Will a community garden alleviate dumping in Baltimore Highlands?

Written by on August 20, 2014 in Neighborhood News - No comments
Leverton Ave. gets more than its fair share of old mattresses. - Photo by Danielle Sweeney

Leverton Ave. gets more than its fair share of old mattresses. – Photo by Danielle Sweeney

Even with “sweeps” by Baltimore Housing’s Code Enforcement division and a recent cleanup and survey led by AmeriCorps volunteers, illegal dumpers seem to be gaining the upper hand in Baltimore Highlands.

On a recent Friday, three mattresses were piled up next to two televisions (one a busted-up wooden console) parts of two cars’ bumpers and grilles, clothes, rags, and other trash on the 3600 block of Leverton Ave. at Conkling St., which is the alley behind Gmart.

“That’s pretty much all the time,” says “Brett” of the debris. Brett lives nearby and does jobs for Milton Electric Co., which owns the property next to the alley, at 25 S. Conkling St. His main job is cleaning up trash and keeping his eye on vagrants and dumpers who regularly trespass on the property.

“There’s cameras in the alley,” he pointed out.

“It’s almost as bad over here,” he added, pointing to the company’s partly raised grassy lot—which used to be part of the railroad and now houses two containers the electric company uses for storage.

“There are people living over there sometimes,” he said, gesturing below, to a chain-linked fence.

“You see their plastic bags of stuff tied up?” he asked. “They’ll be back.”

Todd Borz, president of Milton Electric, said “they” are assorted vagrants and homeless drug users who have been sleeping on his property off and on for several years.

“More so during the summer. You see where the trash is and the grass is flattened down?” he pointed out. “That’s where they put up their tent.”

About a minute later, Borz motioned toward a couple, apparently under the influence of drugs, walking down Leverton Ave., at street level.

“That’s them, I think,” he said.

Borz said he’s called 311 numerous times for illegal dumping on his property.

As for the dumping in the alley, he said he has video footage of dumpers and is looking for tag numbers.

“The police say, ‘We’ll send somebody by,’ but it’s hard to catch them in the act,” Borz said.

He’s had the cameras in place for a about a year now because the dumping is such a problem.

“It affects me financially. I’ve been fined for other people’s trash.. I managed to get a few of those citations abated, but still,” he said. “And I pay Brett for several days’ work each month.”

Milton Electric has been in business for 50 years. Its headquarters is on the 3600 block of E. Lombard St., a few blocks away.

“We like the area. It has good access,”  Borz said of southeast Baltimore, but he admits he is at a loss for how to combat the dumping and trespassing. And, frankly, he said, he is not even sure the multiple surveillance cameras are a deterrent.

“I’m not in the police business,” he said.

Borz is however, trying to make his property less appealing to vagrants (he photographed a different one sleeping in the yard on Monday morning) and ultimately more attractive to the community.

Milton Electric recently signed a lease with the Highlandtown Community Association to use the land for community garden space.

Borz said: “I’m happy that they’ll be creating something here.”

“If all goes according to plan, we will have garden plots next season,” said HCA president Brian Sweeney, who added that the HCA intends to work with the Department of Public Works and Code Enforcement to enforce anti-dumping regulations.

“We’ll put up fencing and do whatever we need to make the area secure,” Sweeney said.

by Danielle Sweeney

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