RU Students Clean Streets, Build Bridge with New Brunswick

Rutgers students cleared litter and debris from New Brunswick streets this weekend.
Rutgers students cleared litter and debris from New Brunswick streets this weekend.
Rutgers students cleared litter and debris from New Brunswick streets this weekend.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Most Rutgers University students were hunkered down in the library, strolling around the city or sipping a drink on Sunday, which was perhaps the nicest day of the year.

But not everyone took the day for themselves. Indeed, dozens of students came out to Union Street during the afternoon of April 2 to clean litter and junk from a New Brunswick neighborhood that sits squarely in Rutgers country.

“A lot of the time, Rutgers students forget that they aren’t the only people living off campus,” said Amoli Kulkarni, a senior who works for the school’s Give Where You Live program. “It’s important to break out of our bubble and become more conscientious of the community we’re living in.”

Sign Up for E-News

The cleanup was organized by an off-campus office of the university and New Brunswick City Hall. Organizers mobilized students, clad in bright-orange vests and heavy-duty gloves, to clean the area from Somerset Street to Buccleuch Park.

Six teams tackled six zones. Two public works department staffers cruised around in a pickup truck, collecting bags of trash and recycling placed at various corners. A Rutgers police officer, meanwhile, patrolled the neighborhood, making sure the students were safe.

All told, they filled 89 bags with litter, according to the city. That amounted to 1,200 pounds of trash and 615 pounds of recyclables.

While that impact is tangible, another goal of the initiative is more difficult to measure. Instead, those effects can be seen in the relationship between New Brunswick as a whole and its segment of Rutgers students.

“We love having the students here,” said Donna Caputo, the city’s recycling coordinator. “We love the energy, we love the vibe and it’s great for the businesses. But we don’t like the red cups and pizza plates.”

When Rutgers students trash the place, in other words, their relationship with locals can get a bit rocky.

And some in the university are aware of that.

Sophomore Eric Giovannini, for example, said he likes giving back to the community and making it a nicer place to live. But he also is driven by the need to clean up Rutgers students’ reputation.

“If the students are making the streets dirty, it gives us a bad reputation,” he said. “So it’s good to clean up and show that we do care.”

As students roamed the streets, they cleared trash and debris from roadways, curbs and front lawns. Some used brooms to sweep gunk into bins, while others used gloves or litter-pickers to scoop up garbage, like half-eaten pizza slices, red cups and food wrappers.

Some students came because they’ve attended similar events and enjoyed the good feelings with which they waked away. Others needed to rack up community-service hours for fraternities and sororities, the Honors College or clubs.

Prior to kicking off the cleanup, students stood around. They discussed dancing and drinking the night before or studying.

“If my grandma saw me doing this, she’d be so pissed,” one student told a friend, adding that she’d say something like: You don’t do this at home, but you do it here?

But for most Rutgers students, New Brunswick is home—even if it’s only for a few years.

And the people who grow up and live most of their lives here, especially, don’t want it to be a pigsty. Caputo said she has met with schoolchildren who said they feel embarrassed or upset when a friend comes over and immediately sees trash on the streets.

That idea seemed to resonate with Rutgers students who grew up elsewhere in New Jersey.

“It’s like we’re in someone else’s home,” Joyce Macaraeg, a senior, said. “We might as well do our best to make sure we clean up when we’re there and after we leave.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

New Brunswick

The Jaffe Briefing - March 16, 2018


ON THE RAILS - Another commuting mess this morning, as the antiquated Portal Bridge got stuck in the "up" position at 4:22 a.m.  That caused a bunch of rush hour trains to be cancelled between Newark and Manhattan for four hours or so.  Both NJTransit and Amtrak riders were completely screwed. You may recall the proposed Gateway ...

The Jaffe Briefing - March 15, 2018


NEW BRUNSWICK - When you rent out apartments to Rutgers students, expect some surprises. But one landlord received a shocker beyond expectation: a $8,117.07 water bill for the last three months of 2017, TAPInto New Brunswick reports. The landlord went to the City Council meeting this week, pleading that the bill on his Comstock Street ...

The Jaffe Briefing - March 14, 2018


TRENTON - Ever since we met Gov. Phil Murphy, he has been talking about the same stuff: higher taxes for the rich, saving NJ Transit, legalizing marijuana, giving more money to public schools and a higher minimum wage. So, when lawmakers went to Trenton yesterday to hear the rookie governor's first budget message, there weren't a lot of ...

The Jaffe Briefing - March 13, 2018


TRENTON - As Gov. Phil Murphy prepares to deliver his first budget address at 2 p.m. today, at the State House, observers will be curious if his proposals jive with the state's pension mess. Look for the governor to talk about campaign topics like equal pay, health care, climate change, immigration and offshore drilling, as well as the proposed ...

The Jaffe Briefing - March 12, 2018


NEW BRUNSWICK - If you want to succeed in New Jersey, you need to figure out, to some degree, what all these millennials are thinking.  New Jersey Future tried to get to the answer, during a recent day-long event in New Brunswick that NJ Spotlight covered.  Bottom line? Our millennials are fleeing and that is bad. We need them to buy ...

The Jaffe Briefing - March 9, 2018


ON THE RAILS - Not only is President Trump against the Gateway Tunnel, it seems he is ready to shut down the entire federal government if any money is budgeted for the desperately-needed infrastructure project. The word from Washington is that Trump is ready to scorch the Earth if Gateway gets just one sawbuck from Uncle Sam. Of course, this dispels all ...

Rutgers Student on Front Lines of Orangutan Conservation, Research

March 15, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK - Deep in a tropical forest in Borneo 15 years ago, Rutgers student Didik Prasetyo first encountered a young male orangutan that he named “Jerry.”

The great ape was one of several orangutans that Prasetyo and other researchers followed at the Tuanan Orangutan Research Station in the Mawas Conservation Area in Indonesia. Prasetyo was skeptical when colleagues said ...

RU police investigate assault on Douglass campus

NEW BRUNSWICK - Rutgers University police are investigating an aggravated assault and attempted sexual assault  reported to March 14 at 3:55 a.m. in front of Hickman Hall on the Douglass campus.


The victim, not affiliated with Rutgers University, reported that she was walking with a male whom she did not know in the area of Commercial Avenue and George ...

Rutgers voices support for proposed state budget

NEW BRUNSWICK - Rutgers University officials have often been wary of the governor's annual budget message, wondering what type of budget cuts the university may sustain and how it would potentially impact tuition and the overall quality of education.

This budget message, delivered March 13, appears to be a sigh of relief.

Pete McDonough, Vice President of External Affairs at ...

Latino, Caribbean, Hip Hop, Jazz music, even Yoga and skating, celebrated in city

March 15, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK – Music, cultures and lifestyles will be celebrated in the city all year, with festivals and special events scheduled for weekends from April through October, including the city’s first day to highlight yoga.

City council members this week approved permits for nine events, starting with the traditional Rutgers Day Parade on April 28, which will start on Senior Place ...


This National Literacy Month, Let's Rein In Screen Time

March 13, 2018

Dear Editor: As speech-language pathologists across New Jersey prepare to mark “National March into Literacy Month,” let’s address the alarming number of young children who spend countless hours a day on a handheld screen.

According to a study from the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting, the more time that children under two years spend on smartphones, tablets and ...

New Jersey Association of Health Underwriters Clinches Gold Certification

March 16, 2018

NEWARK - The National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) is proud to announce that the New Jersey Association of Health Underwriters has once again received Gold Certification – awarded to the strongest chapters in the nation.

NJAHU achieved Gold Certification from national headquarters underscoring how well the organization has operated and achieved its lofty goals in the ...