Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Shameful, filthy and chaotic! - Half-Way-Tree rivaling downtown Kingston for top spot

Published:Tuesday | June 6, 2017 | 6:00 AMPaul Clarke
Unruly legal and illegal taxi operators block traffic at their whim and fancy to collect and deposit passengers in Half Way Tree, St Andrew
Unsightly vending stalls and illegal vending everywhere in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew
Unsightly vending stalls and illegal vending everywhere in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew.
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If downtown Kingston is the commercial heart of Jamaica, Half-Way Tree could fittingly be called its soul, for besides being an ideal location for commuter connectivity to any part of the island, it is the point where uptown meets downtown.

But the capital of St Andrew has lost much of its appeal. Today, it is marked by unsightly vending stalls; illegal vending everywhere; and unruly legal and illegal taxi operators, who block traffic at their whim and fancy for passengers to embark and disembark, posing a great risk to members of the public.

With all the good intentions of then Kingston Mayor Desmond McKenzie and Digicel years ago to have branded stalls put in place, they have become a major eyesore and security risk for some commuters.

"It is a shame that we have these monstrosities in the middle of the city. It nuh look good and they should be removed," one commuter, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Gleaner.

"I never knew Half-Way Tree could feel and look like downtown until now. Certain people don't even bother to use the stinking public toilet over deh (Mandela Park) and a stink up the place with dem piss."

What's left of the public bathroom facility in the park is indeed shameful. Apart from the stench inside, the missing bathroom tiles and broken pipe fixtures make for a most unpleasant use. One has to catch water in pans to flush the toilets.

... Inadequate resources to properly maintain public bathrooms

Easton Hall wears a National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) identification pass. He has had the job of taking care of the bathroom facility at Mandela Park in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, for all of 28 years. He explained that he has been doing as much as he can under very trying circumstances.

"They employ mi fi work, and all mi can do is as much mi can do. I get $1,000 a day and only God can tell me what that can do. But me still tek it," he said.

Hall accused the NSWMA of not providing enough cleaning agents to keep the toilets in a proper state and said that he has to resort to collecting a little money from users to offset the cost.

"Is de likkle $50 or even $20 dat me collect me use fe help buy soap and dem ting deh, you know, because de likkle dat me get from di authority can't do the job," Hall explained.

The problem of the horrible state of the chaotic Half-Way Tree is a much larger one, according to Winston Smith, another commuter. He said the Government should be equally attendant to the upkeep of the area, including Mandela Park, as they are in the case of Emancipation Park.

"You look at Emancipation Park. Why is it so well-kept, yet Mandela Park is a garbage pile? It's filthy and harbours all sort of people, doing all kinds of things that really require the attention of the police," he said.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com