A large, red and white “No Dumping” sign, affixed to a wall in the alley next to Lopez Barbershop on South Main Street in Freeport, was half hidden from view from the sidewalk on a recent Thursday. Meanwhile, a trash can in front of the shop overflowed with garbage, including an overstuffed bag of household trash.
Litter on South Main Street, in Freeport’s central business district, between Sunrise Highway and Merrick Road, has been a topic of concern for the South Freeport Civic Association recently. In July, Joseph Gambino, the association’s president, and members of the group discussed how to clean up South Main — and keep it clean. In cooperation with the Village’s Department of Public Works, the group agreed to maintain flowerbeds along the thoroughfare and take an aggressive approach to cleaning up litter there.
“The inspiration is to maintain the quality of life and keep Freeport looking beautiful,” Gambino said. “DPW addressed our concerns immediately, and now we’re keeping our end of the bargain by talking to business owners about the importance of keeping our streets clean.”
Lopez Barbershop opened a little over a year ago. Owner Jorge Lopez does all he can, he said, to tidy up around his shop, in between tending to customers. It’s hard to keep the street clean, however, because the wind blows in garbage, and some people deposit their household trash in the receptacles on the street, he said.
Still, Gambino said, shop owners must make more of a concerted effort to keep the street clean. The DPW fixed or replaced the flower planters that were broken and often confused by passersby as trash receptacles. The village also planted pink buttercup flowers in them. The SFCA is now watering the plants.
By July 19, the flowers were in full bloom, and business owners said they appreciated the efforts of the DPW and SFCA. That day, Gambino and Jennifer Winters, the civic association’s vice president, joined Cristobal Lopez, president of Latinos for Progress, to meet business owners on the street and stress the importance of cleanliness.
“We’re speaking to the business owners to let them know that they have to keep their fronts clean,” Cristobal said in his native Spanish. “We’re also asking if they have a plant in front of their store to help water it. This will help make the business look better.”
The project, Gambino said, will be an ongoing effort.
In the past, the village fined businesses $1,000 if trash accumulated in front of their shops. According to village code, “No person shall throw or deposit litter on any street, sidewalk or other public places within the village, except in public receptacles or authorized private receptacles for collection.”
Also according to the code, “The owner or occupant of any premises has to keep the sidewalks free from dirt, filth, weeds and other obstructions.”
“This is a wake-up call for these business owners,” Lopez said.
The assistant manager of Island Bedding Furniture, Angelica Fernandez, said she starts her day by cleaning up in front of the store — after her shop was ticketed three times in the past 10 years because trash had collected out front. The fines, she said, were costly.
“We’re happy to see the plants in front of our store,” Fernandez said in her native Spanish. “Before I’ve never [seen] anything in the planters. I’m happy to help water and care for it.” Like Jorge Lopez, Fernandez said she appreciated the new effort to clean and fix up South Main Street.
“Three words to sum all of this up: Education, awareness and enforcement is what we need to keep our streets clean,” Gambino said. “I’d like to see more ‘No Littering’ signs.”
There are six trash receptacles on South Main Street between Sunrise Highway and Merrick Road. More are needed, business owners and civic association members said.
“We need help with the face-lift of” South Main Street, Winters said. “We can educate all we want, but the support and backup is also necessary.”
According to Gambino and Winters, the civic association will continue reaching out to community members to raise awareness about the need to clean up and work with village officials to beautify the area.
South Main Street “is our main vein,” Winters said. “Our stores deserve our attention, and so does our neighborhood.”