By Andrea Swalec
SOHO — The chain stores on Broadway in SoHo aren't putting their money where their trash is, forcing a nonprofit group to rescind the red-uniformed crews who have been keeping the strip clean, the group said.
The nonprofit Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless announced Monday that they will discontinue street-cleaning service on Broadway between Houston and Canal streets on July 1 because of a lack of donations from the businesses there.
The group had been assigning street sweepers to the area 362 days a year since 1992.
"We can't redirect funds from the social programs we provide to clean one of the richest shopping and real estate areas in the world," Executive Director Jim Martin said.
Martin said the chain stores that dominate the strip don't give to the organization, which relies primarily on donations from businesses, the way mom-and-pop shops do.
The retail-heavy strip is located in one of the top 10 most expensive ZIP codes in the country, according to Forbes' 2010 rankings.
Soliciting donations from major corporations with foreign headquarters is a lot harder than asking local shops for money, Martin said.
"Before, I could reach a decision-maker in an hour. Now, I'm chasing nickels," he said, noting that donations on the strip have dropped steadily in the past five years.
ACE will leave several cast iron garbage cans they put on Broadway, which Martin estimated are worth $700 each.
Despite ending service on the strip, crews will continue to clean streets in the West Village, TriBeCa, Nolita, NoHo and other parts of SoHo, Martin said. Four- and five-person ACE crews have worked 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. cleaning shifts there daily for nearly 20 years, the organization says.
The often-congested sidewalk on Broadway will likely be a mess without ACE crews, Martin said.
"I know what it's going to look like when no one's out there," he said.
In January, the City Planning Commission unanimously approved a proposal to create a SoHo Business Improvement District on Broadway between Houston and Canal streets. The plan, which supporters say will improve public safety and the appearance of the area, awaits approval by City Council and then Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Detractors say a BID would cost business owners money and add unnecessary bureaucracy.
If the BID passes and seeks bids for proposals for supplemental sanitation services, ACE will apply, Martin said.