The team worked its way down Woodhaven’s main commercial corridor, clearing the sidewalk and picking up litter that has been piling up particularly high during the pandemic. In total, they collected 25 bags of trash.
Raquel Olivares, executive director of the Woodhaven BID, says there has been a longtime issue with illegal dumping in the neighborhood causing corner receptacles to fill up quickly with residential garbage, but this year conditions on Jamaica Avenue have taken a turn for the worse.
With the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) budget slashed by $106 million, the city’s garbage collection services have been severely impacted. At the end of July, CBS reported a 60 percent reduction in pickup from public litter baskets as a result of financial constraints faced by DSNY, which includes halting collection on Sundays.
Olivares explained the BID sends people to clean in front of businesses five days a week. They leave the trash bags on the curb, and with less frequency of collection, the garbage sits on the street for long periods of time, usually adjacent to the spaces restaurants have set up for outdoor dining.
This creates an unpleasant experience for diners, which could cause further harm to already-struggling eateries.
“The whole COVID-19 situation pretty much killed our businesses,” she noted. “Now more than ever it is important that we have a clean, inviting and vibrant avenue, so that these businesses can start to recover.”
On Saturday, the BID also tackled another issue that has been plaguing Jamaica Avenue as of late: rapid and excessive graffiti.
The organization hired power washers to erase tags from storefronts and the walls of businesses along the corridor, a practice that has now become an expensive routine since the city also cut its “Graffiti Free NYC” initiative, which provided no-cost removal to property owners.
Local elected officials, including councilmen Robert Holden and Eric Ulrich, as well as Assemblyman Mike Miller, have become involved with sanitation efforts, says Olivares, but cleanup events like the one this weekend are critical to making a lasting impact on the streets of Woodhaven.
“The goal is to bring people from the neighborhood together,” she said, “to send a message to people about how important it is to battle this situation as a community.”
In particular, Olivares was impressed by the large turnout of young people from the neighborhood who volunteered.
“It’s important to show them that we can all play a part in keeping the community clean,” she said.