Category Archives: Trash


Trucking companies are, understandably, quite angry about this week’s announced crackdown on garbage haulers using back roads in the Finger Lakes to get to upstate landfills. Will the downstate municipal garbage authorities ever figure out that it might be cheaper (if slower) to haul trash to Seneca Falls via the Erie Canal system? (Not to mention greener?)

Miracle in Armory Square

OK, so maybe we’re so down that we’re seeing “miracles” everywhere, but I wasn’t the only one pleasantly surprised by Joanie Mahoney’s abruptly announced decision to flush the Armory Square sewage treatment plant, which hit the news on Saturday. A rare headline that makes you feel like it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood and that maybe wonderful things can happen after all. More reaction at Sean Kirst’s blog.

Would the Midland sewage plant (and the uprooting of an entire neighborhood) have been similarly stopped if Mahoney had been county exec when the decision was made? Well, I wouldn’t go that far with the optimism over a new vision for Central New York. One can retroactively, uselessly wish that that would have happened, but we’ll never know.

The Armory Square news was a surprise, but in a way, not a surprise. In covering the NYRI controversy, I once wildly speculated that New York Republicans, desperately searching for political traction, might delve deeper into green issues that the hidebound New York Democratic establishment wouldn’t touch. True, it’s been a fad for upstate Republicans to greenwash everything they do these days — every big groundbreaking involves the cutting of a green ribbon, and every tax break is written down in the ledgers in emerald ink. But there’s been less enthusiasm for allowing scientists and environmentalists to say anything. I think Mahoney really does care about doing things differently, but tying green innovation to the concerns of small business owners (bars and shops in Armory Square) also could be a way of getting back to small-business-friendly Republican values with a new twist.

Will other Republicans get on board, or will Mahoney be painted as a lone ranger? Joanie, don’t look back – “something may be gaining on you.”

WPA posters

Just quickly passing on this gallery of posters produced by the WPA during the Great Depression. Strangely, a few of them seem to reflect some of the concerns we talk about lately on our blogs, such as reading and cleaning up the neighborhood.

You can see a bigger collection of posters here at the Library of Congress website.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had public art projects that conveyed messages we should be taking to heart? (Or do we need to wait until the next Depression and the next WPA?)

Other People’s Blogs: Complaints Edition

Steve Balogh has checked in with a couple of new posts — one at Clean Up Syracuse, where he explains why he’s no longer actively maintaining that blog, and one at Baloghblog, where he starts a conversation on the future of OnTrack as it relates to DestiNY.

My personal experience with OnTrack is very limited. The first, only (and probably final?) time I rode it was to get back from Armory Square to the SU hill after volunteering at an “intro to Syracuse” event involving new students. It was 1:30 a.m., I was barely awake, but I couldn’t believe how grungy the cars were. I remember feeling it was an embarrassment for the city of Syracuse to be showing this as a way to try and reassure students that they could get to downtown easily. I know a lot of those students were probably quite used to riding less-than-pristine trains at home, but still.

A complaint by the PS’ Brian Cubbison directed at the Washington Post. And who knew that the Post-Standard has its own march? (Although it sounds more like a waltz)

Speaking of music (and hat tip to BuffaloPundit)… maybe what Syracuse really needs is its own Complaints Choir. Here’s the Helsinki choir that started it all.

Heck, you could just take half the letters to the editor and posts of all of the Syracuse-area blogs, set them to music and then we’d have ourselves a true cultural event that people might even want to come out and see.

Here’s my complaint: Why is the redecorated metal bench at the corner of Erie and McBride — public art supposedly meant to Uplift the City — only really visible to the people getting onto the %#^$%#& onramp to 690?!?

Sojourner trash

A few weeks ago, news came that one of the longtime custodians in my building at work — a lady with the gift for saying good morning a different way every day — was in the hospital with a sudden serious illness (and here I had assumed she had been taking a well-deserved vacation). Some temporary staff are filling in for her, but they must be overstretched, because since she’s been away, I’ve noticed that the ladies’ room on our floor is sometimes a mess. Water splashed around, paper towels wadded on the floor around the trash basket, and so on. This particular bathroom gets some student traffic, and America’s best and brightest young women are busy training on how to save the nation and can’t be expected to always aim precisely at a receptacle.

Besides, it is someone else’s job to clean up the bathroom. Apparently employees know this too, because yes, I have walked past the mess (in a hurry myself) and come back later and noticed the same pile of wadded up paper towels is there, with some new ones besides. At least once a day I find the time to pick up a wad or two. However, the wads just keep coming. Now what? Should I just ignore them like everyone else? After all… not my job. And nobody’s going to give me a gold star for doing it. And I personally don’t have time to stake out the bathroom and tell students to stop being slobs (would they even pay attention to me? doubtful).

I think the logical response to this problem would be to call together a bunch of co-workers and organize some sort of effort (or complaint) to deal with the occasional messes, but the building is full of a lot of different departments that have little to do with each other; not always a lot of socialization going on. The circles don’t naturally connect. And, even if you found two or three willing pinch-hitters, how do you know if they’ll really want to do this indefinitely? If we can’t or won’t pick up the wads consistently when we are each of us all alone, can we really assume that a group will want to really do it when together?

Last year I proposed a Day of Sojourn in which people would just take a lunch and a bottle of water and some good shoes and simply walk around from morning to eve, and I recall there being a potential litter component to this. “Sojourn” does not mean “journey,” but rather “a temporary stay or brief period of residence.” I don’t think I stressed that this day should be spent alone, but maybe it ought to be. Maybe anyone who wants to do something about trash should see if they have what it takes by facing a day, a week, a month of picking up the same miserable stuff from the same miserable spot over and over again. And strict rules: no pay, no gold stars, no appeals to the litterers, no appeals to the authorities, no appeals to group effort, no companionship. Just as an experiment.

How long would it take for one to give up? Or start really actively hating people who litter? When would the deranged muttering start? What are one’s personal limits? There is no sugar-coating that cleaning up after people day after day is a potentially spirit-killing activity. Doing it as a team can dull the horror, but in order to overcome it for very long, it’d have to be a pretty damn exceptional team. A certain long night of the soul would eventually have to be confronted by several individuals, before one could even hope to organize a worthy squad of long-term custodians.

So I think the sojourn idea is still a good one. And you don’t even have to travel far to go on this kind of “vision quest” as there is probably a “desert” right down the hall from you. But what person in their right mind would attempt it?