When Joe Moretti moved to Jamaica, Queens, back in November of 2010, New York City was about to experience one of the worst blizzards in its history. As more than a foot of snow covered the streets and sidewalks of his new neighborhood, Moretti was unable to see what really lay beneath. It wasn’t until the snow started melting months later when he saw that the piles of snow covered up piles of garbage.
“There was a vacant lot next to my building that always had a bunch of garbage all over the sidewalks around it and people would keep putting more. I started taking pictures and sending them to the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and 3-1-1 because I wanted it cleaned up,” said Moretti, who has now been living in Jamaica for almost four years. “As I started walking all around Jamaica, I kept seeing more and more garbage, so more pictures and more reporting to the [DSNY].”
Moretti even took to YouTube, and posted music videos about it. While the videos garnered some media attention, Moretti wanted to get even more attention on the problem.
“I thought, ‘How can I crank this up some notches?’” Moretti said.
And that is when “Clean Up Jamaica Queens” was born. “Clean Up Jamaica Queens” is a blog Moretti started in 2013 to highlight the worst problems in the area: garbage strewn in to vacant lots, sidewalks and streets. He uses harsh language and writes in a tone that many might find offensive, but at the end of the day, he gets his point across.
“That has helped to bring attention to this major problem in Jamaica. Everyone is now talking about the garbage problem, whether they are offended by what I say or not. People are starting to do something. At the end of the day we all want the same thing: a cleaner, safer and better community, I just happen to do it in a loud and different way,” Moretti said.
He posts pictures that he takes around the neighborhood and writes a few choice words for some of Jamaica’s elected officials.
“Our leaders have been completely useless on this issue and have failed to do anything. They need to make sure that all the laws on the books such as littering, uncovered garbage cans and household garbage in public garbage cans are enforced,” he said. “People here feel they can do whatever they want because there are no consequences. It truly is the Wild Wild West of Queens.”
The blog is not all negative though. While its main focus is to bring attention to Jamaica’s garbage problem, Moretti also takes the time to talk about the good.
“The best thing [about Jamaica] would be the inside of the former Loews Valencia Wonder Theater (now the Tabernacle of Prayer Church) on Jamaica Avenue, which is completely intact and the only one in NYC that has been preserved. It is one of the most beautiful places you will ever see,” said Moretti. “The homes in the Addesleigh Park section of Jamaica are also gorgeous. At one time many of the jazz greats lived there back in the days. People think Jamaica is all crap, but there are some beautiful homes here and especially in that section.”
In recent months, there have been plans to revitalize and beautify Jamaica. Earlier this month, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz revealed plans to install dozens of light posts along Jamaica Avenue to encourage nightlife. The Sutphin Boulevard Improvement District plans to replace awnings in front of businesses, and a new department store on Jamaica Avenue is in the works. All of these changes are great, Moretti said, but pointless if the trash issue is not handled first.
“If you are not going to clean up the area and take care of the garbage problem, all those things are just the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig. I mean, what good does it do to put new signs or awnings up, when the community is filled with garbage?
How about cleaning it up first?” Moretti said.
As long as he continues to live in Jamaica, Moretti said he will continue to post on his blog and continue to shine light on the problems.
“There is this bizarre part of me that gets off in taking on the powers to be here in Jamaica. It’s an adrenaline rush,” said Moretti. “Will it ever be what it once was? Probably not. But it can be great in a different way.”