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News / City Life

Pick up your trash, you lazy litterbugs!

Pick up your trash, you lazy litterbugs!
Photograph: Shutterstock

Sure, there are litterbugs all over the world. But I think the ones in New York City are the most egregiously callous. Not only have there been patient antilittering campaigns in the U.S. for decades, there are thousands of public trash cans in this city within a half-block’s reach. Every time you choose to say screw you to society and toss your refuse into the street, fueling our rampant rat problem, it’s like a punch in the stomach to all of us who take pride in our city.

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The closest I’ve come to being assaulted during decades of living here has been when I’ve called out litterers with a, “You’ve dropped something,” which makes the pinheads do a double take and either pick up their castaways (rarely) or graduate to verbal abuse. Although a smug comment is way less confrontational than “Pick that up, and put it in that garbage can right over there, asshole,” it does piss them off. Another protest method is picking up people’s litter while they watch you do it, but you’re still likely to be insulted afterward. Walking along Bleecker Street last year, I witnessed several McDonald’s bags catapulted from an open car window onto the sidewalk. I immediately threw the trash back through the car window. Four hulking women then emerged from the parked car and swung at me. Oh, how I ran.

As I continue to see litter strewn across my Lower East Side neighborhood, I try to sidestep the depression it invites with philosophy; somewhere along the line, these offenders were never taught basic rules of human decency, so now it’s my job as a parent—and a New Yorker—to pass the lesson on.



Nancy Z

You know what is also depressing, the young children on the trains being given fast food to eat on the subway rather then at a dinner table. Family time at dinner is becoming a thing of the past.

Paul W

The unpublishable. Agreeing with Bruce Northam, but the unsaid is the elephant in the room. When he describes being assaulted by four hulking women who threw McDonald's trash out their car window, I'll give odds that the missing word in the description is "Black".

Still there?  I live in the South Bronx. There, littering is a badge of "Pride, or if you like, a form of social protest.
Police are prohibited there from issuing summonses for 'Quality of Life' offenses which included littering -- but also extend to loud music, open container, and urinating in public. These have been officially deemed "Cultural Norms".

The result is catastrophic, and the threat of physical assault for objection to the acceptance of barbarism as a way of life is a natural outgrowth. Of course the tribal justification is the theme of those who casually abuse pedestrians at the wheel of their Mercedes sedans and SUVs. Perhaps it's fair to say that the reversion to primitivism that is the current fashion in NYCs African American "community" is in some part due to being excluded from social and economic opportunity. Indeed, it's popular for the that community and the pseudo-liberal Left with our Mayor Di Blasio in the lead -- to explain away a concerted behavior as reaction to long-term racial tension and prejudice.

But how does reaction to racial prejudice explain the phenomenon I commonly see on the streets of my predominately "minority" neighborhood?  I mean seeing African Americans berate African immigrants; insulting , threatening, and even spitting at them.  Ditto the animosity between Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. Like I said...unpublishable.