Cleaning street clutter before big basketball games

      Trash on the streets in Syracuse / Joe Roetz

      In exactly two weeks, tens of thousands of fans will be packed inside the Carrier Dome to watch some Sweet Sixteen hoops action. But what is the city doing to clean up the streets filled with litter?

      From coffee cups to crushed pizza boxes, the streets and trees of Syracuse have it all. And it all needs to be cleaned up before the NCAA Tournament Regional games in two weeks. "I'd have a bad impression. First impressions are important. No matter if it's a city, a place or people," says Sheri Stukui of Syracuse.

      Melting snow has revealed a city-wide field of trash, and Syracuse Department of Public Works Commissioner Pete O'Connor will roll out cleaning crews to hit high target areas like highways and roads to the Carrier Dome early next week. "The gateways, downtown areas and routes where we are going to and from the Dome we expect all the people from out of town to visit. You have to go outside that after those are cleared first," says O'Connor.

      On top of that, the DPW is joining with other groups like the Metropolitan Development Association for one major clean sweep. On March 20th, at least 60 volunteers from the MDA will converge on the downtown area to help pick up all the trash. Then another 80 DPW workers with street sweepers and garbage trucks will come through to pick up all the bags. "I've got maps all set up for 4 areas we're going to attack. We're going to put a big dent in our spring cleaning," says Chuck McFadden, with the Downtown Committee.

      But some say it shouldn't fall on the city to do all the dirty work. Mary Beth Barclay, of Onondaga Hill, says, "People are so careless about what they toss out of their cars, or garbage that's blown around on trash pick up day."

      O'Connor doesn't know the price tag, but says taxpayers will shoulder the cost. Which they do every year when the city cleans the streets without the deadline and pressure of thousands and thousands of out of town guests.