Wrappers, beer cans and soda bottles are strewn everywhere. There's a random shopping cart full of metal wheelchair parts and used plastic bags. This is what residents living along a murky, shallow stream that runs parallel to Elmont Road in Elmont's Parkhurst neighborhood see.
Carl Achille, a New York Police Department detective, has lived in the community since 1995, attending Gotham Avenue School and Elmont Memorial High School. He has been a member of the Parkhurst Civic Association since his return home from serving in Iraq in 2004, at age 20, when he was named the membership vice president. Last year, he was elected president. Because of his longtime involvement in the community, people felt comfortable approaching him about the litter problem, he said.
"I have spoken with dozens of business people and residents along the creek, who have complained about this matter and are fed up with the lack of action, and are afraid of retribution," Achille said. "They complain that when they close up their shops and businesses for the night, upon arrival in the morning, they find trash, empty beer bottles and worse in their lots and on their properties."
The creek, which flows underneath the side streets perpendicular to Elmont Road, is about as wide as a car. It originates near Belmont Park and empties into Jamaica Bay. It has had many names over the years, including Hook Creek, Simonson Creek, Old Mill Creek and Brookville Creek, according to Sergei Kadinsky, a local blogger who wrote the book "Hidden Waters of NYC." The most commonly accepted name for the Elmont section of the creek, according to Kadinsky, is Simonson Creek.
Achille said that he was uncertain who is responsible for the maintenance of the creek, so he said he was unsure whom to call for help. Trash must, however, be cleaned up, grass mowed and a chain-link fence surrounding the creek repaired to prevent public access, he said.
Nassau County "used to come around and lay out rat traps, but [has] neglected to do so for so long that [residents] are afraid the rats will infest their homes and businesses," Achille said. "Other people I've spoken to stated that when the crews come to clean the creek, all they do is weed-whack the same spot for two or three hours and leave."
Trash isn't the only problem, he said. "Kids are tagging graffiti, and other suspicious persons are hanging out in the dark along the creek's bed because the fences are unlocked and unsecured," he said. "One homeowner has also said that a couple times he's had to chase people in pickup trucks from illegally dumping in the creek."
Elmont resident Roy Facey doesn't live in Parkhurst, but his home is near the creek, farther downstream. He can attest to what Achille and others have said about its current condition, agreeing that it has be cleaned up.
"The creek is a tributary supplying the water to a pond near me with dirty, polluted water," he said. "In this pond, the only thing you see are birds - ducks trying to swim in this slow, dirty water. This is deplorable and disgusting and shouldn't be like this at all."
The Herald contacted the Town of Hempstead, where spokeswoman Susan Trenkle-Pokalsky researched and found that the creek is a county property.
Amanda Laikin, a county spokeswoman, said there would be someone available to come out to the creek and attend to the situation.
"That ravine is under county jurisdiction, so our Department of Public Works will be the ones to clean up the litter," she confirmed in an email. "I can notify someone over there, and they will send someone out at their earliest convenience."
Laikin added that whenever residents living near the creek notice that it hasn't been maintained, or see suspicious activity around it, they are welcome to contact the Nassau County Constituent Affairs Office at (516) 571-6000 to report any issues.
"This is a quality-of-life issue," Achille said. "It's disgusting to see the creek like this. Hopefully we will get it cleaned up as soon as possible."