Friday, April 18, 2008

Public Drinking Mars City Life

Outside my polling place Tuesday evening, one of the poll workers was moving her car just as one of Block 832’s all-day drinkers staggered up the street. As the poll worker was getting out of the car to return to her duties, the man grabbed a nearby street sign and then slid to the ground.

I watched in embarrassment and anger to make sure she got back inside without being accosted. The man got up with the help of an equally inebriated female, took about 20 steps and fell down again. Other people helped him up and I walked home with my head spinning over what can be done about this problem of public drinking.

Every day I see this man and up to four others sitting behind Connolly’s fenced-in trash container on East Seventh Street. Starting in the morning, they toss back tall cans of beer, hurling the empties into the bin that holds mattresses and other castoffs from renters in the many apartment buildings nearby. They are trespassing, but they don’t budge even when a worker sweeps up all around them. Their encampment has been cleaned up several times, but there are always more chairs to fish out of the bin and more cinder blocks, buckets and boxes to use for seats.

They think they are out of sight, but anyone looking out the east windows of our building can see them. Looking out the west windows, we can see other drinkers, as few as one or as many as eight, sitting on a curb in Lot 7 or huddled by the Dumpsters behind Scott Drugs. Sometimes police break up the group or they may just move on by themselves.

I ask myself why these sights are so annoying. After all, I could pull the curtains closed or just not look at the drinkers, who also use these venues to relieve themselves in public. As Assemblyman Jerry Green has pointed out, calling police to deal with a passed-out drunk on the steps of a building or one sprawled on the parking lot may only result in an ambulance ride to Muhlenberg, taxing both the Rescue Squad and the hospital.

Over the years I have heard arguments that nothing can be done for these individuals unless they want to change their behavior. We are also told that the best that can be done is to disperse them, knowing they will most likely come back within days or weeks.

It boils down to a quality of life issue. Why should schoolchildren, seniors or anybody have to pass by unruly drunks in a city parking lot or on the street across from City Hall? As we see in the police blotter in the newspapers, other municipalities enforce laws against public urination and open-air drinking. When will Plainfield be able to do the same?

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with the plaintalker.why do we have2 look at these people.or be acosted by them,for small they can buy more beer.easy 2 say call the police. they would be doing this all i sit in my backyard,soaking up the sun.i look at drunks and people who urinate on lot 7.what happend to my quality of life? so please DEAR LEADERS of the queen city.get your act together.

8:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One way to clean this up is to get Plainfielders to stop thinking of themselves as second class citizens, and demand better. This means stop taking ALL of the poor and indigent.

We have done far more than our share. Let's close the facility on Park and 7th and have those people (most of whom are not Plainfield residents) go somewhere else.

Let's start attracting middle to upper middle class people to our great city.

How many drunks do you see walking around in Westfield...Cranford...Clark...Watchung... you get my point.

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your ignorance in this is glaringly obvious. Alcoholism is not a moral problem but a disease. It becomes necessary to drink. I am an alcoholic and 5 years sober. That was me 5 years ago. Alcoholics are not bad people trying to get good, but sick people that need help. If it were a cancer patient out there, my assumption is your perception would be quite different. Blame your government for the treatment facilities that are closing. That is why we have these problems. Contempt prior to investigation is the real problem. Issuing your public disgust without solution perpetuates the problem. Do something about it.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bernice -- respectfully and although I have been enjoying reading your perspective for quite a few months --the question really is -- how can we help. This are people with problems, perhaps ignoring them is the biggest injustice of them all as they already feel like social outcasts. We can never mandate social responsibility or conscientiousness -- have you ever spoke to any of these "drinkers"...Just curious? Offered a word of encouragement...direction? anything other than pity or judgment? Like 'em or hate 'em they are a part of society --not just Plainfield -- every city has there share of Hoboism. I say -- try saying good day some times...

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The police should be diligently working to improve quality of life issues by getting drunk people off the streets and into contact with social service providers who can help them. "Offering a word of encouragement" can be helpful, but it's doubtful that it will solve anyone's alcoholism without intervention from a social worker or other professional. By allowing these conditions to persist, the police are tacitly encouraging the impression of Plainfield as a dangerous place. This should be considered unacceptable by all of us!

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the city administration and council doing about them? That should be the question.

The city is always ignoring these hard issues and issues such as this one are often left to citizens to come up with solutions. For once, it would be good if the city takes care of this problem.

While alcoholism is a disease, I don't see these sick people seeking for a cure. Comparing them to cancer patients is rather an unfair comparison. The change has to come from within these alcoholics. They have a choice, it might be a hard choice, but they have choices and a cure available to them.

Maybe the council and the mayor can talk to them and find out how to best help them, after all, as our city representatives, they would have more resources than any private resident could have.

Besides, with so many churches in the city, a partnership between the city and the local churches could be a start. What can't continue to happen is to ignore the problem.

As citizens of Plainfield we all have a right to demand the quality of life that is acceptable to us.

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's just take them to Jerry Green's house....maybe he can help them.....

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes alcoholism is a disease but that doesn't mean that we have to deal with rude and inconsiderate people who happen to be sick. this daily sight is simply a sign that the mayor and city council are doing more important things like spending $$ we don't have from taxpayers who are not getting civility and basic safety for our tax dollars.

yes...we deserve better! either we police our streets the way westfield or clark or watchung do or we move out and let this city deteriorate. i'm sure the mayor, mr. green, and the city council will still be here as long as there are abbot dollars to wrestle around in.

it's really a shame because i love to support the local businesses in downtown but daily sights like these keep me and my family shopping everywhere else!

9:35 PM  

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