dumping.
James C. Thornton Baltimore
Restore integrity to city's streets
I took a stroll through the mean, broken streets of Harlem Park the other day, camera in hand, looking at children's playgrounds in the inner blocks where handsome rows of alley houses used to be on narrow streets.
Conventional planning ideology told me to expect dozens of happy-faced kids shrieking with delightful enjoyment in the final few days before school started again, running and playing to their hearts' content in the expansive and bucolic open spaces the city provided after demolishing those "horrible" little alley houses that continue to threaten Baltimore neighborhoods with swift and certain doom.
What a surprise when I found no one in the playgrounds, but everyone on the streets and sidewalks, where their parents and guardians on front stoops could watch them in close proximity to their homes.
Even without the acrid piles of dumped trash, ruined furniture, old appliances, 4-foot-high weeds, broken glass and the stench of rotting animal carcasses among dilapidated playground equipment, these children's open spaces suffer at least one fatal design flaw: No eyes to supervise.
All of the adjacent houses have their backs to the playgrounds, making the playgrounds unsafe because no one can see them.
Not even the drug trade uses them, I suspect, because they are too isolated from the street.
Harlem Park is a prime example of the folly of thinning out the density of buildings in favor of creating more open space in an attempt to improve the neighborhood.
Part of the solution for the city (after shutting down the drug trade, cleaning up the trash and keeping it clean, getting after irresponsible landlords and securing vacant buildings) is for planners to go out and observe how folks actually use public spaces.
The astute will see the logic in replacing the playgrounds with rowhouses, following the original street pattern that worked so well -- and thus beginning to restore well-designed places for children to grow in a safe environment.
It is a strategy worth trying, before the other marginal neighborhoods are led down the same destructive path to certain failure.
And, as for the trashed playgrounds, Baltimore should be ashamed. Don't the children of Harlem Park deserve the same quality of life and security as those in Roland Park?
Steven H. Allan Baltimore
Trashy scenes speak of neglect
I'm very pleased that The Sun is featuring the trash problem.
A group of us in the Baltimore-Linwood Association have been fighting trash for years. Constant vigilance has helped, but the problems persist for many reasons.
Enclosed are two photos of the alley behind Jefferson Street at the 400 block of N. Rose St. (see above and right). This alley is not within the boundaries of the Baltimore-Linwood Association, but it is so disgraceful that I just had to send these photos.
These photos speak for themselves of total neglect by residents, landlords, sanitation crews and the city's Department of Public Works.
Virginia Dobry Baltimore
As I look out my bathroom window in the 2500 block of W. Pratt St., I think to myself, "What's going on? Have I been transported to a Third World country?"
The reality sets in: This is the place I call home, Baltimore City.
From the window I see several abandoned houses that haven't been boarded up; yards used as miniature inner-city dumps; and plenty of places for drug dealers to hide their stash.
The trash piles up and overflows into the alley so much that it is amazing that the trash truck can make it up the alley. The trash is allowed to get so high that the Department of Public Works must bring in earth-movers and dump trucks to clean one yard.
Yes, there are plenty of responsible homeowners and renters who try to make a difference by keeping their yards and surroundings clean and beautiful.
But when the majority of the neighborhood is rat-infested, trash-filled, drug stash houses overrun by weeds, it makes me wonder what my tax dollars are paying for -- especially after I've met face-to-face with city officials who make promises, yet never follow through effectively.
Barbara Barnes Baltimore
I have lived at 1504 N. Luzerne Ave. for more than 40 years. The neighborhood has changed tremendously in that time.
My block is made up mostly of senior citizens who are homeowners. The block's decline started when renters began to move to the adjacent streets.
The alleys are now full of trash and debris that is placed there by renters and their children.
Across from the rear of my home, in the 1500 block of Rose St. are vacant houses and a pigeon coop.
The sight and smell are awful. The six houses facing the rear of my home appear to be vacant.
The houses should be boarded up and demolished.
I pray that something can be done to abate this problem.
Inez Tisdale Baltimore