Home News Local news Community Residents Demand Answers About Trash, Abandoned Cars and Traffic

Community Residents Demand Answers About Trash, Abandoned Cars and Traffic

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Oct. 30, 2006 — In addition to improving parking and traffic flow in downtown Charlotte Amalie, public officials say they want to meet the "immediate needs" of residents living in nearby communities, such as the Garden Street and Long Path areas.
Those issues include the need for better garbage collection, increased surveillance and the removal of abandoned and junk vehicles, local residents said. About 25 came out Monday evening for a public meeting at the All Saints Cathedral School.
The residents were adamant when discussing their concerns, calling for government agencies such as the Department of Public Works (DPW) and the Waste Management Authority (WMA) to address problems that have "been festering for years."
Long Path residents specifically mentioned overflowing garbage bins that "attract rats," the increase of bars and "whorehouses" in the area and the need to clean out nearby gutters and trim trees. Many also suggested that inoperable fire hydrants be replaced in case of emergencies, and that abandoned cars that have already been removed by the Abandoned Vehicle Task Force continue to stay out of the neighborhood.
Long Path resident Lillian Garfield said that building an access road out of the area should also be explored, giving residents "a way out" in the event of a fire or other "catastrophe."
Garden Street residents advocated for better traffic flow around the All Saints area and parking spaces for homeowners whose driveways get blocked by outside vehicles. Speed bumps and visible crosswalks are needed around the school zone to stop motorists from speeding, said community activist Hernando T. "Ike" Williams.
Signs designating a one-way street adjacent to the school are being ignored, indicating a need for more police presence and enforcement, residents said. A number of abandoned houses in the area serve as headquarters for vagrants and drug dealers, they said.
Government officials attending the meeting — including Public Works Commissioner George Phillips, St. Thomas-St. John Administrator James O'Bryan and Deputy Police Chief Elvin Fahie — said they would work with the community to solve such problems by networking with other government agencies and meeting with residents on a regular basis. Organizing public meetings give residents a "direct way to interact with the government officials so that problems get solved," Phillips said.
While Phillips said he would direct concerns about garbage pickup and disposal to the WMA, he explained that Public Works would take a more hands-on approach to addressing traffic congestion and parking problems in the area.
An assessment study spanning from Estate Catherineberg to Main Street will look at enhancing the downtown area, Phillips said, and would lay out a plan for improving roads and creating "reserve parking" areas for neighborhood residents.
"This is part of an ongoing project to create parking in the downtown Charlotte Amalie area," he said. "We'll also be looking into the various neighborhoods to see what we can do about parking there. The reserve spaces will ensure that the property owners have a spot for themselves, which they will be certified to use."
Federal dollars would also go toward beautifying the neighborhoods, Phillips said, and would help with cleaning out gutters, installing guardrails and constructing sidewalks, among other things.
While Public Works would have to obtain certain permits to take care of trimming obstructive trees and erecting speed bumps, Phillips said, the department is looking into turning Garden Street into a one-way road so parents could drop off their children at All Saints without being impeded by other motorists. Traffic on that street coming down from Estate Catherineberg would flow southbound from about 7 to 9 a.m. and again in the afternoon for student pickup.
"Within the next one or two days," Phillips said, Public Works will repaint crosswalks and other road signs that have faded.
Calls for more surveillance in the Garden Street area prompted Fahie to say that the Police Department would have to look at placing roadside cameras in the "proper places."
"There are some cameras on Garden Street that were donated by the some of the local businesses," he said. "And we've been asked to look at where they have been placed, since some of them are being blocked by trees and other structures. So we're working on placing them based on the intelligence we gather so that residents can get the maximum benefit of the cameras."
The need to keep abandoned vehicles out of the neighborhoods also drew a lot of discussion. However, O'Bryan, head of the Abandoned Vehicle Task Force, did not offer a solution on how to keep the cars out of the area once they have been removed.
Once an abandoned vehicle has been identified, he said, the owner has 48 hours to remove it. "However, if they move their car even 10 or 20 feet, then I have to start the process all over again," O'Bryan said. "We've been playing this game of tag all over St. Thomas."
Both Fahie and O'Bryan advocated for increased community involvement to solve some of the problems. "When we're talking about abandoned vehicles, community members have to call us and let us know who's doing it," O'Bryan said. "That goes for other things as well. I've spent almost $40,000, for example, cleaning out the gutters in the Long Path and Garden Street areas.
"Yet the trash keeps building up, and the Waste Management Authority has a problem cleaning it up because its being blocked by all the cars. We have to have help from the communities and support from all the neighbors. Call us up and let us know what's going on."
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