In an effort to beautify streets and parks littered with trash across the five boroughs, Mayor Eric Adams Thursday unveiled a new $14.5 million initiative to clean up roughly 1,500 garbage ridden sections of the city, hire 200 new sanitation workers and increase litter basket servicing in highly trafficked areas.
During a news conference to unveil the new program in Brough Park, Brooklyn, Thursday morning, Adams said a key part of the initiative – billed “Get Stuff Clean” – is cutting red tape between the many city agencies responsible for keeping streets, parks and public space garbage free, so they can work more efficiently together. In addition to the Department of Sanitation (DSNY), those agencies include the departments of parks (NYC Parks), transportation (DOT), environmental protection (DEP) and health (DOHMH).
“America’s biggest city is going to be America’s cleanest city,” the mayor said. “We’re invested more than $14 million this fiscal year alone to participate in the largest cleanup effort in decades. And we’re working across agencies, as I say over and over again, to figure out how we can deliver a cleaner City for New York. Here we’re talking about trash and garbage and rarely do you see all the agencies that are involved standing side by side. We’re wearing one jersey and that’s ‘Team Clean New York.”
Adams was joined by his Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi, DSNY Commissioner Jessica Tisch, DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez and Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan.
The announcement comes on the heels of Adams and Tisch recently unveiling that the city will move back garbage set out times from 4 to 8 p.m. in an effort to combat the city’s growing rat population.
Tisch said all of the agencies charged with keeping the city spick and span came together to identify the 1,500 areas around the Big Apple in need of “intensive cleanup.”
“When I came on this job seven months ago, Mayor Adams and I discussed the filthy conditions that we saw most often,” Tisch said. “Areas next to street steps, greenways, under and along overpasses. Areas that residents and tourists see every single day, where an impartial observer could reasonably assume that no one gave a damn. Well, this administration gives a damn.”
According to Tisch, these so-called “no man’s lands” have been neglected for decades and resulted from a 1980s interagency agreement meant to clarify city agencies’ cleaning jurisdictions, but instead allowed agencies to escape responsibility for cleaning these areas by saying they were “someone else’s problem.”
“Think about Junction Boulevard under the LIE, the area next to the Bruckner Expressway, the Ocean Parkway median, or along the Allen Street Mall on the Lower East Side, and the Front Street waterfront in Staten Island,” Tisch said. “They are in every borough and every neighborhood.”
Another one of those areas, Tisch said, is the Brizzi Playground, at the intersection of 44th Street and New Utrecht Ave., where the press conference took place.
“Even this spot right here, where you’ve got a curb line next to a park, an area under a staircase, and rights of way all within view,” Tisch said. “Under the old protocols, you would need Parks, DOT and DSNY to each clean their small slices of the block. Oh, and if you wanted the catch basins cleaned, you’d need DEP too.”
Starting Monday, Tisch said, hundreds of sanitation workers – making up the “Targeted Neighborhoods Task Force” – will fan out across the city to clean up these neglected areas. The creation of the new task force is backed by $7.1 million allocated through the 2023 Fiscal Year budget and $6.5 million annually in future years.
DSNY is also bringing on an additional 200 sanitation workers to help with the beautification efforts.
The sanitation department also received $4.9 million through the initiative to launch the second phase of its plan to better service litter baskets – with a focus on receptacles at the entrances of bridges and parks. Tisch said the first phase of the plan, implemented this past July, has already paid dividends with a 55% drop in litter basket complaints, which is more in line with pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.
“I think New Yorkers are already noticing an improvement in cleanliness in the city, because we’ve restored all of the basics, right?” Tisch said. “The curb lines look so much cleaner if you pay attention to them, now that we have the street sweeping out back in full effect. The overflowing litter baskets you’d walk by on every corner, those complaints are down to pre-pandemic levels. So, we’ve come back to a more normal baseline.”
The announcement also included a new crackdown on illegal waste dumping by installing over 200 new cameras to catch illegal dumpers, who can face $4,000 fines and have their cars impounded for the practice, according to a release from City Hall; and new evening shifts for NYC Parks workers to clean and control the rat population in parks.
“There are a small number of New Yorkers who continue to do illegal dumping and we’re going to zero in on them and we’re going to go after them and we’re going to use camera enforcement to carry it out,” Adams said.
The mayor also emphasized that on top of this new initiative, another way to keep the city clean is for everyday New Yorkers to pitch in.
“We step over garbage. We sit next to garbage. We see garbage on our streets,” Adams said. “And instead of saying, ‘why don’t one of these agencies do something?’ These are our blocks, these are our neighborhoods. We need cleanup participation from neighbors. We all must be engaged in cleaning our city. This is not the agency’s issue. This is all of our issues.”