Group aims to ‘protect and preserve’ city’s environment

By Alberto Gilman
Posted 10/25/23

Keep Newburgh Beautiful, a community cleanup organization, presented to city council on Thursday, October 19 to discuss their clean up efforts and discuss alternative solutions to address city waste …

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Group aims to ‘protect and preserve’ city’s environment


Keep Newburgh Beautiful, a community cleanup organization, presented to city council on Thursday, October 19 to discuss their clean up efforts and discuss alternative solutions to address city waste and maintain city cleanliness and wellness.

Keep Newburgh Beautiful was first formed by Maggie Mehr in 2019 and today involves weekly cleanups within the city. Cleanups are held from 9 to 11 a.m. on Thursday and continue to raise the awareness of the trash crisis and maintain cleanliness in the city.

In the beginning of Keep Newburgh Beautiful, Mehr was able to bring trash to the city’s Department of Public Works to be disposed of properly. Over the last three years, resident Linda Jansen has been consistently helping Mehr in her efforts and resident Rebecca Brown has helped in establishing an online presence. Naomi Hersson-Ringskog has also helped with various planning and research efforts.

In 2023, Will Cappelletti purchased 100 new 96 gallon lidded bins for city residents and the goal for 2024 is for Keep Newburgh Beautiful to purchase 1,000 new trash bins for city residents. The mission of Keep Newburgh Beautiful is “to protect and preserve the environment for current and future generations”.

Within the city, William Street, South William Street, Hasbrouck St, West Parmenter, First St, Van Ness, City Terrace, Lutheran and South William outside St. George’s Cemetery are streets that have been constantly asked for help to remove waste. During her time at cleanups, comments brought to Mehr’s attention from citizens have shared the common notion of lack of care from the city.

“This perception is due to the general lack of maintenance, streets filled with potholes for years, no public trash cans where they should be, trash on the sidewalks, drug dealing and use going unpunished often in broad daylight in front of children and everyone,” Mehr said.

Mehr requested from council that there be uniform trash bins across the city in residential areas, bring new trash receptacles to the commercial corridors and place them on corners near bodegas and corner stores and for state officials to pass legislation for fines for waste to be similar to parking tickets fines.

Other requests asked to the council were for Orange County to reopen the transfer station to reduce time, money and wear and tear on trucks and for the city-wide clean up twice a year instead of Earth Day.

Mehr also expressed concerns over the drug dealing and the needles that have been collected while doing regular cleanups. She expressed her concern over the residents who live within the areas that Keep Newburgh Beautiful cleans who want to have a clean, safe neighborhood.

City council members thanked Mehr for the presentation before making their comments on the matter.

“We [city council] are in support of the 96 gallon trash cans. We do need a city-wide Keep Newburgh Beautiful or don’t litter campaign,” said Councilman Anthony Grice. “If DPW is doing something, the city is doing something. DPW is one of our departments, we don’t have departments in silos.”

A city resident her whole life, Councilwoman Giselle Martinez has seen the changes that have come about with the cleanliness and maintenance of the city and hears the concerns addressed. She encouraged the group to attend the city budget sessions to request what could be needed for the city going forward.

“You [Mehr] do this every week and I commend you for doing what you do,” said Councilwoman Ramona Monteverde. “Whatever I can do to help support you, I’m here to do that.”

Other council members equally thanked the group for their efforts and shared from their own separate encounters and feedback how the city can work towards city cleanliness and improve city quality of life.

DPW Superintendent George Garrison addressed comments by sharing that Community Development Block Grant funding pays for two full-time employees to go around and clean up trash, mow, weed whack and shovel sidewalks each day. The recreation department also sends out one individual seven days a week to clean up the parks across the street.

“This council, this mayor, this city manager, this will be the third year, starting in this budget this year, set aside $150,000 every year for the last three years for the Clean Sweep Project,” he said. “It pays for four people, City of Newburgh residents that go out every day, Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 o’clock.” These individuals funded through the city council go to the streets mentioned in the presentation each week, said Garrison.

Garrison also said that garbage is picked up at 4 a.m. each day by the sanitation department and Broadway and various city streets are always swept. While the garbage receptacles help, the city has faced the problem of city businesses using them as their own personal garbage collection. The city mayor and city manager also brought back the free bulk pickup each quarter, Garrison said. Over 12,000 pieces city wide were collected during that last pickup. “The city, to me, is doing everything possible that they could do,” said Garrison. “We’re out there everyday.”

Police Chief Anthony Geraci concurred and echoed Garrison’s remarks, sharing that the city, under the leadership of the city manager, has a Quality of Life Task Force in place that is composed of city department heads to help mitigate the issues presented.

Geraci and the executive team are also working towards reducing the numbers of disposed needles in the city. With crime and dumping present, the city police are addressing those issues through lighting efforts, officer patrols and speaking with property owners to address waste concerns.