A Modest Proposal

How to address Flushing’s malodorous sidewalk mines

When I first moved to New York in February, I was prepared for many aspects of big-city life: higher cost of living, the tremendous quantity of people everywhere you go, and the ubiquitous availability of public transit.  There were a few items, however, that nobody mentioned:  the way New Yorkers never touch handrails on escalators (for good reason!), the profound difference between living in Manhattan and out in “the boroughs,” and the stench of rancid curry trash in the summer sun.

The last of those is hard to describe, and really must be smelled for oneself.  Unlike much of the country, New  Yorkers do not put their garbage into bins or receptacles on trash pick-up day; they leave it in loose bags on the edge of the sidewalk.  Where I live, in Flushing, there is an abundance of Indian cuisine, and consequently many of those black plastic monstrosities are full of curry.

Now, I love curry, but when it has been left out in the sun, it begins to smell, then stink, then present the olfactory equivalent of first-degree assault.  Worse, the trash trucks compress the garbage as they pick it up, and from the sides of those mobile stench-machines flows a steady stream of foul-smelling, green-colored liquid that renders Flushing in need of, well, a flushing.  I apologize for that pun.

In a way, the addition of new, different stinks has the effect of at least varying to some degree the rancid air of the town.  However, the purpose of this proposal is to address a secondary, and most unwelcome, ubiquitous presence on our city streets: dog poop.

It is not a unique feature of New York that so many dog owners simply refuse to pick up after their pets.  In Lexington, I remember a particular zone in our subdivision affectionately-termed “poop island,” since there was a general consensus that this was the place for lazy people to allow their dogs to defecate without incurring the penalty of bending-the-hell-over to clean it up.

But, as they are in many things, New Yorkers are especially audacious.  Large, stinking mounds of dog crap are frequently left in the middle of sidewalks, on jogging trails, and even in crosswalks.    What is especially baffling about this is that Flushing is typically full of people, meaning these owners presumably leave their dog droppings in full sight of onlookers.  The role of social shame has been marginalized to the point of ineffectiveness.

After considerable thought, I believe a common-sense solution to this acute problem is simple, and involves snipers.  Imagine, if you will, a few strategically-placed gunmen on roofs overlooking Kissena park, the residential neighborhoods, and other points of interest in the city.  New York is singularly well-suited for this approach, because of the abundance of tall buildings.

Floating this idea by a few of my friends, one of the surprisingly-few objections I have heard is a general reluctance to kill people for doing something irritating.  Without getting into the distinction between the mild word “irritating” and the more appropriate term “sociopathic,” I would respond that a high body count is not necessary.  It really will only take a handful of casualties before word gets around, and I would imagine the prospect of life-threatening injury might have a more immediate and quantifiable effect than a “fine of up to $100,” which is seldom enforced.

Unfortunately, given the political climate of today’s New York City Council, I doubt they could implement even this common-sense reform to protect our citizens.  However, I find that visualizing this enforcement mechanism is an effective mental exercise, especially when scraping nasty dog crap off one’s jogging shoes.



Published in: on July 10, 2013 at 10:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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