Time to clean up our act

Published 7:44 pm Saturday, October 1, 2016

Dirty diapers, an empty, crushed and torn Kotex box, a plastic shopping bag and an unidentifiable bottle of what appeared to be some sort of bathroom cleaner.

That’s the pile of garbage that greeted me as I prepared to leave the city’s parking lot on South Saratoga Street, next to the Suffolk News-Herald’s office, on Saturday.

The garbage had been left along the curb next to the News-Herald’s building, but it’s easy to find plenty of other garbage scattered throughout the lot lately.

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A month or two ago, I stumbled across a plastic sandwich bag filled with a green, leafy substance that didn’t much look like oregano. I suspect someone was quite distraught later that evening to find that the bag had fallen out of his or her pocket.

For the past 18 to 24 months or so, such sights have become increasingly common.

During the same period, the lot has also become a haven for abandoned vehicles and vehicles that are clearly broken down and left to remain that way for months on end.

The result is that the lot has become an eyesore and a blight on the neighborhood.

That’s bad news for us at the newspaper, and it’s bad news for other businesses in the downtown area, not to mention the residents of the apartments along West Washington Street.

With parking at a premium in the downtown core, this parking lot is a linchpin to future development.

If folks don’t feel safe there, and if they’re disgusted by the garbage that piles up around the lot, they’ll stop parking there. And without this lot, downtown’s already-limited parking options dwindle significantly. Furthermore, the garbage left untended in the lot is a health hazard, and it encourages folks to think that what they do in the lot doesn’t matter.

Believe me, the pile of disgusting trash I found on Saturday is far from the most disgusting thing I’ve seen in that lot in the past couple of years. I can’t share in a family newspaper the worst of what I and others have seen.

Policing the activities in the lot and keeping it clean are not simple matters, to be sure. Closing the lot to allow city workers to run a street sweeper through would cause some short-lived burden for the many residents of the new apartments, for those who work nearby and for those coming downtown to shop.

But simply hoping folks will show a little consideration for others has not worked at all. It’s time for the city to take stronger measures.

I can’t imagine the contempt for common decency that would cause someone to leave a pile of dirty diapers in a parking lot, and if I were visiting the downtown area to shop or eat and encountered such a sight, I probably would make that my last visit.

Please, Suffolk, clean up your act.