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Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia takes to social media to combat city's trash problem

A photo of illegal dumping outside an apartment on Appleton Street in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
Joshua Garcia
A photo of illegal dumping outside an apartment on Appleton Street in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia is addressing the city's excess trash problem in a bold way. He has taken to social media, specifically his Facebook page, to call out property managers and landlords by name who are allowing trash to overflow in the alleyways behind or next their building.

The landlords own the alleyways behind their building, not the city, Garcia explained.

"We've started issuing fines for building owners who are not contacting the Board of Health to pick up their trash," Garcia said. "It's cheaper to pay the fine than to adequately maintain this trash situation, so now landlords are just paying the fine, but the problem still continues. There's definitely a culture issue going on in the city when it comes to this trash problem."

Garcia said Holyoke residents who see trash in alleyways or piling up outside of their apartments are not quick to say anything.

"The situation is not going to resolve until the public, the residents that live downtown start holding people accountable and that's what I'm trying to wake up here is is the community to put their foot down and demand better responsibility from their landlords and managers," Garcia said.

Garcia is urging residents, especially residents of color who live in south Holyoke, to call the mayor's office when they see illegal dumping.

He has also allocated $40,000 from the city's free cash revenue towards studying trash and recycling management issues.

Garcia said households of up to four units have no-cost trash pickup provided by the city. Those with more than 4 units —typically apartment buildings — have an outsourced trash collection system put in place by property managers.

Garcia also said that most renters don't know they can get a Department of Public Works dump card and dump their large items during open hours at the DPW.

"The city needs to do a better job sharing that information and what they can do...there is a fee imposed. But again, looking at that system [through the study], should we be charging a fee? Should we be having different hours of operations because the hours don't necessarily align with people's working hours," Garcia said.

He said he interested in seeing the research results and wants to create policies that will improve how Holyoke residents dispose of their trash.

Updated: August 26, 2022 at 3:02 PM EDT
Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia clarified that the city does offer a no-cost trash pickup service, but only to households with up to four units. Any property with more than four units must outsource its trash collection service.

Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.
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