Keeping the Community Clean
Of the various challenges facing the Esperanza Neighborhood as we work to preserve and enhance this vibrant neighborhood, litter is one of the most irksome. This is especially true along the French Street commercial corridor. It has been a source of frustration for concerned residents and businesses for years, and a focus of our Esperanza Neighborhood Project from the beginning.
To tackle the problem, Esperanza Project participants take the matter in their own hands – literally! We organize volunteer neighborhood trash clean-ups multiple times a year. The most recent clean-up occurred on April 9 on the southern end of French Street, in and around Mile Run Brook, which runs through the neighborhood, usually overlooked, on its way to the Raritan River. That clean-up was a collaborative effort between the Esperanza Project, Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership, and the City of New Brunswick, among others.
Litter and cleanliness also emerged as a key priority for the French Street stakeholder team that is helping to guide our work with the City of New Brunswick for the New Jersey Neighborhood Preservation Program (NPP), funded by the state’s Department of Community Affairs. In the first year of the NPP project in 2020-21, we prioritized the installation of over 30 new, heavy-duty public trash cans along the corridor.
Now, in Year Two of NPP implementation, our collective fight against litter has new allies: the district clean team! Our newly formed clean team consists of two part-time employees, Manuel Drozd and Ricarda García. Both are long-time neighborhood residents who have a history of community involvement: Manuel is a school crossing guard and Ricarda has been an active participant in the Esperanza Neighborhood Project since its inception. Now, seven days a week, at least one of them is on the streets with their clean-up supplies, picking up litter and helping improve the cleanliness of French Street, Joyce Kilmer Avenue, and surrounding streets.
Ricarda’s work also includes watering the thirteen planters that were installed along the corridor last fall as another item in the NPP Implementation Plan. NBT enlisted a local landscaper to do seasonal plantings to keep the planters looking fresh and colorful. It is especially gratifying when our revitalization strategies can generate income for neighborhood residents and businesses. Another local small business, World Class Auto Body on Handy Street, has also contributed to this effort by serving as home base for the clean team and their supplies.
Together, these ongoing efforts around cleanliness and beautification, coupled with other physical improvements like our community murals and the 2021 renovation of War Memorial Park in the corridor, are helping to shift perceptions about the neighborhood. Our clean team members will be the first to tell you that this change doesn't happen overnight, particularly for a persistent challenge like litter. But together we are helping to show that a clean, attractive neighborhood is possible, and worth it!