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Uptown Community Launches Effort to Clean Streets

By Carla Zanoni | July 11, 2011 7:04am | Updated on July 11, 2011 7:23am
Piles of trash are strewn throughout Inwood.
Piles of trash are strewn throughout Inwood.
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DNAinfo/Carla Zanoni

UPPER MANHATTAN — Crushed soda cans. Busted beer bottles. Leftover chicken bones and rice.

For some, these are the remnants of a good summertime picnic. For others, they are part of the all too common mess left strewn about the streets of Washington Heights and Inwood, where residents say a lax attitude toward street cleanliness has made sidewalks, stoops and streets unbearable.

“They eat, drink and have fun outside. Then they leave their garbage all over the sidewalk,” Washington Heights resident and blogger Tony Vega wrote on the neighborhood blog Tony Untouchable.

These people, who I like to refer to as “city pigs,” act as if our sidewalks are their own personal garbage cans or dumping sites.”

A group of uptown politicians agrees, and plans to kick start the Clean Streets Initiative, a community campaign against street filth which aims to involve “every member of the community in cleaning trash off their blocks” beginning Saturday, July 16.

"Northern Manhattan is filled with people who love their neighborhoods, and who worked to preserve them through the years when it seemed like no one really cared about the area,” City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez said.

“Unfortunately, many of us here have noticed an increase in garbage on our streets and sidewalks, and we are coming together as a community to clean it up.”

According to Rodriguez’s office, hundreds of volunteers will fan out to clean trash from the streets with tools loaned by the Department of Sanitation.

Although Northern Manhattan is not alone in having garbage-strewn streets — Travel + Leisure magazine ranked New York City 2010's fifth dirtiest city in the country, after New Orleans, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Memphis — uptown residents have long complained the neighborhood suffers from litterbugs and lax sanitation.

When the Mayor's Office of Operations conducted a survey about quality of life through the five boroughs in 2008, Community Board 12 residents overwhelmingly pegged neighborhood cleanliness as one of the worst problems in the district.

And with trash, comes rats.

Earlier this year, a study conducted by the Manhattan Borough President’s office showed CB12 to be one of the worst areas affected by heavy rat populations.

Residents say they hope the new program will not only provide temporary relief from filthy streets, but perhaps a new mindset where people work to keep streets from getting dirty in the first place.

“There needs to be an education of the people,” said Inwood resident Herman Cruz. “We can’t just rely on the city to come in and literally clean up our mess.”

Details of the new program, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, Assembly Members Denny Farrell and Guillermo Linares, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Councilman Robert Jackson and Community Board 12, will be announced 6 p.m. on Monday night at the Russ Berry Pavilion, 1150 Saint Nicholas Avenue, Conference Room #1.