Brookhaven spring cleaning draws 2,200 volunteers

Supervisor Ed Romaine and Cindi Gillette, 10, join

Supervisor Ed Romaine and Cindi Gillette, 10, join other volunteers at the Seventh Annual Great Brookhaven Town Clean-Up, May 17, 2014. Photo Credit: John Roca

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About 2,200 volunteers pitched in for the Town of Brookhaven's spring cleaning Saturday.

People from 110 organizations fanned out to pick up trash during the seventh annual cleanup, officials said.

The event was held in cooperation with Keep America Beautiful Inc., a nonprofit that promotes similar events nationwide.

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine said the spring cleaning sent a message that it's not OK to litter or dump waste illegally.

"This is a concerted effort to get the town going in the right direction. We're not going to let it go down," he said.

This summer, Brookhaven plans to hire 15 high school students to help pick up trash along roads and other locations, he said. The town is also cracking down on vacant houses that aren't maintained -- eyesores that can depress property values.

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This month, a law took effect that requires owners to register vacant homes with the town. Romaine said some bank-owned vacant homes may also be getting STAR property tax breaks they're not eligible for, and they want to identify those to make sure they pay their full taxes.

Leading a dozen young volunteers Saturday was Blaise Chrzastek, 24, of Mastic, youth director of the Lighthouse Mission, a Bellport Christian organization.

Half of the volunteers worked in a community garden, pulling weeds and picking up trash, while the others served food to fellow volunteers. Chrzastek called it a good experience in a materialistic world.

"My kids love to give back," he said. "It's important to learn that it's not always gimme-gimme."

Nicole Christensen, a lieutenant at the Hagerman Fire Department, helped lead a dozen members of the department's "explorer" program for junior firefighters. Each teen walked 10 to 12 blocks, filling a bag with roadside trash.

"We live in this neighborhood," Christensen said. "We want to make sure it's cleaner."

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